The body of missing mother Pamela Jackson was found buried in a “shallow grave” on remote moorland more than 100 miles from her home, police have confirmed.
A specialist search team has spent more than three months combing the countryside for the 55-year-old after she was reported missing from her home in Chester-le-Street, County Durham.
Home Office pathologist Mark Egan said the results of a postmortem examination revealed that Ms Jackson died from head injuries.
Officers said the search team was in the Turvin Road area, close to Ripponden in West Yorkshire, when they located the grave last weekend around 60m (200ft) from the roadside.
Last night, Ms Jackson’s family released a statement in which they spoke of their “nightmare” and thanked those involved in the search.
The statement said: “Although the weekend’s developments came as a shock, our main feeling now is of enormous relief that Pamela has been found.
“The last few months have been a nightmare – all we have been able to do is sit and wait for news. Now we feel able to grieve properly and can think about bringing her home so we can give her a proper send-off.
“We also want to thank all those involved in the search who have worked tirelessly in some very difficult conditions.”
Mrs Jackson was reported missing by her son Joe, 21, five days after she vanished from her home in The Crescent, Chester-le-Street, on March 2.
Since then, dozens of officers from Durham and West Yorkshire Police have staged a huge search operation for Ms Jackson’s body.
More than 60 specialist officers – as well as additional help from marine units, mountain rescue volunteers and police helicopters – employed hi-tech equipment including sonar devices to scour the bed of the River Wear near her home.
Railway lines, embankments and a local nature reserve were also combed for clues in a bid to trace the grandmother-of-four before the search moved to moorland in West Yorkshire.
Forensic tests released yesterday allowed police to formally identify the body discovered over the weekend as Ms Jackson, who had three adult sons, Andrew, Christopher and Joe, and was a grandmother of four.
Ms Jackson’s partner Adrian Muir, 50, from Halifax, has been charged with her murder and is currently awaiting trial.
During the search Ms Jackson’s sister Marion Elsinor, 52, who is a care home cook in County Durham, made an emotional appeal for help to find her.
She said then: “It’s an ongoing nightmare. It is out of character for her to go off and not to tell anyone where she would be.”
Youngest sister Deborah Leighton, 51, who lives in nearby Consett, added at the time: “I just miss her. She needs to come home so we can do the right thing and bury her.”