Police have launched a murder inquiry following the discovery of a woman's body on the Queen's Sandringham Estate in Norfolk.

Detective Chief Inspector Jes Fry said they were examining cold case files nationally to try and identify her.

Fry said, "We are at the very early stages of the investigation and it could be a complex inquiry. The body had been there for some time. The circumstances suggest this is a murder case and we are looking at missing persons reports and cold cases both locally and nationwide."

Holiday home: The Queen stays at the 20,000-acre home during the
Christmas break. File pic

Residents expressed their shock at the discovery of human remains in woodland on the Queen's country retreat in Norfolk.

A major police inquiry was launched after a dog walker discovered the woman's remains on New Year's Day just a mile from the Royal Stud and less than two miles from the estate's main residence. Officers are carrying out a "detailed search" throughout the area.

The operation was kept secret for more than 24 hours as detectives worked to establish how the body was so close to the Royal residence. A large area of the woodland had been cordoned off.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, who are currently staying on the 20,000-acre estate for their Christmas break, were informed of the discovery on Monday night.

The body was discovered shortly after the Royals attended a church service on Sunday.

A post mortem is due to take place later.

It remains unclear how long the woman's body has been there. Residents said that the large police operation had been shrouded in secrecy.

One resident, who also did not want to be named, said locals were shocked at the discovery.

"It is quite a bit of a shock, given the proximity to the grounds itself. The area is really not that far from Sandringham House. We are all a bit stunned to be honest. It is just a really quiet area."

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman declined to comment, referring inquiries to police.