AMHERST – Police believe human remains discovered Wednesday in a wooded area south of Robert Angus Drive to be those of Katherine Cora McNeil.
“Several pieces of identification for Ms. McNeil were located at the scene,” Amherst deputy police chief Ian Naylor said in a press release issued Thursday at 5:45 p.m. “However, positive identification and cause of death is pending further forensic analysis.”
Asked in a phone interview tonight how long it will be before a positive identification is made, Naylor said, “The autopsy is scheduled for tomorrow in Halifax and, depending on the results of the autopsy, we may have some indication of a timeline at that point.”
McNeil was last seen alive just over a year ago, on Oct. 4, 2010 at 9:15 a.m., when she left the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre, about a kilometre from the site where the remains were found.
The discovery was reported to police Wednesday at 10:40 a.m. and, today, investigators from the Amherst Police Department, the RCMP Forensic Unit, the Nova Scotia Medical Examiner Service, and 15 Ground Search and Rescue personnel form Springhill and Pugwash were collecting evidence at the site.
It is presently unknown how long the body was at the site before it was found.
“That’s what we’re waiting on for the forensics,” Naylor said. “We’re waiting for the results tomorrow and then we’ll have some idea. We still want to establish the identity and the cause of death.
“We don’t have positive identification but we certainly have reason to believe the remains are of her but until such time we have positive identification we can’t say that’s who it is.”
Asked if he was surprised the body was not found sooner, the deputy chief said, “It’s not a well-travelled area.”
He added police are no longer at the scene.
“They’ve completed everything at the site and we’ve released the site,” he said.
Before she went missing McNeil had been admitted to hospital the day before with an undisclosed ailment and police were notified of her decision to leave, though they were not able to act on it until later.
There were several sightings in the days after she disappeared and police and search teams scoured the area after McNeil went missing but did not find her.
Video surveillance at an Amherst store had her buying footwear and, while there were another dozen sightings around Nova Scotia, further investigation proved they were cases of mistaken identity.