Published: 17/05/2009 00:00 - Updated: 25/05/2009 10:50

Cops pick bones out of skull mystery

Written byBY SIMON HUTCHINSON

Police officers spent a night preserving the scene of a suspicious death only to discover that a skull was in fact a tortoise shell.

The shell remains that archaeologists believed was a human skullArchaeologists working for the former Bedfordshire County Council had been carrying out a survey on private land at the back of Nicholls Brasserie in Bedford Street, Woburn, when they found what they suspected to be human remains.

Bedfordshire Police were immediately called and the area was cordoned off while forensic officers were called in to carry out a thorough search of the area.

It was only when the 'skull' itself was examined that the error was spotted.

One of the labourers at the site said: "The company had got rid of a lot of people who knew what they were doing and this goes to prove that the replacements can't tell the difference between a skull and a tortoise.

"There was quite a furore when the discovery was made, but it was all a bit embarrassing when the police revealed what it actually was. There were some very red faces."

A Bedfordshire Police spokesman said: "When a suspicious death is reported we have to preserve the scene until it is proven not to be the case.

"We received a call from the archaeologists telling us that a skull had been found while they were carrying out tests on the area. It was proven the next day that it was in fact a tortoise shell."

Albion Archaeology's business manager Hester Cooper-Reade said: "In February, Albion Archaeology were carrying out a dig in Woburn and came across unidentifiable bones.

"These were not within the archaeological layers and the small number of bones visible on the surface seemed to resemble a human skull.

"Due to their suspicious nature, the police were called and after forensic investigation, it was confirmed that the bones were actually a tortoise.

"Albion Archaeology has to make sure they cover all areas and are required by law to report all discoveries of human remains.

"This is the first time the team has uncovered a pet tortoise!"
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