HUMAN remains found by detectives on a river bank may not be those of missing pensioner Mary Ferns.
Police insiders suggested initial examinations showed the bones had “distinctive male aspects”.
The family of MrsFerns had hoped the discovery would finally put an end to the mystery surrounding her disappearance almost three years ago.
The remains were discovered yesterday on the edge of the River Almond at Craigshill, Livingston, on Tuesday, by police searching for the missing woman.
Mary Ferns disappeared on 17 June 2008 after going to buy socks from Almondvale Shopping Centre.
It is believed she got on a bus as family members identified her through CCTV images on Edinburgh’s Princes Street.
That was the last known sighting of the then 88-year-old.
Earlier in the day Detective Inspector Phil Gachagan said it was too early to confirm whether the remains were those of Mrs Ferns, but added that the body had been discovered after police had received new information in connection with her disappearance.
Speaking from the site of the grim discovery, DCI Gachagan said: “This was part of a search that was being carried out following new information with regards to Mary Ferns.
“We scoped out various areas along the banks of the River Almond until we found what I can now
confirm as human remains.”
The detective would not shed any light as to what the “new information” was.
In the weeks following Mrs Ferns’ disappearance, police had drafted in an underwater search unit from Central Scotland Police force to comb the river.
When asked why the body would not have been found then, DCI Gachagan replied: “The area in general was searched at the time but this particular area was not.
“The search parameters have been extended.
“The area where the body was found is not that close to the water’s edge and the terrain there means if someone had been lying there they would have been concealed by undergrowth.
“We can’t say yet the length of time the body has been there.”
DCI Gachagan added that because of the location of the body, the death was being treated as
“suspicious”, but confirmed it was too early to call it a murder investigation.
He said: “Because this body was found in an area so inaccessible it must be treated as suspicious until we carry out a full examination.
“Experts are now excavating the remains and carrying out the pain staking examination of the body, which will begin to be removed over a period of time to be examined further.”
Mrs Ferns’ husband refused to speak about the potential new development when approached at the home he shared with his wife at Vancouver Avenue, in the Howden area of Livingston.
His daughter Margaret Ross, Mrs Ferns’ stepdaughter, said the family wished for all contact to go through Lothian and Borders Police.
The elderly woman’s disappearance was noted as being “out of character” at the time and her family, including her other stepdaughter Anne Foster and granddaughter Suzy Docherty have long appealed for information as to her whereabouts, using social networking site Facebook to raise awareness.
A police spokeswoman confirmed the family would not release a statement until the body had been identified.
Mr and Mrs Ferns were both widowed and had re-married 16 years before she went missing.