THE body of a man aged in his 40s has been recovered from the North Sea after a car made a 200-foot plunge off cliffs at a remote beauty spot in the Highlands.
Police divers made the grim discovery at Duncansby Head in Caithness.
The spot where he went off the edge was several hundred yards from the nearest road, and the vehicle would have had to cross over at least one fence.
A massive air, sea and land operation was launched when the vehicle was spotted at the foot of the cliffs on Wednesday afternoon.
Emergency crews arrived just as the car disappeared below the surface of the sea, being carried by the swell of the water.
An Italian tourist had reported seeing the car in the water just after 1pm.
A Police Scotland spokesman said: “A search and rescue was carried out by police, Coastguard, Wick Lifeboat and the Coastguard helicopter but, due to the car’s location, efforts to secure it were not possible and it was lost from sight.
“The search was stood down overnight. The Police Scotland Dive and Marine Unit recommenced searches this morning at approximately 8am with
assistance from the Wick Lifeboat.
“Police can now confirm that the body of a man has been recovered.”
He added: “Enquiries are ongoing into this matter and no further information is available at this time.”
A source said the man, believed to be in his 40s, lived locally, but was not originally from the area, having moved there a number of years ago.
One man, who is reported by a local paper as arriving at the scene after the accident, said it appeared the car had been driven off the road close to the lighthouse. From there it careered across rough grass for about a quarter-of-a-mile and is thought to have gathered speed before smashing through a fence along the top of the cliff.
A spokesman for Wick Lifeboat said: “When our crew arrived they could see the car around two metres under the water. They held back in the hope that the tide would drop, but a swell carried it away and out of sight.”
Duncansby Head is literally at the end of the road on mainland Britain in the north-east of Scotland.
A minor public road leads from John O’Groats to Duncansby lighthouse, but the area the car was spotted is some distance from the road.
The headland is the most north-easterly part of the Scottish mainland bordering the North Sea and the Pentland Firth and is the farthest point by road from Land’s End in Cornwall.
The Duncansby Head Site of Special Scientific Interest includes the stretch to Skirza and the prominent sea stacks off the coast.