US police have found human remains which could be those of British-born student Hannah Graham, who vanished in Virginia last month.
A body was found in an abandoned property in Albemarle County around ten miles from where Hannah was last seen, and near where the remains of another missing student were discovered in 2010.
The identity of the remains has not yet been confirmed, but officers have called off all other search efforts for 18-year-old Ms Graham in the meantime.
Jesse Matthew, 32, was charged last month with abducting Ms Graham for the purpose of sexual assault.
Police are also linking him to the earlier disappearance, and to a rape in 2012.
Chief Tim Longo wiped away tears as he told a news conference yesterday that further forensic tests would be conducted to confirm that the remains are those of Ms Graham.
The discovery comes days after Sue and John Graham, Ms Graham’s parents, issued a passionate plea for Virginians to look out for signs of their daughter.
Writing last Monday, a month after she vanished in Charlottesville, they said: “It is heartbreaking for us that the person or persons who know where Hannah is have not come forward with that information.
“It is within their power both to end this nightmare for all, and to relieve the searchers of their arduous task.”
Thousands of volunteers had searched for the teenager in the weeks since her disappearance.
Virginia State Police have said Matthew’s arrest provided a “forensic link” to the unsolved 2009 murder of Morgan Harrington, a 20-year-old who also went missing from Charlottesville.
A week after Ms Graham went missing, Mr Longo publicly described Matthew in detail without naming him, saying investigators wanted to talk to the “person of interest” and had searched his apartment because he was the last person to see her.
Matthew then showed up at police headquarters, asked for a lawyer, and sped away, according to a police account.
His exit prompted a warrant for “reckless driving,” a charge that Mr Longo cited as he named the suspect and appealed for information from anyone who saw him with Ms Graham the night she disappeared.
Matthew was arrested a few days later in Galveston, Texas.
While Matthew was a fugitive in Texas, Virginia police added a charge of abduction with intent to defile, a violent felony that under Virginia law compels suspects to submit to DNA testing.
Virginia State Police then announced a “forensic link” to the 2009 killing of Morgan Harrington, whose body was found in a hayfield three months after she vanished.
Following Matthew’s arrest, Christopher Newport University (CNU) released a statement noting that Matthew was named in a police file involving a 2003 sexual assault on the Newport News campus. Matthew was a student there from January 2003 until October 2003.
Matthew had transferred to CNU after three years at Liberty University, where he was briefly on the football team. When he was at Liberty University, he was accused of raping a student on campus.
That charge was dropped when the person declined to move forward with a prosecution, Lynchburg attorney Michael Doucette said.
Ms Harrington, a student at Virginia Tech, disappeared on 17 October 2009. Her body was found only a few miles from where this weekend’s discovery was made.
She had been at a Metallica concert in Charlottesville, but was separated from her friends and left outside of the arena. Witnesses saw her trying to hitchhike home.
Her body was eventually found more than 100 days after she went missing.
Until Matthew was linked to the disappearance, no leads as to who may have taken her had been found.
Matthew has never been charged in connection with Ms Harrington, but it was recently revealed that police questioned him and let him go.