DETECTIVES have launched a murder investigation after a body was found buried in woodland near Darlington.

Officers looking for missing 25-year-old Alan Youngson, who has not been seen since August 15, found a man’s body buried in woodland near Jedburgh Drive, Darlington - close to the A1 motorway.

The body was found on Monday evening by a member of the public who alerted police, and detectives are treating the death as suspicious.

Chief Inspector Victoria Martin said officers are working to confirm the identity of the body and are keeping Mr Youngson’s family informed of  developments.

“We are aware that the person we have found this week may be him (Alan Youngson), but we haven’t made a formal identification and until that time, we are going to continue to look for Alan and keep his family updated to our progress,” she said.

“We would urge anybody who knows about the body we found in the wood or anything about the whereabouts of Alan Youngson to contact police on 101 or the Crimestoppers number.”

She also urged anyone who has seen anything suspicious to report it to police on the 101 number.

Today the woodland remained cordoned off while about 50 officers worked on the on-going investigation, some examining forensic evidence while others conduced house-to-house inquiries around the Branksome housing estate, near where the body was found.

One woman living nearby, who asked not to be named, said Mr Youngson has two daughters, and is often seen on the estate as he used to live in Jedburgh Drive. 

“He is a nice lad, it’s horrendous what’s happened,” she said. "There is a lot of tension round here, but it is shocking that people are already saying on Facebook, rest in peace, when it might not even be him.”

The discovery of the body shocked residents on the street, and many congregated outside while police carried out door-to-door enquiries.

Pav Covalski, of Jedburgh Drive, said: “I moved here about five weeks ago from a nice house, now I have got a murder out the back. It is not the best thing to see.”

Anybody who can help the police investigation or has any information on the whereabouts of Mr Youngson is asked to call police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800-555-111.