TESTS were today being carried out on a dead woman found in North Yorkshire woodland by police officers searching for the body of missing Joanne Nelson.

Two detectives from Humberside Police discovered the body of a young woman concealed under branches about a mile from Brandsby, near Easingwold.

A post-mortem examination was taking place today to see if the body was that of 22-year-old Miss Nelson, who has been missing since St Valentine's Day.

Detective Superintendent Ray Higgins and Detective Constable Phil Gadd found the dead woman about 150 metres into woods at Brandsby Lodge, at about 4pm yesterday.

Police officers and forensic experts descended on the wood, just off the B1363, to carry out a slow and detailed search of the area.

A Humberside Police spokeswoman said officers working on the case had been carrying out interviews about weekend searches when they spotted a distinctive gate, which fitted the description of the one for which officers had been looking.

The alarm was raised after Miss Nelson, of Hull, failed to turn up for work at a local Jobcentre on February 14.

She was reported missing by her fianc, Paul Dyson, 30, who has since been charged with her murder.

At the scene at Brandsby, the body was removed last night and taken to a mortuary in Hull. Miss Nelson's parents have been informed of the discovery.

About ten officers were at Brandsby carrying out detailed investigations late into the evening.

Police road blocks prevented vehicles from travelling past the woods.

Det Supt Higgins said: "We immediately recognised the gate. We walked through the woods and we discovered what was clearly an attempt to conceal an object.

"Sadly it was the body of a young woman."

Det Supt Higgins said he could not say when the body would be identified. A search of the woods was resuming today.

But he said: "We have been working under the premise that Joanne has been murdered and we never expected to have a happy ending.

"You can't fail to be struck by the tragedy of the situation - a young girl found in circumstances like this."

The body was discovered as the search for Joanne was about to enter its sixth weekend. Areas across North and East Yorkshire have been scoured by police officers and volunteers since Miss Nelson was first reported missing.

Updated: 10:08 Friday, March 25, 2005