AN investigation has been launched after a skull, believed to be human, was found in the garden of a property in Darlington.

The remains were discovered by workmen working on an extension at a house in Springwell Terrace on Monday afternoon.

A cordon has been put in place around the house and garden while officers work at the scene sifting through soil samples in the front garden of the semi-detached property.

Specialist tests are expected to be carried out to determine whether the skull is definitely human and to potential age it and estimate how long it may have been in the ground.

The Northern Echo:

Julie Paterson, left, and her killer, right, David Harker

While the investigation is at an early stage, Durham Police are unable to rule out any lines of inquiry, including whether it could be the missing skull of Julie Paterson who was murdered in April 1998.

The torso of the 31-year-old mother-of-four was found dumped in a bin bag in nearby Polam Lane – but the rest of her body has never been recovered.

Another line of inquiry could be looking at whether the discovery is one of the two skulls of brothers, Levi and Gareth Price, which were snatched by grave robbers from Metal Bridge, below, in an escalation of a feud between travelling families in November 2015.

The Northern Echo:

Detective Chief Superintendent Adrian Green, from Durham Constabulary, confirmed that forensic investigations will be carried out to establish the age of the skull.

He said: “This investigation is in the very early stages. Forensic examinations will be carried out on the skull to establish whether it is that of a human.

“Officers will remain at the scene while further enquiries are carried out.”

The street of semi-detached houses and bungalows lies in the Haughton area of Darlington just a few hundred yards away from St Andrew's Church.

This afternoon a neighbour, whose house overlooks the property, said: "I have lived in my house for more than 40 years and in that time I can't think of anything like this has happened.

"I know some building work is being carried out at the side of the house, near to where some previous work was carried out several years ago.

"We haven't been told anything that has happened but I'm sure that there is plenty of rumour and speculation amongst people in the town.

"Let's hope that it is nothing sinister and that it get's returned to the family of whoever it was."