A BADLY-DECOMPOSED body discovered in a suitcase which had been dumped in a hedge was that of an Oriental woman in her late 20s, police said today.

Forensic tests confirmed the woman's ethnic origin and approximate age more than two months after her body was discovered in a country lane near the village of Askham Richard, near York.

A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police said the woman was "most likely" to have come from the East or South China Sea region.

Detective Chief Inspector Alan Ankers, who is leading the investigation, said: "Our main priority is still to establish the identity of the victim.

"This report is a significant step forward as we have now narrowed the search parameters both in terms of her ethnic origin and her age.

"This will be a great advantage in terms of elimination as we continue to work through the many missing person reports we are examining."

He said investigating officers were still awaiting further reports and evidence from other scientific specialists.

The woman's partially clothed body was discovered on November 18 after a man walking in the lane spotted the suitcase and became suspicious when he was unable to lift it.

Detectives earlier issued an e-fit of a man who was spotted in the lane off the A64 dual carriageway in the early hours of November 2 but have so far been unable to identify him.

It was also revealed that the victim had been bound and gagged with an unusual adhesive tape designed by London-based artists Gilbert and George.

The colourful tape, bearing a pattern of men's faces, was produced exclusively for Tate art gallery shops in London, Liverpool and Cornwall.

It is now believed that 850 rolls of the tape were sold across the country, and not 1,500 as previously thought.

"The tape is crucial to the inquiry but response from the public has been quite poor," added Mr Ankers.

"We are still appealing to everyone who has bought this tape or had it in their possession to contact us at the incident room on 01904 618618."