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Body Found In Car Buried By Landslide
Police believe the bodies of a missing couple are inside a car that was found in a tunnel more than a week after it was crushed by a landslide.
The pair are thought to have died after the tunnel in Dorset was deluged by hundreds of tons of mud, water and debris during heavy rain on July 7.
One body has been recovered by officers, and another is still believed to be in the car.
They are thought to be a couple who were reported missing to Avon and Somerset police last week when concerns were raised.
The woman has been named locally as Rosemary Snell, from the Somerset village of Misterton, a short drive from the tunnel north of Beaminster.
David Welch, chairman of Misterton Parish Council, said police were contacted when Ms Snell, a vice-president of her local Women's Institute and a London tour guide, failed to turn up for some events.
"We're very sorry to lose her - it's a great shock," he said.
"(The tunnel) is well used by almost everybody in this area."
Ms Snell was in her 60s, villagers said. One neighbour said: "She had a magnificent spirit and was most enjoyable company socially. Everyone will be terribly shocked by this."
The man she was with has not been named but he is believed to be in his 70s.
Assistant Chief Constable James Vaughan told reporters the road around Beaminster tunnel - on the A3066 just outside the town - had been closed by emergency workers after the landslide caused structural damage.
But despite searches of the area - which included thermal-imaging cameras - there was no suggestion that anyone had been caught up in the deluge.
He said: "The area was searched and at that time it wasn't suspected that anyone was trapped in the landslide.
"It wasn't obvious in any way, shape or form that a vehicle was there."
In the days after the landslide, Avon and Somerset officers looking for the couple searched their bank and telephone records before tracing them to the Beaminster area, Mr Vaughan said.
Sky's Isabel Webster said it was believed the pair ate at the Bridge House hotel in Beaminster before getting caught in the landslide on the drive home.
Another search was launched at the scene of the landslide and fire service workers found a car near the entrance of the tunnel, near Dorchester, on Monday night after excavations of mud and debris.
The car's roof had been flattened, police said.
Mr Vaughan said: "Members of the public may ask why it took 10 days to discover these bodies and I offer my condolences to the families of those that perished."
At the time of the landslide there were 150 flood warnings in place, 180 homes had been evacuated and 400 incidents had been reported, making it a "busy weekend" for the emergency services, Mr Vaughan said.
"There were no obvious signs of a vehicle buried in the mud? and there were no reports of missing people in the area, so the bridge had been secured safely and it was only when concerns were raised by Avon and Somerset police... that we began to search and the vehicle was discovered."
Mr Vaughan said the investigation that took place at the time of the landslide would be examined more closely at a later date.