Senior police chiefs have confirmed they believe the body of missing Peterborough mum Vitalija Baliutaviciene is buried in Holme Woods.
The admission comes as a Mercedes van thought to be “vital” in re-tracing the last movements of the 29-year-old was discovered in mainland Europe and is currently in Calais awaiting transport back to the UK.
Despite an extensive search of the woods over the past week, detectives previously said they were “keeping an open mind” as to whether Vitalija, last seen leaving her home in Burmer Road, New England, on August 12, was still alive.
But Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Birch yesterday revealed that investigating officers believe the mother-of-one is in all likelihood dead, as forensic teams prepare to pore over the apple-green Mercedes Vito - number plate ANU 666 – thought to have been used to transport her body.
A 46-year-old man was last week arrested in Lithuania on suspicion of her kidnap and murder and still awaits extradition to the UK.
Det Chief Supt Birch said: “The van has been recovered, and is on a flatbed truck in Calais waiting to come to a forensic lab for detailed examination.
“This is a really significant lead, as the belief is it was used to transport the body.
“We received a number of tip-offs about the van and the case in general from the public, which has lead us to hunt in the Holme Woods area, where we believe the body has been buried.
“This is a tragic case, especially as she has a son, and has been a very testing enquiry for us all.”
The news comes just a day after police appealed for information about the van’s whereabouts between 5am and 10am on August 12 by distributing leaflets and posters appealing for information.
Officers are still searching Holme Woods, near Yaxley, which is expected to continue at least until the end of this week, but they have not ruled out extending the search to other areas if no body is found.
County detectives are in Lithuania working with the relevant authorities following the arrest of the 46-year-old man, who was arrested in the town of Taurage on Wednesday, August 31.
A 39-year-old woman from Peterborough was arrested last Friday on suspicion of assisting an offender. She has since been bailed.
Extradition proceedings for the 46-year-old are currently on going and it is not known how long they will take.
But Det Chf Supt Birch said: “We have received great support from officers in Lithuania, and we still have a number of officers over there working with them.”
When Vitalija, who has a 10-year-old son, went missing she was wearing light blue three-quarter length jeans, a blue denim jacket and light plimsoll trainers.
Officers have examined hundreds of hours of CCTV footage to try to piece together the lead-up to the disappearance of the Lithuanian national.
She was due to walk down Thistlemoor Road and Lincoln Road, before being picked up in Geneva Street for work, but never arrived.
Anyone with any information about Vitalija should call DI Martin Brunning on 0345 456 4564 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
Vitalija Baliutaviciene timeline
• August 12: Vitalija Baliutaviciene leaves her home to go to work in the early hours. She has not been seen since.
• August 18: Police release CCTV footage of her in Broadway hours before her disappearance. They also re-create the mother of one’s last footsteps.
• August 23: Police set up a Facebook advert to appeal for more information.
• August 31: Police arrest a 46-year-old man in Lithuania on suspicion of kidnap and murder.
• September 2: A woman is arrested in Peterborough on suspicion of assisting an offender.