THE prime suspect in the 30-year-old murder of Teresa De Simone is dead – and his remains were this morning exhumed from Kingston Cemetery in Portsmouth, the Daily Echo can exclusively reveal.

The young man had confessed to being involved in the murder of the gasboard clerk 18 months after Sean Hodgson was wrongly imprisoned for her rape and killing.

The suspect then killed himself in 1988 – nine years after 22-year-old Teresa’s death. Today’s dramatic developments will fuel speculation that he may have taken his own life because he could not live with the guilt of what he had done.

It is believed that the new suspect and Mr Hodgson never knew each other and that Teresa’s murder could have been a random stranger attack.

The dead man now at the centre of the inquiry is one of seven people who made admissions to police in the years after Teresa’s murder and the subsequent conviction of Mr Hodgson, who was this year freed on appeal.

It is understood detectives at the time interviewed the man and the other people who made confessions and their information was investigated – but no further action was taken.

Detectives leading the reinvestigation were this morning at the Portsmouth cemetery where the man’s remains were removed from his grave during the early hours.

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It is understood they will now be taken away to be examined in a mortuary where the suspect’s DNA profile will be retrieved through his dental records before his remains are reburied.

It is thought to be only the second time ever in the UK where a suspect’s body has been exhumed in a bid to solve a criminal case.

The major breakthrough comes just five months after detectives began a full reinvestigation into Teresa’s rape and murder outside the Tom Tackle pub in Southampton in December 1979.

It followed the release of Hodgson in March this year after appeal court judges ruled he had been wrongly jailed for 27 years for a murder he could not have committed.

Having just started a part-time job as a bar maid, Teresa had finished her shift and gone to a local nightclub, Friday’s Discoteque in London Road, to celebrate a friend’s birthday before being dropped back to the pub car park to collect her car.

Her friend Jenni Savage was the last person to see her alive, having waved her goodbye and driven off.

Teresa’s half-naked body was discovered the following morning, on December 5 in the boot of her car This morning’s exhumation was carried out under the cover of a large tent to protect the scene.

The graveyard was also partially closed off with police tape to cordon off a large area of the land.

A team of experts were on hand, including an environmental health officer to ensure that there is no risk to public safety and the process was carried out correctly.

The dramatic turn of events is partially down to major scientific developments involving the use of DNA, but the Daily Echo understands the man never featured in any way in the initial murder inquiry. He came to light following searches of historical case papers.

Detectives are refusing to divulge further details about the suspect, including his name and where he is from, until procedures have been carried out to rule him in or out of the enquiry.

The man’s DNA profile will be screened against the samples from the scene of the murder, which is likely to take several weeks.

A file will then be prepared for the Crown Prosecution Service, as is the case in any other criminal investiagtion, who will then decided whether the evidence would have been substantial enough to prosecute had the man been alive today.

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