THE man leading the investigation into the rape and murder of Teresa de Simone told this morning how the prime suspect's body had been exhumed from his grave.

During a brief press conference in front of a tent put up to protect the scene, Detective Chief Inspector Phil McTavish revealed that the man, who later killed himself, had confessed while he was in police custody in relation to other matters.

Officers leading the re-investigation are refusing to give any information about the suspect's identity but said his family had been informed.

DCI McTavish said: "They have been incredibly understanding and supportive. They have assisted us tremendously. Their feelings are very much for Teresa's parents."

DCI McTavish added that the man was one of seven people to have made confessions, including Sean Hodgson, who was convicted and served 27 years in prison for Teresa's murder before he was freed earlier this year after DNA evidence showed he could not have committed the crime.

DCI McTavish would not reveal how the prime suspect had committed suicide but said that DNA had given police a "strong basis" for the exhumation.

"We feel we are on the right track but we won't, and can't, know the definitive answer until this process is complete," he said.

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Teresa, a gas board clerk, was raped and murdered outside the Tom Tackle pub in Southampton in December 1979.