Police have been left baffled after a fresh unmarked grave containing human remains appeared overnight in an ancient churchyard.
Officers were called in to examine the neatly kept plot after it was noticed by a resident in the village of Stanstead Abbotts in Hertfordshire.
The unmarked grave, which is decorated with white gravel, appeared last autumn in the secluded churchyard of the 12th century St James's parish, which has not been in regular use since the 1970s.
Villagers were initially surprised to see a new grave in the churchyard but were not particularly suspicious.
However, earlier this week one local decided to raise it with the police, telling a community officer that it had been preying on her mind for some time.
When detectives began digging at the grave they discovered and exhumed human remains, which are now being forensically examined.
Locals claim they have seen people visiting and tending the grave regularly and detectives are now hoping to identify those people in order to unlock the mystery of who the remains belong to.
Chief inspector Gerry McDonald of Hertfordshire Police said: "At this stage we are trying to find out what's happened.
"It might be very old, it might be new although it's definitely not very new. It could be ancient. It's really hard to say anything for certain at the moment."
Forensic results from the investigation are expected to be revealed soon now the white-suit clad specialists have finished their work.
Detective Inspector Anna Borella said: "The church is only used around four times a year, but we know that people regularly visit the graveyard.
"We are appealing to anyone who has seen someone visit the mystery grave or who has information which may help us identify it, to contact us.
"The grave is situated close to the church and there are no graves directly next to it, so anyone visiting may stand out."