A young woman walking to her sister's house in near-freezing conditions after a night out was found dead in the snow near the front door, it emerged today.
The 25-year-old victim is thought to have slipped in the icy conditions near the house in Deal, Kent, before losing consciousness due to the cold.
The woman, named locally as Bernadette Lee, was found by a dog walker at 7.30am on Sunday morning, and is thought to have been dressed for a night out when she was discovered.
Police believe that after heading towards her sister's from a night out drinking, she could have fallen in the snow and been unable to get up again.
Shocked residents in Deal said today that there was around six inches of snow on the ground the night Bernadette went out, and that 'you wouldn't have lasted long if you'd fallen in the snow'.
Bernadette, who is from Deal, was described by friends as "bubbly, chatty" and "a beautiful young woman".
More than 1,200 people have "liked" a Facebook page set up in her memory called ''R.I.P The beautiful Bernadette Lucy Lee''.
One of the emotional tributes to Ms Lee read: "You were a truly loved girl and you have left a hole in so many people's hearts."
Another friend, Rob Butler, said: "An incredible, beautiful and wonderful person who lived life to it's fullest.
You will be sorely missed. R.I.P Bernadette."
Police officers were called to the scene at 7.30am on Sunday along with a crew from South East Coast Ambulance Service.
Bernadette was pronounced dead at the scene and her next of kin have now been informed.
Officers are now preparing a report for the coroner ahead of a post-mortem examination due to be held later this week.
A spokesman for Kent Police said: "The woman's death is not being treated as suspicious but it is unexplained.
"It is probably a tragic accident where a young woman was on her way home from a night out and didn't quite make it to the address she was staying at.
"We think she slipped on the snow and couldn't get up and lost consciousness because it was so cold or she had a medical episode.
"She was staying at her sister's home which wasn't far at all from where she was found collapsed.
"She had almost made it to where she was staying, which makes it all the more tragic."
A source close to the police investigation said Bernadette might have been drinking.
Neighbour Kenneth Mitchell, 69, said: "I looked out my bedroom window on Sunday morning and wondered what on earth was going on.
"The road was taped off by police and there were forensics officers everywhere and an ambulance as well.
"It was only later I found out a young woman's body had been found there in the snow.
"It's just so awful, absolutely tragic. I've no idea what happened, but I do know it was absolutely freezing on Saturday night and you wouldn't have lasted long out there if you'd fallen in the snow.
"There must have been about six inches of snow out there, it was pretty deep."