Search for Richard III ends with car park dig

The skeleton found in a Leicester car park that scientists say belongs to King Richard III, right. Credit: PA/Leicester University

Archaeologists from Leicester University today confirmed that the skeleton they dug up in a car park in the city in September is that of King Richard III.

In a lengthy televised news conference, the researchers involved in the excavation detailed the remarkable backstory of their search for the 15th century monarch, and the extensive tests they say prove "beyond reasonable doubt" that the remains belong to the King.

Dr Jo Appleby said the condition of the adult male skeleton, including the fact its owner suffered from scoliosis, had an unusually slender build,and was covered in war wounds, provided a "highly convincing case for identification as Richard III."

The complete remains of Richard III, above, show the monarch had a curvature of the spine.

Henry VII's forces are believed to have treated the king brutally after death, Dr Appleby said, by abusing his corpse with "humiliation injuries" - including a knife wound to the buttock.

This treatment tallies with the failure to bury the monarch in the traditional shroud or coffin fitting of his station.

Dr Jo Appleby show how the skull of King Richard III had been damaged in battle. Credit: PA

The remains also underwent radio carbon dating, CAT scans and DNA tests, which geneticist Dr Turi King said pointed to them belonging to Richard III.

DNA taken from the skeleton was matched to that of Michael Ibsen, a distant living relative of Richard's sister Anne, with both sharing a rare strain of mitochondrial DNA.

Claire Graham uses ground penetration radar (GPR) at Greyfriars car park in Leicester during a search for the lost grave of Richard III. Credit: PA

Screenwriter Philippa Langley, of the Richard III Society, was a driving force behind the project.

She described trying to convince archaeologists and officials to approve the dig and how the history-altering discovery was almost missed when one of the funding bodies pulled out and the dig was almost cancelled.

Permission was eventually granted to dig up the car park near Grey Friars, believed to be the historical location of the church where Richard III was thought to have been buried after he was killed in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

It took just weeks for the archaeologists to dig up the King's remains - along with one other skeleton -- and uncover the foundations of the ancient church.

The remains of the king's body will be reinterred at Leicester Cathedral - most likely early next year - and the city has plans for a permanent visitor centre.

As well as providing a tourist boom for Leicester, the discovery is expected to reignite interest in the monarch's life story, including Shakespeare's famous historical tragedy.