Sussex detectives said tonight that the murderer of teacher Jane Longhurst was probably "spooked" into burning her body.

Jane's remains were found on fire at Wiggonholt Common, near Pulborough, on Saturday evening. She was identified by her dental records.

Police said she had been strangled at another place, weeks earlier.

At a press conference in Brighton, Detective Chief Inspector Steve Dennis said it made no sense that her body was left on a busy bank holiday weekend in an area clearly visible from a road and footpaths.

He said: "It was an urgent gut reaction that whoever it was had to get rid of her body. It was a panic-type situation."

He appealed for anyone who had noticed a friend or family member acting suspiciously or smelling of smoke that evening to contact Sussex Police.

Mr Dennis said: "We know she has been dead for four to five weeks and we believe that over the weekend she was taken from where she was being kept, somewhere where she was well preserved, and taken to that area and set fire to."

He said it was too early to say whether she had been sexually assaulted or whether she had known the killer.

Police are keen to speak to the drivers of three vehicles seen near Wiggonholt Common on Saturday - a Renault people carrier, a Volkswagen and a Ford Focus.

Jane, 31, a music teacher at Uplands special school in Hollingdean, Brighton, vanished from the home she shared with partner Malcolm Sentance, 34, on March 14.

Mr Sentence and Jane's relatives described her as a "devoted daughter, sister and partner" who "enjoyed life to the full".

They said in a statement: "We cannot put into words how we are feeling at the moment. While we were expecting the worst, none of us could be prepared for how devastating this is.

"Jane was loved by all who knew her and she enjoyed life to the full. She was missed terribly and her death has left a hole in all our lives."

Headteacher Paul Atkins said staff at Uplands were "deeply shocked" at Jane's death.

Mr Atkins said: "We are devastated by the news of the tragic death of our colleague Jane Longhurst, made worse by the horrible circumstances surrounding her death.

"Jane was a delightful, genuine and caring person; her loss will have a deep impact on both the pupils and staff of Uplands school."

A bunch of red carnations was left at the school gates today with a note reading: "To the best teacher. I will miss you Miss Longhurst."

Uplands will remain closed on the first day of the summer term while teachers discuss how to explain the news to pupils and how to commemorate their colleague.

Police say some of Miss Longhurst's belongings, including her Nokia 3310 mobile phone, black Next wallet, shoes and denim jacket were still missing.

Miss Longhurst was last seen at the door to her house in Shaftesbury Road.

Detectives have appealed for anyone who was on Wiggonholt Common between 7.30pm and 8.30pm on Saturday to come forward.