A man is facing life in jail after confessing to the murder of Irish vet Catherine Gowing.
Burly Clive Sharp, 46, spoke only once during the brief court hearing to enter his guilty plea to the murder of Ms Gowing, whose body has never been fully recovered.
Her sister Emma and brother-in-law Shay Maguire sat in court yards from the dock listening intently to proceedings as heavily-built Sharp was brought up from the cells at Mold Crown Court, north Wales.
Flanked by two prison officers, the defendant, unshaven and wearing a grey pullover and grey jogging bottoms, sat in the dock with his head down for most of the hearing. He faces an automatic life sentence but must wait until a further hearing next month to discover how long he will serve before he can be considered for parole.
Ms Gowing, 37, who was originally from Co Offaly in the Irish Republic, was reported missing on October 15, last year, when she failed to arrive at work at the Evans Veterinary Practice in Mold, north Wales. The last confirmed sighting was at a supermarket in nearby Queensferry the previous Friday.
Her disappearance sparked the largest search operation ever mounted by North Wales Police. But despite an anguished wait from her loved ones for her safe return, human remains, later confirmed to be those of Ms Gowing, were found in a shallow pool in a field in Sealand, Deeside, more than two weeks later.
Further remains were discovered at another rural location two days later on the banks of the River Dee, but police say the search will continue.
Sharp, of no fixed address but who is from the Sealand area on Deeside, is understood to have been friends with a woman who shared a house with Ms Gowing, though no evidence was heard in court on Monday and the exact details of how she came to her death were not given.
Sharp must wait to be sentenced as Mr Justice Griffith Williams said he has yet to determine the minimum term he must serve before he can be considered for release. The judge also said there were a "number of concerns" about the murder that he needed to consider before setting a minimum term of imprisonment, and adjourned sentencing until Monday 25 February.