POLICE are investigating the death of a nurse whose body was found on a snow-covered playing field near her home.

It is feared that 21-year-old Shelley Whitfield may have been overcome by the freezing conditions.

Her body was found by a man walking his dog in fields behind the Meadowfield sports centre in Brandon, Co Durham, on Wednesday morning.

The auxiliary nurse was face down and fully clothed on the ground, just a few hundred metres from her rented ground- floor flat.

Her dark, three-quarter-length coat was nearby, with her mobile phone in a pocket.

Miss Whitfield, originally from nearby Spennymoor, worked at the University Hospital of North Durham. She had been living in Brandon for about a year.

A post-mortem could not determine a precise cause of death. Further tests will be carried out.

Investigators are trying to piece together her movements on Tuesday, particularly after 6pm.

They know she was in Durham City from lunchtime that day with a male friend with whom she went window shopping before going to the Water Hole pub.

The pair left at 5.50pm, so her friend could catch a bus back to his home in Washington.

CCTV footage shows Miss Whitfield at the bus station, but her movements since then remain a mystery, police said.

A police spokesman said detectives wanted to speak to anyone who had come into contact with Miss Whitfield, been in touch by text message or spoken to her on her mobile phone.

He added: "Shelley often walked home after her shift.

"We simply don't know where she went after leaving the bus station at 6pm on Tuesday.

"We have to keep an open mind on what may have happened, which is why we are keen to speak to anyone who can shed light on her movements."

The spokesman said: "It is possible Shelley was overcome by the conditions. It was extremely cold and snowing.

"In some cases people with hypothermia have discarded their clothing, which is something we are looking into."