MORE than 500 years since he was killed in battle, archaeologists believe they have found the skeleton of King Richard III, buried beneath a council car park.
Experts said an intact skeleton matched much of what they knew about the mediaeval king, including his reputation as a ''hunchback'', and hope DNA tests will put the issue beyond doubt.
The remains were found three weeks into an archaeological dig by a team from Leicester University, which recently pinpointed the site of Grey Friars church, where Richard was believed to be buried after being killed in the Battle of Bosworth in August 1485.
The skeleton was an adult male with spinal abnormalities that pointed to severe scoliosis, a form of spinal curvature.
The remains showed signs of trauma to the head where a blade had cut away part of the back of the skull, an injury consistent with battle, and a barbed arrowhead was found lodged between vertebrae in the upper back. The only known account of his death is in a poem that states he was ''poleaxed to the head''.
Philippa Langley, of the Richard III Society, who has driven the search for the body, said: ''This will allow us to really challenge what we know about Richard and rewrite the history of the last two years of his life. We can find out how he got to the church, how he was buried, how he died - all the things that have been the subject of assumptions and misconceptions.''
He was the last of the Plantagenet dynasty and his death was decisive in the Wars of the Roses. Shakespeare's celebrated play Richard III portrayed him as an evil, ugly hunchback, which helped cement the public perception of him.
DNA tests are expected to take 12 weeks. The team will compare samples from the remains with the DNA of a direct descendant of the king's sister, Michael Ibsen, 55, a Canadian furniture maker who lives in London.