A REMARKABLE historian who was instrumental in confirming the identify of bones found underneath a car park to be the remains of King Richard III has died.

Dr John Ashdown-Hill, from Lawford, arduously spent years tracing an all-female line of descent from Richard III’s eldest sister to research their DNA sequence.

He then led a study for the Richard III Society, which resulted in the Looking for Richard project.

It was this campaign which eventually found the former monarch’s remains under a Leicester car park in 2012.

For his part in the landmark discovery, the academic was recognised in the Queen’s birthday honours and made an MBE.

Dr Ashdown-Hill died Tuesday following a battle with Motor Neurone Disease. He was 69.

Former friends from Essex University, where Mr Ashdown-Hill studied for his PhD, paid fond tribute to a “real gentleman”.

Dr Ashdown-Hill completed his MA in linguistics and PhD in medieval history at the university.

He also received an honorary degree for his part in the discovery in 2014.

Prof Alison Rowlands, from the Department of History, said: “I was extremely sad to hear the news.

“I have known John since 2004, when he began his PhD in our department and had the honour of delivering his oration when he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Essex in 2014.

“John was a prolific author, a leading historian of the Yorkist dynasty, and a real gentleman, who combined a genuine gentleness of manner with an immense enthusiasm for the solving of historical mysteries.

“This enthusiasm was best exemplified in the absolutely pivotal role that John played in pinpointing the location – and confirming the identity – of the remains of King Richard III.”

The ill-fated King was killed fighting Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, the last major battle of the Wars of the Roses.

Mrs Rowlands said: “Without John’s research into the fate of the king’s body after the battle and into the mitochondrial DNA of Richard’s descendants, it is unlikely that this major discovery could have been made.

“I was in regular contact with John over the months before his death. Even though he was terminally ill, John was determined to keep working on his final book, which will be published later in 2018 and promises more ground-breaking revelations.

“With his death we have lost not only a leading scholar of the House of York, but also a longstanding friend of our department.”