Human remains have been discovered at a spot popular for river swimming in Far North Queensland which may help police in their search for a woman who has been missing for nearly eight months.

A tourist discovered the bone on the river bed at Mossman Gorge in the state’s far north last week, Queensland Police said on Monday.

Police divers have since recovered the remains, which a forensic anthropologist confirmed was a human tibia.

“Divers will return to the site tomorrow morning for further examination of the area,” police said. Mossman Gorge will remain open to the public.

The discovery of the leg bone may mark a major development in the disappearance of a 54-year-old Victorian woman who was swept away in the Mossman River in January.

The woman, believed to be a tourist visiting the area, was last seen struggling underwater on January 6. She was swept downstream and disappeared, sparking a major search and rescue operation.

Efforts by police divers and the SES to locate the woman were marred by poor weather and rising water levels.

The search was scaled back after six days and declared a recovery mission.

Mossman Police Officer-in-Charge Sergeant Matthew Smith told local media he hoped the discovery of the bone will help police bring potential closure to the woman’s family.

“We obviously are hopeful that particular bone may lead us to answers in relation to the missing person in January who got swept down the Mossman Gorge and was never seen or resurfaced,” he said on Monday.

“There was always the belief that due to the tumultuous water that was pouring down the gorge at the time, that the water pressure and the deep canyons and pockets that make up the Mossman Gorge River, that she was pinned under a rock somewhere and that’s why she failed to resurface.

“We were always waiting for time and a change in weather conditions to hopefully allow us to find some of her remains.”

Sergeant Smith said police will search for more remains and obtain DNA testing to confirm their suspected identity.

“Hopefully if we can find some more remains, it will give us more chance of positive DNA testing due to the time frame,” he said.

“We’re very hopeful that this may lead to some closure for her family but at this stage we have a fair bit of forensic DNA testing to be conducted to confirm that.”

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