THE slight-framed, middled-aged lady standing outside the tea huts on the edge of Epping Forest keeps calling me back.

"Don't you want to hear about any more?" she asks.

"There was the prostitute who was all cut up and put in plastic bags down by the back. It was unfortunate how she died, I think it was a sex game gone wrong. That was 15 to 20 years ago. A copper chopped her up."

Elizabeth Melton's family has run one of the forest tea shacks for the last 25 years so she should know about these things.

"Then there was the honour killing with the body rolled up in a carpet. There was one suicide, he was so high up in the trees the fire brigade couldn't cut him down. And in the 1960s, before abortion was made legal, all the women who died from back street abortions were dumped in the forest."

It may sound like a lot already, but in fact the small woman in a puffa jacket and a baseball cap is just touching on the tip of the iceberg on the edge of the forest.

Over the years a disturbingly large number of people have been found in Epping Forest the victims of killings or people who go there to take their own lives.

For the family of one teenage boy who went to school in Woodford Green, Epping Forest turned out to be a dark, if temporary resting place five years ago.

It was three months before the body was accidentally stumbled across. The young man was found hanging from a tree just 15 minutes' walk from the road after disappearing before his GCSEs. Police did not treat his death as suspicious.

There was the case of Wendy Woodhouse, whose battered body was found on the edges of Epping Forest in April 2000, after a drugs deal went wrong; and father-of-three Shah Afruj Ali from Bow whose burnt corpse was found in February this year; and Ray Anthony Samuels from Stoke Newington who was wrapped in a carpet and dumped in the forest near Chingford after being asphyxiated. He was discovered by a dog walker.

In 1999 even EastEnders got in on the act as gangster Steve Owen was shown dumping Saskia Duncan, a fictional murder victim, in a forest with a road sign to Epping in the background.

Just last month a trial finished of a man accused and found not guilty of murdering a middle aged man and dumping his body on Wanstead Flats. It was discovered by a trio of teenagers, who stumbled across the half rotten corpse of Ivor Willis last September.

But the Corporation of London, which owns and upkeeps the 8,000 acres of forest land, has no idea how many deceased have been found in Epping Forest and says it has no way of stopping the bodies coming.

Spokesman John Logie said: "We don't have a running total, but so far this year we know that two bodies have been found under suspicious circumstances. The police don't always inform us, sometimes a warden stumbles across an area which is cordoned off."

The secluded, quiet nature of the forest, which attracts both ramblers and murderers alike, makes it almost impossible to police.

Mr Logie added: "It's the size and the density of the forest that means people bring dead bodies here. The location is close to London as well, but people don't come to the forest to commit murders: the warden can't remember the last time a murder was committed in the forest.

"It's such a vast forest, it's impossible to police 24 hours a day. It's not a viable thing to do and financially it would be impossible and I don't think people would like it. People like the forest because it's secluded."

And with all these dead people being discovered you would imagine a dark cloud of death would be casting a shadow over Epping Forest putting people in fear of going there. The reality is somewhat different.

Glenn Mulleady works for the Epping Forest Conservation Trust and finds himself traipsing through the forest regularly.

"Epping Forest is synonymous with dead bodies, it's almost like folk-law. It's a dumping ground. It's just a disposal site," said the 23-year-old, almost blithely.

Like Mrs Melton he seems to be immune to what may be hidden in the forest, but just watch your step when you take the dog out.