The body of American biologist Suzanne Eaton, 59, was discovered by two locals on Monday in a cave that had been turned into a Nazi bunker during World War II. Forensic pathologists on Wednesday said that she had been killed, whereas police later announced that death was by asphyxiation.

Local media reports point to minor stab wounds on her body though there has been no police confirmation of this. The coroner however said that death was slow and dental records from Germany, where Eaton was working, had to be used to identify the body.

Crete’s Chief of Police Konstantinos Lagoudakis said that it is believed that Eaton’s body was placed in the bunker after she was killed. He said her body was found face down 60 metres inside the cave, beneath an air shaft covered by a large wooden pallet.

Police have already brought in several suspects for DNA testing.

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Eaton’s husband, British scientist Tony Hyman, and two sons are on the island. Tributes flowed on Thursday, with her mother, son, siblings and other friends and relatives praising her life and work.

The biologist was in Crete for a conference at the Orthodox Academy in Crete and was last seen alive on 2 July. Her employer, the Max Planck Institute at Dresden University in Germany, announced her death and set up a tribute page for Eaton.

Her sister wrote: “She took great pleasure in preparing exquisite meals and had an exotic fashion sense. She loved perfume. She taught and practiced Tae Kwon Do as a second degree black belt. She finished crossword puzzles way too quickly, played concertos, and read extensively. She fit Jane Austin’s strictest description of an ‘accomplished woman’ while maintaining a natural humility and ‘insatiable curiosity’.”

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The Max Planck Institute had written: “We are deeply shocked and disturbed by this tragic event. Suzanne was an outstanding and inspiring scientist, a loving spouse and mother, an athlete as well as a truly wonderful person beloved to us all.”