Fears for the safety of missing former EastEnders star Gemma McCluskie have continued to mount after a dismembered female body was discovered in the Regents Canal in London.

The 29-year-old actress, who played Kerry Skinner in the soap in 2001, went missing from her east London home on 1 March.

The discovery of the body in a stretch of canal near Broadway Market in Hackney came as friends and family continued their frantic search for McCluskie. She was last seen at her home in Bethnal Green.

Stars including former EastEnders actresses Brooke Kinsella and Natalie Cassidy have joined in the hunt via Twitter. "Wanted" posters have appeared on walls and lamp-posts around the East End.

Kinsella tweeted: "Please get in touch if you have seen her." Cassidy urged fans: "Please help rt my tweets. Find Gemma, she is a lovely girl. We need to find her"

No formal connection has been made by police between the disappearance and the gruesome find but they have not ruled out a link.

A full murder investigation has been launched.

"Enquiries are under way to establish the identity of the deceased,2 said the Metropolitan Police. "A post-mortem will be scheduled to ascertain the cause of death.

"Pending that post mortem we will be treating the death as unexplained."

A 35-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the murder and remains in custody.