Jacob Wetterling
Jacob Wetterling went missing on October 22 1989 in Minnesota Jacob Wetterling Resource Center

A suspect in the disappearance of an 11-year-old boy, who was abducted by a masked gunmen has told police where the child's remains were – 27 years after he vanished. The body of Jacob Wetterling, who was abducted on 22 October 1989, has been discovered in central Minnesota, authorities in the state have said.

In one of the most high-profile disappearances in US history, Wetterling was kidnapped on a rural road near his home in St Joseph, about 80 miles north-west of Minneapolis.

On the day of his disappearance, Jacob was riding his bicycle with his brother and a friend when a masked gunman abducted him.

Wetterling had not been seen since and no one has been arrested or charged in connection with his shocking abduction.

In 1994, the case led to changes in sex offender registration laws when Congress passed a law named after him requiring states to establish sex offender registries.

Last year US police decided to revisit the case, and were led to a man named Danny James Heinrich, who they referred to as a "person of interest" in Jacob's kidnapping.

Heinrich, 53, of Annandale, Minnesota, was questioned by authorities at the time of Wetterling's abduction – but denied any involvement then and still denies involvement.

He has not been charged with a crime linked to Wetterling's disappearance, but the FBI has said previously that he matches the description of a man who assaulted boys between 1986-1988 in that part of Minnesota.

Then, earlier this year, DNA belonging Heinrich was found on the sweatshirt of a 12-year-old boy who was kidnapped and sexually assaulted just nine months before Wetterling's abduction only 10 miles away.

The Guardian reported that Heinrich has also pleaded not guilty to 25 federal child pornography charges and will go on trial on those counts in October this year.

In a statement, the Stearns County sheriff's confirmed that Wetterling's remains "have been located" and said a medical examiner and a forensic odonatologist identified his remains on Saturday (3 September). Reports suggest that police were taken to a field in central Minnesota last week where the boy's body was found.

Patty Wetterling, Jacob's mother, said on hearing the news in a statement to KARE-TV that the boy had been found and "our hearts are broken".

Patty with her husband, Jerry Wetterling, founded the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, which works to help communities and families prevent child exploitation. On their Facebook page yesterday they said they were in "deep grief".

"We didn't want Jacob's story to end this way," the statement read. "Our hearts are heavy, but we are being held up by all of the people who have been a part of making Jacob's Hope a light that will never be extinguished… Jacob, you are loved."