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A police officer stands guard near tape blocking a bike path close to where a woman's body was found on Wednesday morning. ((CBC))

A passerby discovered a woman's half-naked body near Mud Lake in Ottawa's Britannia neighbourhood on Wednesday morning.

A woman walking her dog found the body about 20 metres from a bike path near Howe Street and Poulin Avenue in the city's west end around 6:15 a.m., Ottawa Police reported.

She alerted a construction worker, who called police from his cellphone.

Ottawa police Staff Sgt. Don Sweet said police are treating the death as suspicious.

Police would not disclose the woman's age, whether she was clothed, whether she had been assaulted or any further details.

However, CBC-TV's Steve Fischer, who saw a photo of the body, said the dead woman was wearing only a shirt.

Police cordoned off an area as large as 10 football fields, including a section of the bike path, and strung up a tarp from the trees to obscure the body, located at the edge of Britannia Woods.

As of noon, investigators with Ottawa police's major crimes section seemed to be focusing most of their efforts near the body.

The surrounding neighbourhood is a mixed residential area that includes a variety of housing, including a public-housing complex and an apartment building mostly inhabited by seniors. A school and an open-custody young offenders house are also in the vicinity.

Vladimer Solovyev, who lives a block away, said he was awoken at 2 a.m. Wednesday morning by a man shouting angrily.

However, police said did not receive any calls from the area overnight.

Local resident Lorna Davis said the neighbourhood is normally a "lovely, quiet area," and the park and bike path are used by many people.

"So it comes as a great surprise to us that there's been something untoward happening."

Bush parties, homeless in woods

Jennifer O'Quinn, who has lived in the area for 20 years, said she has felt safe all these years even while cleaning up the riverbank alone as a volunteer for a conservation group, Ottawa Riverkeeper.

However, she said she has seen some incidents in the woods.

"There's been areas where there's been a lot of burning wood, you can see there's been drinking and partying and what-not going on, homeless people setting up little spots in there," she said. "You don't know what's going on in there in the darkness, I guess."

Jennifer Hulshof, who also lives in the neighbourhood, said that even though police haven't yet said whether the victim was attacked nearby, she won't let her kids ride the bike path anymore.