Detectives are a step closer to identifying a woman feared to have been murdered more than 30 years ago after forensic scientists were able to produce a full DNA profile from her exhumed remains.
North Yorkshire Police confirmed yesterday that the Forensic Science Service (FSS) had completed the “very complex procedure” of making a composite profile for the woman, known as the ‘Nude in the Nettles’.
Her naked body was discovered at a roadside near Sutton Bank in 1981 but, despite a series of public appeals and extensive enquiries, police have been unable to name her.
The woman’s remains were exhumed from Malton Cemetery in January so that DNA samples could be taken, as part of a cold case review aimed at identifying eight people whose bodies were found in North Yorkshire between 1981 and 2008.
Officers revealed yesterday that they had received 15 approaches from people who believe they may be the woman’s relative or friend.
They urged more potential relatives to come forward, and renewed their appeal for information about a man whose mysterious phone call more than 30 years ago led police to the body in the first place.
Detective Superintendent Lewis Raw, who is leading the cold case review, thanked the FSS and the people of Malton for their help with the investigation. “We are very pleased with the outcome of the tests,” he said. “Due to the length of time the body had been buried at the cemetery in Malton, there was a possibility that a full profile might not be obtained.
“Obtaining a full composite profile enhances the lines of investigation we can undertake.”
The original police investigation began on the morning of Friday, August 28, 1981, when officers based at Ripon received a call from a well-spoken man who refused to give his name for “national security” reasons.
He told them: “Near Scawton Moor House you will find a decomposed body.”
Officers found the woman’s remains between two small conifer plantations, to the side of an unclassified road leading from Sutton Bank to the villages of Scawton and Rievaulx.
The case was officially recorded as an “unexplained incident” by the Home Office, but detectives now believe she may have been murdered.
Det Supt Raw said: “The DNA profile will now be checked against the people who have come forward to identify any familial link with the deceased.
“However, before any samples are taken from the people who have come forward, research will be conducted around physical similarities between the families and the deceased, including dental records and other physical characteristics. The mystery as to who the woman is continues, but the investigation is progressing and if we can identify her, we can then begin the process of establishing how she met her death.”
The woman was 5ft 2in, over 35 and had short dark hair. All her upper teeth were missing, she had an upper dental plate fitted, and she had only six lower teeth.
She had given birth to two or three children and had a displaced septum between her nostrils.
Her toenails were painted pink – the varnish coming from the Max Factor Maxi range.
She also had an old fracture to her ankle and an abnormality to her neck vertebrae which would have caused backache.