North Yorkshire Police have confirmed that the forensic analysis on the samples taken from the body of a woman known as the “Sutton Bank body” has produced a full composite DNA profile.
As part of a cold case review of several cases of unidentified bodies, the woman’s remains were exhumed on 24 January 2012 to enable samples to be taken in the hope of obtaining a DNA profile.
Officers have also renewed their appeal for anyone who believes the woman may be a relative to contact the investigation team.
They have also urged the man to come forward who made the initial call to Ripon Police Station on 28 August 1981.
Detective Superintendent Lewis Raw, who is leading the cold case review, thanked the Forensic Science Service who carried out the analysis.
Detective Superintendent Lewis Raw:
We are very pleased with the outcome of the tests. 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.
Producing the profile was a very complex procedure and I would like to express our thanks to the Forensic Science Service for their assistance with the investigation.
We will now begin the process of seeking to identify the woman by comparing her DNA profile with existing records, in addition to working with the families or friends of missing persons who have come forward following publicity about the case.
So far, there are fifteen cases where relatives or friends have contacted the force who believe that the deceased may be either a relative or a friend. Officers are appealing for anyone else who believes they may be related to her to contact the investigation team as soon as possible.
Det Supt Raw added:
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.
We have reissued the appeal for potential family members to come forward and also for the mystery caller who rang the police on 28 August 1981.
At the time the mystery caller claimed he could not reveal his identity in the interests of national security. Perhaps he is now in a position to come forward and talk to the police. Alternatively, information could be passed to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
The deceased is described as:
5ft 2in in height and aged over 35 years.
All her upper teeth were missing, she had an upper dental plate fitted and she had just six lower teeth.
She had short dark hair.
The post mortem showed she had given birth to two or three children. She also 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 abnormality to her neck vertebrae which would have caused back-ache.
She had an old fracture to her ankle.
The DNA profile will also be checked against the national DNA database and the missing persons’ DNA database to check for any potential relatives of the deceased.
North Yorkshire Police are also working with the National Policing Improvement Agency’s Missing Person’s Bureau to obtain details of any people matching her description who went missing within the relevant timescale.
Although a search of missing persons’ records was carried out at the time the body was discovered, checking this recently formed central register of missing people will provide completeness and ensure that no stone is left unturned in this long-running investigation..
Det Supt Raw said:
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.
We have had tremendous support from our professional partners and members of the public, in particular the residents of Malton who supported us through the very sensitive operation to exhume the body.
The woman’s remains were found by the side of a remote country road between the Sutton Bank Road (A170) and the village of Scawton on 28 August 1981.
North Yorkshire Police had received an anonymous call tipping them off about the body on 28 August 1981. To this day, the identity of the caller is still unknown as is the identity of the dead woman.
The discovery of the woman’s remains sparked an 18-month investigation, led by Detective Chief Superintendent Strickland Carter, who needed to establish who she was and what she was doing there.
A forensic examination of the body was inconclusive as was the post mortem, which failed to establish a cause of death.
No jewellery or personal belongings were found on or nearby the body which could help to identify her and a Home Office pathologist estimated that she may have lain in the undergrowth for up to two years due to the state of the body and the level of plant growth around her.
Further examinations of the mystery woman’s remains established that she was around 5ft 2in tall, aged over 35 with short, dark-coloured hair.
Pathologists also found an old fracture to her right ankle . Unfortunately, the physical characteristics of the body were not conclusive enough to secure an identification.
During the enquiry, extensive investigations were conducted and a number of people were put forward as the deceased, however it was not possible to identify a positive match.
At the time of the initial investigation, a three-dimensional wax reconstruction of the woman’s head was produced. It was the first of its kind and demonstrated that police were keen to use new technology to get to the bottom of the mystery which faced them.
Despite the long passage of time since the mystery woman’s body was discovered, North Yorkshire Police’s commitment to finding the answers to these questions remains unchanged. Her family deserve answers.