Cold case: Headless body found in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 09:09 27 August 2011

Police appeal for information on the Cockley Cley Headless Body

Police appeal for information on the Cockley Cley Headless Body


On August 27, 1974 the body of an unidentified woman wearing a pink Marks and Spencers nightdress was found on farmland at Cockley Cley, near Swaffham.

Her head had been cut off, her hands were bound with string and her body was badly decomposed. Despite a thorough investigation at the time, the police did not succeed in finding out who she was or who had killed her.

Under the operational name of MONTON, the cold case team exhumed the body in 2008 and obtained a DNA sample from it.

More than 470 women from all over the country and further afield who, in the early 1970s, were reported as missing persons or being of interest have been traced and eliminated.

Where it has not been possible to trace a missing woman, the team located the nearest blood relatives of that woman and taken DNA samples from them to compare to the victim, in order to see if they could be related.

An ‘isotopic analysis’ has been carried out on the victim’s remains, including her femur and toe nails, to help establish where in the world she originally came from, possibly Denmark or central Europe, and where she lived in the months leading up to her death.

It was also thought fish and meat formed key parts of her diet.

A forensic osteo-archaeologist also examined the skeleton and provided the team with new information about the profile of the victim that she had in particular had a baby. Using this new information, the team commenced ‘familial DNA’ work.

This is where the police research the National DNA Database to find possible links between the victim and family members whose DNA has been loaded onto the database. Through researching the family tree of that person it is possible to trace the victim.

There is a possibility that the victim came from an ethnic minority community from in the region.

One particular line of inquiry was that the discovery of the body could be linked to a woman called The Duchess who worked in the docks area of Great Yarmouth.

Detective Inspector Andy Guy, a senior investigating officer with the team, said: “She was working in the Ocean Terminal round about 1974 and she disappeared round about the same time. We never established what her name was. We did speak to several people who had knowledge of her, but no-one could actually give her a name.”

DI Guy said he would welcome any further information into the case. He said: “We will deal with any information that comes in and follow it up. If someone went missing around that time and you haven’t come forward and told us, please do so. It might be nothing to do with this, but we will look into it and try and solve where that person went to.”

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