The mystery of old Shakey’s bones

Many are vigilant about keeping the streets clean and tidy, some will sweep leaves away from their shop fronts while others will stop to pick up litter, but one woman went the extra mile when she discovered a collection of bones.

Emma Taylor, 31, was on Minstergate in Thetford when she came across a skull and other fragments near a recently excavated patch of land. Distressed by the fact they were lying on the pavement where anybody could discover them, she called the police.

They in turn called out an archaeologist who told her the bones were likely to be those of four or five different people and were more than 800 years old. The remains were signed over to Miss Taylor who gathered up as many as she could see without disturbing any others under the ground.

Miss Taylor, a shop manager from Nelson Crescent, Thetford, said she had named the bones 'Shakey' and added: 'I want to keep as many as I can find together and lay them to rest.

'I just felt sad they were going to be left there. Someone had obviously disturbed them and they were all laying there but the police and the archaeologist said it was okay to take them.

'He said it doesn't happen very often but because the Priory is opposite he said maybe it was a burial ground at one point. I was going to take them home but I've got a two-year-old and two dogs and I didn't want them to get hold of them an bury them in the garden.

'Some people are saying I'm being a bit strange but I think if it was my mum or dad or my child I wouldn't want them left out there where people could do anything to them.'

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The bones, which include two skulls, one of which is thought to be female, a leg bone thought to be from a male, and numerous others, are now in a box under Miss Taylor's desk at work where they will stay until she can find a suitable burial site. Ideally, she said, she would like to lay them to rest in a churchyard and had already contacted churches in the area.

She added: 'I don't want to let them go now, I've got quite attached to them. They're planning on building the new bus station on Minstergate and if any more are found then I'll start again and lay those to rest too because they might all be related.

'They've all spent that time together under the ground so they should stay together. It's hard because I don't know if the bones are Catholic of Church of England and are the churches going to need to know? It's all new to me.

'If I can't bury them in a churchyard I'll see if I can do it myself somewhere if I can get permission.'

A police spokeswoman said: 'We were called to the site on Thursday 28 where it appeared human bones and a skull were found in a ditch.

'Together with Norfolk Landscape Archaeology it was established the bones dated back to the 12th or 13th century.'

She added the site was believed to be a former graveyard.

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