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Newspaper headline:Sex orgy clue in riddle of nude

The Woman Who Never Was...

By Mike Kemp
Can you help solve a 25 year old mystery in North Yorkshire? Who was the woman whose naked body was found near Sutton Bank in 1981? Why was she there and how did she die?

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At 8am on Friday, August 28th, 1981, a man phoned Ripon police station to report a badly decomposed body in amongst weeds off a country road near Sutton Bank.

 Mystery #1

"It was also a known lovers' haunt..."

Who was this man? Police have not been able to trace him. Nor has he come forward. He told the policeman on the phone he couldn't give his name "for national security reasons". Did he just find the body? Or was he more involved?

The body was among tall rosebay willow herbs, about 10ft from the road leading to Scawton and Rievaulx Abbey, close to a stone wall, and near a turning to a farm. There were woods on either side of the road. It was a place where people stopped to picnic. It was also a known lovers' haunt.

Map showing body's location

There wasn't much left of the body, mostly skeletal remains. It had been there for at least a year. Scientists determined it was a woman, aged about 38 to 40, about 5ft 2ins tall, of slender build with natural dark brown hair cut to a length of about six inches.

She was also a mum. She'd had at least one child, maybe as many as three. There were no clothes on her, nor any jewellery, watch or other adornments. One striking feature was her black-rotten teeth.

Mystery #2

Who was this woman? Exhaustive investigations by the police proved fruitless. Was she a prostitute, a traveller, a tramp? Or someone else? Police even had a wax head made from her skull (pictured) - the first time this technique had been used in a criminal investigation. But again: nothing.

Reconstructed wax model of missing woman
Reconstructioion: how the woman may have looked

For a time they thought they knew who she was. An Irish woman, Geraldine Elizabeth Crawley, had escaped from Askham Grange prison, near York. She was serving a three-year sentence for the manslaughter of an elderly woman in Liverpool.

She absconded in 1979 and hadn't been seen since. She seemed to match the description of the dead woman in almost every way. She was also a mother. Remarkably, after a police appeal, she sent the police a copy of her signature and two thumbprints to prove she was still alive.

Mystery #3

Where is Crawley now? She's not been caught since her escape. What sort of life has she been leading?

Police continued their investigation, following up every lead. But there was nothing to identify the dead woman. They couldn't even say for sure how she died.

Mystery #4

How did this woman meet her death? How did she end up off a country road - her body lying there undiscovered for at least a year? Was she murdered and dumped? Was she the victim of a tragic sex romp?

Was she ill - and simply lay down and never woke up? The questions remain even after 25 years.

Do you know any of the answers - to unlock this mystery? If you do have any information you can email BBC Radio York and we'll pass on information to North Yorkshire Police, or you can call their incident line on 01609 789452.

Any information sent to BBC Radio York will be passed onto North Yorkshire Police email:
last updated: 25/08/06
Have Your Say
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Could have she been preyed on by the Yorkshire Ripper? Somebody has a girlfriend/wife/sister/close friend missing and needs to contact police if she matches the missing person

i totally disagree that this is a wrong choice there is a murderer out there that needs to be sent down. also there is someone there who wants answers about there reltion who has be gone for 25 years. they deserve justice

C Cook
Mr Donato - what if this woman was murdered and her killer has not been caught? And may have harmed others? What about plain human compassion to understand how someone came to be dead in the weeds and no one went looking for her. Yes be pragmatic about how to expend reousrces, but be compassionate at the same time.

Anybody thought of asking Peter Sutcliffe im sure he would have known that area quite well!!!!

Nige Rothery
I recall another mystery from that era, a male body was found on on or near the railway line a couple of miles North of Thirsk Station - was he ever identified and the cause of death established I wonder?

adam donato
another classic waste of our police resources.are there families crying out for an answer or!we are officially under extreme threat of terrorism and suffering a serious increase in knife crimes to name but a few problems.but hey lets look into a 25 year old john doe and slap up a few more speed cameras!

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