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.
|"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.
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.
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.
|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.
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.
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.