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Cockley Cley murder: DNA could lead to breakthrough

The Cockley Cley murder victim was wearing a pink nightdress
The Cockley Cley murder victim was wearing a pink nightdress

Nearly 42 years after the body of a woman was found headless in Cockley Cley, police hope to finally identify the victim using DNA advancements.

The body of a woman was found bound and concealed in heath land on Swaffham Road on August 27, 1974.

The Cockley Cley murder victim was was wearing a pink nightdress
The Cockley Cley murder victim was was wearing a pink nightdress

Detectives have now learned that the woman, who was aged between 23 and 35, was a mother and had lived in Europe and ate a seafood diet thanks to scientific advancements.

They are now putting out an appeal to find a woman known as “Duchess” and had lived in the Great Yarmouth area in the 1970s.

Det Chief Insp Andy Guy, from Norfolk and Suffolk’s Major Investigation Team, said tests on her remains suggested she had probably given birth.

He said: “With the advances we have made in recent years in science and technology, we are now able to look at the case in more microscopic detail and as a consequence of the work carried out so far we now have her full DNA profile. The second post mortem examination also showed her pelvic girdle had widened which is a bodily change in expectant mothers to allow childbirth to take place.”

Rope from the 1974 Cockley Cley murder
Rope from the 1974 Cockley Cley murder

“It is absolutely possible we could use the DNA recovered to link the woman to a living family member which could provide the breakthrough in the case. I believe if we identify the victim we can identify her murderer”

He added: “Other examinations showed the cover, used to conceal her body, was marked with NCR. This is a logo for National Cash Registers and was, as we later found out, quite a rare cover. In addition, the rope used to tie the victim up was unusual as it contained an non-standard make up which would indicate a particular use. Further enquiries revealed this type of rope was predominantly used in agricultural businesses.”

The victim, dressed only in a pink, 1969, Marks and Spencer’s night-dress, had been bound and concealed under the dust sheet. The first post-mortem examination, conducted the same day, suggested she was in her 20s or 30s and about 5ft 2ins tall.

Despite an exhaustive enquiry and nationwide appeals in the year after the discovery, neither the woman nor her killer was ever identified.

DCI Guy said: “As part of our investigations we employed two scientists to study the victim’s isotopic make up. This resulted in both experts believing that the victim had spent time in an area defined central Europe this would encompass Denmark ,Germany, Austria and Northern Italy.

“Another interesting feature was her diet appeared to be predominately fish/shellfish. This led us to one report of a woman known as ‘The Duchess’, who lived and worked around Yarmouth docks and was thought to be from Denmark. She was known to people in the Great Yarmouth area around 1973/74 but one day just disappeared. “It may be that ‘The Duchess’ has nothing to do with this enquiry but we would very much like to be able to eliminate her as the victim at Cockley Cley as we have been unable to establish her true identity.

“If anyone does have any knowledge of who the ‘The Duchess’ may have been or has any information about the victim at Cockley Cley we would be very pleased to speak to them in confidence if necessary. I believe the victim was murdered in the first or second week of August 1974, so I would ask members of the public, is there a female relative, friend, neighbour or colleague who disappeared about this time and has not been seen since? This would apply even if you reported her missing to the police at the time.”

The first murder inquiry ran from 1974 to 1975 before the case was left open on police files. A total of 15,000 people were spoken to, 700 statements taken and 6,750 house to house questionnaires completed.

In 2011, over 580 missing woman were traced as part of a further enquiry into her death and of those 580, over 540 were identified with 263 women found alive and well, 52 women traced as dead and 41 women eliminated through DNA profiles taken from their family members.

Anyone with information to the case or believes they have may know the victim should contact the investigation team on 01953 424520.

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