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New lead in headless body death probe

PUBLISHED: 15:00 12 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:44 06 July 2010

Liz Coates

Detectives investigating the death of a headless woman discovered in a remote Norfolk village more than 30 years ago believe a mysterious woman known only as the Duchess could hold the key.

Detectives investigating the death of a headless woman discovered in a remote Norfolk village more than 30 years ago believe a mysterious woman known only as the Duchess could hold the key.

Cold case investigators hoping to identify the body of a young woman who was found bound, dumped and decapitated in an isolated spot at Cockley Cley, near Swaffham, in 1974, have been carrying out inquires in Great Yarmouth in recent weeks.

Police reopened the investigation two years ago and exhumed the body in the hope that advances in DNA could at last identify the nameless young woman.

It is thought she disappeared unnoticed and her seeming lack of concerned friends or family points to a solitary existence, corresponding to what is known about the drifting Duchess.

Officers are piecing together the life of the woman who lived on the margins of society and have established that she arrived in Yarmouth in 1973/1974, her age loosely estimated at between 30 and 40.

Det Insp Andy Guy said she would fit the profile of the woman but added this was just one of a number of lines of inquiry.

He added: “To date, the inquiry team working on the case have identified 555 women that are of interest to the enquiry. Some of these females were reported missing in the 1970s and are still missing today. Others were not officially reported to the police and came into the inquiry by other means.

“I am keen to talk to anyone who may have knowledge of the murder, especially family or friends of a female aged between 23-35 years old and 5ft 2ins tall who disappeared in the summer of 1974. This woman would have had friends, neighbours and possibly work colleagues; somebody must have noticed she had disappeared.”

It is believed the Duchess arrived on the Esbjerg Ferry from Denmark. She lived in the dockers' hut on Ocean terminal for four to five months during 1973/74. She would accompany drivers on deliveries in the UK and Europe. She disappeared suddenly, leaving behind all her belongings.

Investigators have already heard from several witnesses who met the Duchess but there are conflicting reports about her accent, ranging from Danish/German to English.

In 1973/74 the Duchess disappeared leaving all her belongings in the dockers' hut. She never returned to collect them.

Investigators are keen to identify this woman, and if it is a false lead and she is still alive, eliminate her from the inquiry.

Anyone with information should contact the cold case team on 01953 424548.

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