top of page

Woman in the Nettles: Unidentified Victim (1981)

On the 28th of August 1981, a Ripon (Yorkshire) police officer received a phone call from a 'well-spoken man' telling him that he would find a body, and where to find it. After following the instructions the Ripon Police department was initially unable to find remains, but after continuing the search found bones hidden in the undergrowth.

At 8:00 am the 'well-spoken man' with a slight trace of a local accent had made a call to the police that lasted less than a minute. His instructions were: "Near Scawton Moor House, you will find a decomposed body among the willow herbs.” When asked for his name and address the caller said he couldn't give that information for reasons of national security, and he then ended the call.

The remains had been discovered near to Sutton Bank Top near the junction with the A170 to Scarborough road. The exact location has not been released however it was near to Scawton moor House as the caller had claimed, and due to how well the remains were concealed it's unlikely they would have been found by accident. Scawton Moor House was a popular family picnic area at the time. The woman was lying with her back almost parallel to a dry stone wall, she remains mostly skeletal, and the willows in that area could reach up to 6 feet tall - explaining how a body could be concealed.

See an approximate map below created by the Yorkshire Post (red marker indicates body location.)



The police have revealed that they believe the woman may have been murdered and has likely lain undisturbed for around 2 years - evidenced by a discarded lid from a tin of meat paste which has been sold on October 6th, 1979. The lid had been found underneath the remains suggesting it was there before or at the time that she was killed. However, police have never disclosed the unidentified woman's cause of death however they were able to rule out a couple of causes of death, including being struck by a blunt object on the head - given there was no evidence of skull damage. There was also no evidence on her bones of knife marks - indicating she may not have been stabbed.

The autopsy of the woman's remains revealed that she had been 5 feet 4 inches with dark brown hair cut into a 'page-boy' style (4-6 inches long.) Her toenails were painted with Max Factor pale-pink colour and she wore a size 4 shoe. She was wearing no clothes or jewellery and she had likely given birth two to three times during her life. It was also revealed that due to a neck vertebrae abnormality she may have suffered from a bad back as well as having a displaced septum and an old ankle fracture. All the victim's upper teeth, and all but six of her lower teeth, were missing and an upper dental plate had been fitted. The woman had heavy staining on her remaining teeth which indicated that she smoked and drank heavily and had poor oral hygiene.

At some time after the discovery of the body, the police found a black evening gown and some underwear hanging from a tree a mile away. However, this has never been officially linked to the woman.

In 2013 the woman's DNA profile was uploaded into a database but any potential matches or results have not been released.

See images below left to right: Photo of a fingertip search conducted by police. See the willows behind indicating size and how the body could easily have been concealed. The next photo is of Sutton Bank a location nearby giving an idea of the surrounding geography. The third photo is a wax model reconstruction of what the woman may have looked like.



  • Facebook
bottom of page