Detectives make fresh appeal over unsolved North Yorkshire murder case

Detectives make fresh appeal over unsolved North Yorkshire murder case

Detectives make fresh appeal for information about unsolved murder of woman found in bushes in 1981 in case dubbed the ‘Nude in the Nettles’

  • A cold-case investigation team is reopening the unsolved Yorkshire murder case
  • Police have called on the public for information on a woman who died in 1981
  • The man who tipped off police about the 40-year-old body said at the time he could not be identified for national security reasons four decades ago

Detectives have made a fresh appeal for information about a 40-year-old unsolved murder dubbed the ‘nude in the nettles.’

Police found a woman’s badly decomposed naked body in nettle bushes in August 1981 after receiving a tip-off from a well-spoken anonymous caller.

He said he could not be named for national security reasons, but told a constable they could find her ‘among the willow herbs’ at Sutton Bank in North Yorkshire.

A search team during the initial investigation. Detectives have made a fresh appeal for information about a 40-year-old unsolved murder dubbed the ‘nude in the nettles.’

Experts concluded she was probably a married mother of two or three children, 5ft 4in, slim and aged about 40.

Now, a cold case investigation team, led by retired detective Adam Harland, are appealing to the public for new leads.

Mr Harland said: “This has been one of the most enduring mysteries I’ve worked on.

“It’s highly unusual for someone who has died in these circumstances to remain unidentified for decades.

“Despite the passage of time, nobody deserves to be simply forgotten about – this was someone’s mother. And it’s likely she had friends who cared about her.”


A wax model of the woman’s face was sculpted in the 1980s, based on skeletal evidence, and investigators still believe this is a reasonably accurate depiction. Detectives have made a fresh appeal for information about a 40-year-old unsolved murder dubbed the ‘nude in the nettles.’

It is believed she had been buried there since 1979 as her bones were found on top of a yoghurt pot dated 6 September that year.

For the first time ever in a police investigation, a wax model of her face was sculpted in the 1980s, based on skeletal evidence, to help try to identify the woman.

Investigators still believe this is a reasonably accurate depiction.

Police also found a black evening gown, bra and pants hanging from a tree about half a mile from where the body had been dumped.

But they could find no evidence could ever link the two findings together. 

She wore size-four shoes with her toe-nails painted pink and had distinguishing features, including a mild upper spine malformation that could have made her hold her head at an unusual angle.

Police said she had several teeth missing indicating she was a heavy smoker and regular drinker.

Mr Harland added: ‘Local knowledge may offer up this information. People’s lives and allegiances move on, and time can tease out information that has been closely guarded in the past.

‘Another possibility is someone who’s researched their family tree might have found a gap, or discovered a relative who disappeared from official records around 1979 to 1981 without any clear explanation.’

The woman’s body was buried in an unnamed grave in Malton since September 1983.

Her remains were exhumed in 2012 due to scientific advances in DNA evidence.

Mr Harland added: ‘I’d rather 200 names were put to us and 199 were wrong than nothing to work from at all. That one piece of information could be all we need now to solve a decades-old mystery.’

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