Scots students to help with 40-year headless woman mystery

The murder victims clothing and string and plastic sheet used to wrap her body suggest a Dundee connection. Picture: Contributed
The murder victims clothing and string and plastic sheet used to wrap her body suggest a Dundee connection. Picture: Contributed
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Students at a Scottish university have been drafted in to help police solve the mystery of a headless woman found murdered more than 40 years ago.

The case – known as Operation Monton – relates to the discovery of a badly decomposed body on farmland in Norfolk in 1974.

Now forensic psychology students at Abertay University in Dundee are assisting Norfolk Constabulary and Police Scotland with the ongoing murder investigation.

Police believe the case has links to the city because the body was found wrapped in a National Cash Registers plastic sheet, and its hands were bound by a piece of string made locally from jute.

Twelve students are poring over media reports from the time at Dundee Central Library to help establish the murdered woman’s identity.

Their task is to find any women reported missing at that time, as well as any other murders which may have a connection with the case.

Dr Penny Woolnough, a lecturer in forensic psychology at Abertay and an expert in missing persons, said: “We’ve got a very good working relationship with Police Scotland in terms of research. The police approached me to say they had a particular investigation that was ongoing and wondered if the students might be able to help with it.

“Because the wrists were tied together with jute, and because of the National Cash Registers covering that was found on the body, there’s definitely a connection to Dundee – whether that’s for the victim or the offender is not known.

“It’s a cold case that’s gone on for many years. Whether we stand a chance of solving it, we don’t know. But it wouldn’t be the first time that a crucial clue has come out of a simple part of the inquiry.”

Information gathered by the students will be passed to police, who will then consider any promising leads.

The woman’s identity has remained a mystery, despite DNA samples being taken from the body after it was exhumed in 2008.

Ms Woolnough added: “We have DNA from the body, but when that’s been checked against the national DNA database and missing person cases on record, there’s hasn’t been a hit between them.

“I think it’s probably fair to say that nowadays with better police records etc, the case would probably have been solved.

“Unfortunately back in the 1970s the forensic techniques were nowhere near as sophisticated.”