DETECTIVES investigating the death of a gran believe a sex attacker armed with a weapon may have forced her into the woodlands where her semi-naked body was found.
The body of tragic Elizabeth “Betty” Brown, who lived in Gorgie, was found 130 metres into the Cumbrian woods and officers believe it was “very unlikely” she was dragged there.
They are now convinced that the key to solving the case is new witnesses coming forward, and they are hoping that the killer may have confessed to a third party. An inquest ruled on Tuesday that it was likely Mrs Brown was sexually assaulted before she died, while deputy coroner Robert Chapman also ruled out suicide.
But the decomposition of the remains – which were found on January 18, 2011 in woods between Longtown and Gretna, where she often visited family – prevented a cause of death being established and an open verdict was recorded.
Detective Inspector Doug Marshall, from Cumbria Police, who is leading the inquiry, said: “We’ve always treated Betty’s death as suspicious. She was found naked from the waist down and in dense undergrowth. We believed it was suspicious from day one.
“There’s no doubt that Betty was a vulnerable lady, and criminals often exploit those suffering difficult circumstances.
“Betty’s body was found 130 metres into the woods, which is a long way to drag someone, so that’s very unlikely. It’s more likely that Betty had gone into the woods of her own consent or there’s been someone with a weapon.
“The woods were not a shortcut to anywhere. There was no reason for Betty to go there.”
Police launched a missing person case in May 2010 after Mrs Brown, 55, was last sighted in the Capital.
DI Marshall said: “We need to speak to anyone who saw Betty go into those woods. And the person responsible for taking Betty into those woods may have confided in somebody, perhaps a friend or relative. We need to prick their conscience and ask them to come forward for Betty’s family’s sake.
“There will also be someone who was acting suspicious after Betty died and this was noticed. Loyalties can change with time and we hope that someone will come forward.
“It’s a difficult case because of the lack of forensic detail and it will require a tipping point to go forward. That will most likely come from a witness contacting us. That will be the key.”
Mrs Brown’s body was found in an area covered with nettles, which led police to conclude it was implausible that she had taken her own life.
An old diary was found on the kitchen table of her Gorgie flat with a message which read in part: “To all my family, I’m sorry but I can’t take any more”.
DI Marshall added: “Her family never believed Betty committed suicide and the coroner’s verdict has narrowed the possibilities for them. They were very happy with the coroner’s verdict but, because of the condition of the body, it was not the answer.”