Just what did happen and could you make a novel out of it?

Posted: February 5, 2012 in Uncategorized
North Yorkshire Police

In 1981, North Yorkshire Police discovered the naked body of a woman by a remote roadside close to Sutton Bank, near Thirsk, after an anonymous tip off to the police at Ripon.  The caller, who was well spoken pointed the police to the location but refused to give further information on the grounds of national security.

The body had been in situ for about two years before it was discovered.

The woman was between 35 and 40 years old and wore no clothing, jewellery nor had any other possessions.

To date she has not been identified despite the commissioning of the UK’s first wax facial reconstruction based on the shape of her skull.

More than three decades on, police staff worked through the night at the woman’s grave removing remains so that DNA samples could be taken from the teeth and a thigh bone.  They will be analysed by the Forensic Science Service laboratory in Wetherby, who will then try to match to samples in the National DNA Database and to four families identified as potential relatives.

The question of who she is, is not the only one.  Could the scenario provide you with a story to write about and if so, think about the following questions?

  • What was she doing near Sutton Bank or how did she get there?
  • How did she die – was it murder, suicide or accidental death – none of which need to be linked to the place where the body was found.
  • What were these National Security reasons – were they real, imagined or just a lie?
  • How accurate was the ground-breaking reconstruction of her face – could this have misled the investigation?
  • What if 30 years on, the suspect is now a prominent member of society and who may that be?
  • How will the suspect be identified and are they still alive or have they come to an end linked to National Security matters?

The list could go on and I’m sure you’ll have your own so why not go with it and play with the story line.

Don’t forget to book your place on the Crime Fiction – Making it Real weekend workshop March 2012

  1. Great ideas there for a novel, especially bringing in the suspect as respected member of community. You have to then think, what would he or she now do to keep their secret. You have to love crime, sorry that sounds sad. I’m an ex policeman/prison officer with 14 years experience( in the old days) and it never ceases to amaze me what people try to get away with. I well remember being taught about Locard’s exchange principle,(this excerpt is from wikipedia, I hope it’s referenced enough for putting in this post.)

    The great majority get caught, the rest, well who knows.Wherever he steps, whatever he touches, whatever he leaves, even unconsciously, will serve as a silent witness against him. Not only his fingerprints or his footprints, but his hair, the fibers from his clothes, the glass he breaks, the tool mark he leaves, the paint he scratches, the blood or semen he deposits or collects. All of these and more, bear mute witness against him. This is evidence that does not forget. It is not confused by the excitement of the moment. It is not absent because human witnesses are. It is factual evidence. Physical evidence cannot be wrong, it cannot perjure itself, it cannot be wholly absent. Only human failure to find it, study and understand it, can diminish its value. ”
    —Paul L. Kirk. 1953. Crime investigation: physical evidence and the police laboratory. Interscience Publishers, Inc.: New York.


  2. Thanks for the comment Laurie. Locard is great but the one flaw is that just finding the trace evidence and the person it belongs to, doesn’t prove guilt. DNA (for example) can be placed in situ by a person other than the owner. They’ll never get away from the good old police interview and thorough investigation but the principle is one that should never be forgotten or overlooked.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s