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New leads on 34-year-old murder mystery

PUBLISHED: 10:59 12 September 2008 | UPDATED: 11:01 08 July 2010

Ian Clarke

Detectives are today sifting through potential new leads which could help solve the 1974 mystery of the headless body at Cockley Cley after the case was given national exposure with an appeal on the BBC's Crimewatch.

Detectives are today sifting through potential new leads which could help solve the 1974 mystery of the headless body at Cockley Cley after the case was given national exposure with an appeal on the BBC's Crimewatch.

Norfolk Police reopened the investigation into the 34-year-old case last December in a bid to finally identify the young woman who was found decapitated and abandoned by the side of a lane in the village near Swaffham.

Det Insp Andy Guy appeared live on the programme last night to appeal for relatives of women who went missing at the time to come forward and hopefully match someone's DNA to the body.

Crimewatch revealed for the first time that the woman may have been through childbirth.

The section also showed a recently filmed reconstruction of the events surrounding the discovery of the body on August 27, 1974 by farm worker Andrew Head and the subsequent investigation at Swaffham police station.

The programme makers spoke to the original scene of crime officer Dickie Bass and Det Insp Richard Dennison, who carried out house-to-house enquiries at the time and forensics experts who did the recent re-examination of the body.

Despite a massive enquiry following the gruesome discovery the victim was never identified, her head was never found and police have no idea who her killer may be. The only details known are that the woman was aged between 23 and 30 years old and wearing a pink Marks and Spencer nightdress when she was found. She was covered in a large National Cash Registers sheet.

Mr Guy said there had been about 30 calls following the programme, with about 12 women's names put forward.

“I recognise some but there are some new ones,” he said.

“People don't just vanish,” he said. “We still have a credible opportunity to resolve this case through a DNA match. Hopefully by Monday or Tuesday we will have sifted through the calls and be able to find some positive leads.”

He added: “Somewhere out there is a brutal killer who for 34 years has kept a sinister secret.”

Since the case was reopened the investigation team has already ruled out 11 women who went missing in 1974 after carrying out DNA tests on their families who came forward as a result of the new appeal. They are still a large number of potential leads they are following up.

A Norfolk Constabulary spokesman said: “We would ask that anyone who was aware of a young woman going missing in 1974 to contact the MIT at Norfolk police.

“It maybe that you were told or became aware of a story that didn't sound credible at the time, such as your neighbour or friend had left the family home or run off with another man or perhaps gone back to her mother.

“It maybe that you felt this sounded odd at the time but have never reported it. If that is the case please call us on 01953 424533 and 01953 424529.”

To watch the reconstruction which was shown on Crimewatch visit www.bbc.co.uk/crimewatch

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