Student sleuths assist police with ongoing murder investigation
Forensic Psychology students at Abertay University are assisting Norfolk Constabulary and Police Scotland with an ongoing murder investigation.
The case – known as Operation Monton – dates back more than 40 years and relates to the headless body of a woman that was found in Norfolk in 1974.
Her body was found wrapped in a National Cash Registers’ plastic sheet, was clothed in a pink Marks and Spencer’s nightdress and was badly decomposed.
Despite DNA samples being taken from her body after it was exhumed in 2008, her identity remains a mystery, and the police are following up every lead in an attempt to find out who she was, which is what has brought them to Dundee.
Her hands were bound with an unusual piece of string, and Dundee has been identified as the only place in the world where this type of rope was manufactured.
Unfortunately, the firm that made the rope went out of business many years ago, and detailed police records do not date back as far as 1974, making this a very challenging investigation.
However, Police Scotland believe that a clue to the woman’s identity may lie within the pages of local newspaper reports of the time.
This is where Abertay’s students come in, as Dr Penny Woolnough – a Lecturer at Abertay University and an expert in missing persons – explains:
“Our students are currently working hard on this investigation, carrying out a review of newsprint media coverage from Dundee between January 1973 and January 1975 in Dundee Central Library.
“Their task is to identify any women reported missing at that time, as well as any other murders which may have a connection with this case.
“We have 12 students working on this case, and we were asked to support the investigation because of the translational approach we take to psychology, which focuses on training the students to apply academic knowledge to real-world challenges.”
Inspector Marc Lorente - Police Scotland lead for the investigation – adds:
“The student support to this long-term investigation is an integral part of our ongoing enquiries. We are delighted to be working in partnership with Abertay University, and to be making good use of the students’ excellent knowledge and skills base.
“Norfolk Constabulary exhumed this woman’s body in 2008 and obtained DNA samples from it. They have since traced and eliminated over 470 women from all over the UK who were reported as missing in the early 1970s. However, they have still not been able to identify this woman, and we hope that reports of missing persons within the pages of Dundee’s local papers from the time will help move this investigation further forward.”
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