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Inquest opens on unidentified Pen-y-ghent woman

[Thursday 17 May 2007]
photofit penyghent woman
Police photofit

THE inquest on an Oriental woman whom police are still trying to identify nearly three years after her body was found in a lonely mountain stream in the Yorkshire Dales is set to open today in Skipton.

The body was found on 20 September 2004 by a group of walkers making their way down the Pennine Way from Pen-y-ghent towards Horton In Ribblesdale. They had stopped near Sell Gill Pot, where a mountain stream tumbles into a pothole, when they saw the body nearby.

Early enquiries suggested the body may have come to rest near the pothole entrance after being washed down the stream.

Post mortem examination suggested that she had been dead at least a week, and no longer than three weeks. This puts her death between 31 August and 13 September 2004. The cause of her death is not yet clear.

Experts believe her origin was from an area of Asia that includes China, Korea, Thailand and the Philippines

Detective Inspector Pete Martin of North Yorkshire Police said: "Our efforts to put a name to this poor woman have spanned the world and will continue, but this could be our last chance to appeal for help in identifying her.

"Someone must know who this woman is and I believe there may well be someone who knows she is missing. All they have to do is call us.

"We owe it to her to find her name and to notify her family. She must have a family, friends, perhaps a partner - maybe even a child - and we need to find them. She has a name and an identity, and I need someone to come forward and restore them to this unfortunate lady."

DI Martin said the file on the woman remained open. "We have pursued every avenue and every lead we have, but the case is reviewed regularly and, of course, any significant new information will be followed up immediately."

The woman is described as being between 20 and 40 and of Oriental ethnicity, 4' 11" and about ten stone. Her hair is dark brown, shoulder-length, style unknown.

She was wearing green Marks and Spencer jeans, size 12, light-coloured socks, a white bra and black pants size 10-12. A turquoise and white horizontally striped tee-shirt, size 10-12, was found nearby.

Someone knows her name - now is the time for them to come forward and help us solve a mystery and end three years of uncertainty for her family

Detective Inspector Pete Martin - North Yorkshire Police

She wore a gold ring on the third finger of her left hand. The ring is 22 carat or above which was manufactured in Thailand. It is 4mm wide, and a lady's ring size L. The general appearance indicates the ring is well worn and very old.

Both ears were pierced, but she wore no earrings. There was no sign of any footwear, jacket or baggage .

There was no evidence of tooth staining, which suggests a non-smoker. It has been determined that the woman had a non decay-promoting diet. She does not appear to have had any dental treatments. The gap at the front of her lower teeth would have been noticeable when she smiled.

From evidence of toothbrush use she was probably right-handed.

The woman has had a pregnancy in the past and there is an indication that when she was young her growth was arrested because of a childhood disease such as measles.

The police operation has included physical searches and enquiries across the Dales, concentrated for some time on searching Missing From Home records. Every police force in the country was contacted, and the Police National Computer interrogated.

Among the outside specialists who have assisted the investigation are:

  • An anthropologist advising on ethnicity, age and aspects of upbringing
  • An odontologist. His conclusions and the woman's dental chart have been circulated to all national dentistry journals.
  • An entomologist who has provided information on the date of the woman's death.
  • A jewellery expert who examined the ring to unlock any further clues it may hold

An area of two square miles surrounding the body location has been searched. Four separate searches of the Sell Pot cave system were made, including parts only accessible to the most skilled diver-potholers

House-to-house enquiries have been made in the areas of Horton In Ribblesdale, Buckden, Starbotton, Cray, Hubberholme and Yockenthwaite

police interviews
Police interview walkers

Witness appeal letters - in a variety of languages - were sent to holidaymakers staying at hotels and B&Bs in the Dales.

Walkers using the Pennine Way and walking the Three Peaks were traced and contacted via hostels, hotels and cafes

Posters were put up throughout the area. 255 people fitting the search criteria were examined.

DNA and fingerprints have been taken to check against those of any suitable Missing people, and remain on file.

Extensive enquiries have been made in London's Chinatown and foreign embassies were contacted and officers have praised their co-operation.

Appeals for information were circulated in media throughout the Far East, DI Martin said: "This investigation has gone from the Yorkshire Dales to half-way round the world and we have learned so much about this lady - and yet we still cannot tell how she came to be up on the hill-side, how she met her end and, most poignant of all, just who she was.

"Someone knows her name - now is the time for them to come forward and help us solve a mystery and end three years of uncertainty for her family."

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