As regular visitors will know, I spend way too much time reading true crime, and one of the creepiest elements to my mind are people who remain unidentified in death. The reasons might be mundane - the body is simply found too late to glean much from it - or confusingly complex, as in the cases of potential spies, like Somerton Man and 'Bella', a woman found inside a Worcestershire wych elm tree in 1943. Either way, the idea is still tragic and unsettling.
In the USA there are approximately 40,000 UIDs ('unidentified decedents') at any given time, and even here in the UK around 150 unidentified bodies are recorded each year, usually discovered by joggers, dog walkers, and other outdoorsy types, typically during the winter months when foliage has died back. Another major source of such bodies are Britain's coastlines, where the effects of water can obliterate fingerprints and other identifying features. About half of these cases will be resolved by police in a timely fashion, while others remain unidentified for months, years, even decades.
Gwent Police, my local force, covering the local authority areas of Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly Monmouthshire, Newport, and Torfaen, have five cases listed on the UK Missing Persons Bureau. The site was set up in 2011 to enlist the help of the public in identifying remains and / or matching them to known missing persons.
Because it is possible to crack these cases, even when they've gone cold. Just this month Lori Erica Ruff, a woman who committed suicide six years ago and was subsequently revealed to have been living under a false identity, was identified as Kimberly McLean, an 18-year-old who disappeared, telling family not to look for her, in 1986. Earlier this year the so-called 'Grateful Doe', a young man who died in a traffic accident in 1995, was finally identified as Jason Callahan who had left home not long before to become a full time Deadhead. So, in my first post for Halloween week, here are the details of those five Gwent cases -
Date Found: 31/03/1971
Age Range: 25 - 35
Description: White European male, medium build, 175cm (5'7") tall, with black curly hair. The body was found on the foreshore of the Severn Esturary, Fisherman's Walk, Rogiet, and was believed to have been in the water for 18 months or longer.
The body was found with one black sock on the right foot, and a polo neck jumper in black, gold and white. (100% acrilan, 'spinney' make, size M.) Find the Missing Person's page for the case HERE.
Date Found: 06/05/1973
Age Range: 30 - 60
Description: White European male, 168 - 183cm (5'5" - 6') tall. The body was recovered from the foreshore of the Bristol Channel at Goldcliffe, and was believed to have been in the water for around 9 to 18 months. Find the Missing Person's page for the case HERE.
Date Found: 26/02/1977
Age Range: 20 - 50
Description: White European male, thin build, 183cm (6') tall, receding black hair. The body was recovered from the Severn Estuary at Redwick. It was found clothed in blue jeans (30" waistband with 2 stud fastenings at the front), light coloured socks, and black slip on shoes (size 9, blvd uk make). A handmade v-neck light grey jumper was found 10 yards from the body.
There were a number of possessions found on the body: brown leather wallet made in England containing English bank notes, two mortice keys (one Yale marked C20 and one Yale Willen 160), Dominion Lock, and a pair of scissors. Find the Missing Person's page for the case HERE.
Date Found: 06/07/1983
Age Range: 35 - 45
Description: White European, medium build, 173cm (5'7") tall, brown eyes, greying light brown hair. The body was recovered from the River Usk in Newport, with no apparent marks or scars.
The body was fully clothed; navy blue acrylic 'sleightex' sweater, blue or grey 'finesse' make trousers, blue 'St Michael (i.e. Marks & Spencer)' underpants (size 36-39), white socks with blue and yellow horizontal stripes, brown plastic shoes with 'tuf' tread (size 7.5). Find the Missing Person's page for the case HERE.
Date Found: 14/02/1988
Age Range: 20 - 30
Description: Afro Caribbean male, stocky build, 183cm (6') tall, short black hair. The body was found in the Bristol Channel near Newport.
The body was fully clothed, wearing: navy blue donkey jacket with blue/green check lining ('boys own' make, size M), grey/blue scarf, olive green crew neck jumper in chunky woollen knit, brown checked shirt (Tesco, size L), grey t-shirt ('amandla' with motif of raised fist holding spear and the words 'cultural ensemble of the national african congress'), faded blue Wrangler jeans (36" waist, 34" leg), brown belt, Dunlop 'green flash' trainers (size 9).
There was also a pair of polyester/cotton shell acrylic gloves with rayon/foam lining, size L, and an A-Z street map opened on pages marking Bristol but showing the area of Cheltenham. Find the Missing Person's page for the case HERE.
(Note: Although the body was found in the Gwent Police area, the case is listed as being investigated by South Wales Police.)