On the 27th of August 1974 the headless body of a woman with her hands and legs bound was found on Cockley Cley farmland near Swaffam, Norfolk, on a road leading towards “Break Hill farm”.
This land was registered to a man named Sir Peter Roberts, 3rd Baronet (a hereditary title of the lowest order awarded to a common person who is generally referred to as “sir” if you were wondering), who was a politician for the Conservative party up until 1966. He died in 1985 and was apparently succeeded as Baronet buy his son, Samuel.
The man who discovered the headless woman was a 19 year old farm worker (also referred to as a tractor driver in reports) called Andrew Head. Apparently when he found the body it was wrapped in plastic. He lifted it slightly out of curiosity and only needed a slight view to identify that there was a dead body under it.
“I lifted one corner of the cover over the body and that was enough - I could see what it was. I went home and phoned the police.” (Source)
According to this article he found her in the overgrown grass by the side of a road.
I made my usual visit to Google maps to see what the location looks like and came up with this.
Apparently this is more specific to the place she was found.
As we can see here it’s pretty rural and is described as a village / civil parish.
I did some poking around the internet to see if I could get a feel of what the place was like in the 1970’s and was met with some pretty interesting information.
Cockley Cley was a huge estate owned by Lady Roberts who began offering the grounds e as a refuge for Jewish children (many of whom had lost their parents) fleeing from the war in the 1940’s. Some of the kids came from major cities in England like London but most from Germany and Austria.
This is a picture of them together.
The information on this website was provided by a woman named Lillli Tauber who came to stay with Lady Roberts. She documents her experience here.
So back to the case. The headless Jane Doe was found deliberately concealed in overgrown grass.
She was dressed in, what I would describe as a pale pink, short, swing nightdress with a jewel or bateau neckline that had pink ruffle detailing along the neck and hem. It was later identified to have been a dress available for purchase from Marks and Spencer’s around 1969.
She is thought to have been between her early 20s – 35 years old, was very petite in stature standing at around 5ft – 5ft 2, and may have been dead for 1 – 2 weeks before being discovered (as indicated by how badly decomposed her body was.)
Although the police appealed for information, nobody came forward.
She was never identified and authorities believe that she was never even reported missing.
Now let’s take a look at the items she was found with.
The plastic sheet she was wrapped in had the letters NCR printed on it. Police concluded that this type of plastic sheet was very specific and letters referred to the National Cash Registers.
Recently a group of forensic students in Dundee, Scotland, made some headway with the plastic sheet and the rope when they linked both items to a factory in Dundee (Jute factories) that manufactured items for several companies including NCR.
(Source: Norfolk Police.)
The rope is also thought to have come from the same area.
(Source: Norfolk Police)
Interestingly on the Wikipedia pagefor Jane Doe I found out that police “suggested the rope was made for use with agricultural machinery". That’s slightly interesting.
Maybe the assailant was a farm worker who simply purchased the type of rope that was made up in Dundee? Or maybe they were a shop keeper / worker who ordered a cash register for their store that had been made in the same Dundee factory and was wrapped with the rope they produced when shipping / delivering? Maybe the murderer was a delivery driver?
Do you think this factory really has anything to do with the headless body found in Norfolk? (other than the rope and plastic were produced there of course.)
Now police really worked hard on solving this case. Apparently they talked to over 1500 people in total and made visits to several thousand houses in the area. They searched the nearby fields but found nothing.
Her body was evenexhumed in 2008 in order to do some DNA and isotopic tests using modern technology. When working to pinpoint her origins they narrowed the area she was possibly from down to Germany, Austria, Denmark and northern Italy. They concluded that she had given birth at least one time in her life and that her diet was composed mainly of fish and shellfish. The water she consumed was believed to be found in Scotland.
When her DNA was ran through databases, it turned up nothing.
The most popular theory concerning the identity of Jane Doe is that she is a prostitute who went missing in 1974 from the area she usually frequented for work- the docks in Great Yarmouth.
She was nicknamed "The Duchess" and simply vanished one day neglecting to take any of her belongings with her.
Apparently the majority of her clients were men who were often traveled for work, such as delivery drivers. She would even sometimes join them as they drove cross country doing deliveries- which sort of gives some weight to the idea I had earlier. I mean if he had to dispose of a body he would probably have things like rope and plastic in the back of his van, if he picked up cash registers from the factory in Dundee to deliver elsewhere he’d have both the rope and to restrain the woman and the plastic tarp to wrap up her body. Then all he’d have to do is conceal her body by the side of a road in the middle of nowhere.
As for taking the woman’s head, was this an attempt to conceal her identity or something more disturbing? Apparently the Duchess was well known around the Great Yarmouth docks so if anyone was to see her face they would surely recognize her. Maybe her killer was the person she was last seen with and he didn’t want the suspicion to fall on him?
Jane Doe and the Duchess have never been confirmed to be one and the same, so for now, the case remains unsolved.