How Interpol tracked the identity of the ‘woman with the flower tattoo’

For thirty years, her body has been kept off the streets cardiff There she was remembered as a vibrant, kind-hearted, but somewhat troubled young woman.

Earlier this year, she was given an identity – the woman with the flower tattoo – as a result of a ground-breaking cross-border operation as a police force across three European countries and a global law enforcement force Interpol Trying to find out the truth behind her murder and that of 21 others.

Now, she finally found her real name.The woman whose body was found leaning against the grille Rita Roberts on the Antwerp River in 1992The 31-year-old woman from the Grangetown area of ​​the Welsh capital had her last contact with her family in the UK was a postcard sent shortly before she was stabbed to death.

Her family and friends can mourn, Rita’s story can begin to be told, and the police can step in Belgium They’ll look for new clues that might lead them to the killer.

At the end of a week in which the woman with a flower tattoo made headlines around the world, Interpol’s François-Xavier Laurent said he was pleased that at least 22 families were one recognize me action Women have some kind of answer.

Laurent said: “We do this campaign to give closure to the victims and give them a name. Above all, we want to bring news, even sad news. I think there is nothing better than waiting to get news. Worse.” Some messages.

François-Xavier Laurent, Interpol’s DNA database manager, said: “We are conducting this campaign to bring closure to the story.” Photo: INTERPOL

“I’m not trying to put myself in the shoes of the families of the missing, but I think at some point it’s more comforting to know what happened than not to know what happened. Even 31 years after Rita’s disappearance, I think the family is at least grateful to know what happened to her and they can begin the grieving process and hopefully get some answers in the future as to why and how she was murdered.”

“Recognize Me” campaign launched in May Released by police in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, as well as Interpol, releasing case details that are usually only available to law enforcement agencies And come up with catchy nicknames that wouldn’t be out of place in a thriller: woman in the well, body in the swamp, woman in men’s clothing, etc.

On June 3, 1992, the body of the woman with the flower tattoo was found in the river near a sports and concert venue. She had been in the water for some time – they could only say she was between 20 and 50 years old – and suffered at least one stab wound. One major clue is the unique tattoo on her left forearm – apparently a black rose with green leaves and “R’Nick” written underneath.

Police sought assistance at the time, but she was never identified and traces of her killer disappeared.

In May this year Launch the “Identify Me” actionIn 1999, a case occurred in the Netherlands where the body of a woman was found partially encased in concrete in an industrial waste container.

Interpol has launched an appeal to the international community for information on the
Interpol has launched an appeal to the international community for information on the “tattooed woman”. Photo: AP

Within days, the operation was a success. A relative of Rita Roberts saw pictures of the tattoo on a news site and alerted authorities. They said Roberts moved to Antwerp from Cardiff in February 1992. She sent the postal code in May 1992 and has never heard of it since.

“Some of the messages, including Rita’s, immediately give you chills,” Laurent said. “You have a lot of details, a lot of unpublished information from the victim’s family. You feel like everything is going fine. When We got information from Rita’s family and we felt like something was going on here.”

He said Belgian police should not be blamed for not identifying Roberts sooner. “It’s always easy to think, 30 years later, that this country should have done this. But there was no Internet and the DNA work was just beginning. The Belgian Institute of Forensic Medicine began” in 1993, the year after the body was found. Countries do not necessarily cooperate on police information. Everything is on paper. “

It took six months before police were willing to reveal Roberts’ identity. this weekHer siblings live in Cardiff and the North East of England, Statement via Durham Police, describing Roberts as a “beautiful person” who loved traveling. They added: “While this news is difficult to accept, we are extremely grateful that we were able to shine a light on what happened to Rita.”

Interpol's Operation Identify Me features a number of other female murder victims.
Interpol’s Operation Identify Me features a number of other female murder victims. Photo: AP

Friends of Roberts, from Cardiff, also attended the service.“I can’t believe it,” one person said. “Rita was an amazing person…strong but kind-hearted. I’m so sorry she passed away like this.”

Roberts was born in 1960 and lived near the docks, then a challenging community.There seems to be no mention of her disappearance in the back issues of Southern wells Echo, but there are two reports of a woman named Rita Roberts appearing in court, whose age and other details match the missing woman. Two were dated to the 1980s and one was from November 1991, just months before she left for Belgium.

The Antwerp prosecutor’s office said she had lived in the city for several months and had never been reported missing to Belgian police. A spokesman said she “may not have been” a victim of sexual assault. Her body remains in Antwerp. The prosecutor’s office said it was aware of her criminal record before releasing her name.

according to a report Missing Persons Research Center at the University of PortsmouthAn average of 600 people in the UK go missing abroad every year.

“The vast majority of people are OK,” said Martha McBrier, the charity’s helpline manager. missing persons. She praised the work of Operation Identify Me. “Not knowing is the worst thing. It never gets better, it still feels almost raw.”

As Roberts’ family grieves, they also pause to remember the relatives of other “Recognize Me” women. One of them said: “There are still 21 unidentified women who need to be reunited with their families and we are very hopeful that this can be achieved. “

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