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'Thai bride' dumped on Yorkshire Dales may have been murdered by English husband, new evidence reveals

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 09/12/2018 Phoebe Southworth

Undated North Yorkshire Police handout photo of the unidentified woman whose body was found in a stream on the slopes of Pen-y-ghent in the Yorkshire Dales. © PA Undated North Yorkshire Police handout photo of the unidentified woman whose body was found in a stream on the slopes of Pen-y-ghent in the Yorkshire Dales. A body found dumped in the Yorkshire Dales more than 14 years ago may have been a "Thai bride" murdered by her English husband, new evidence has revealed.

The woman, nicknamed "the lady of the hills", was discovered by a group of walkers lying in a mountain stream on 20 September 2004.

She was wearing just a pair of socks, green Marks & Spencer jeans and had a broken bra hanging off her left arm.

Police never found out who she was or how she ended up half-naked at Sell Gill Holes caves near Yorkshire's famous Three Peaks.

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They decided the death was not suspicious and that she perhaps got lost then died from hypothermia - sufferers can undress believing they are overheating.

But new forensic evidence, which emerged after the file was re-opened by a cold case team in 2016, could shed some light on the mysterious death which has baffled investigators for years.

It showed that the unidentified woman grew up in south east Asia then spent the last two years of her life in a rural community in north Lancashire or south Cumbria.

The wedding ring she was wearing was traced to Bangkok, leading investigators to believe she had married an Englishman in Thailand then came to live in the UK.

A farmhouse stands surrounded by snow in the three peaks area of the Yorkshire Dales © PA A farmhouse stands surrounded by snow in the three peaks area of the Yorkshire Dales

Retired detective chief inspector Adam Harland, the lead investigation, thinks she was murdered by her husband then dumped in a secluded a mile from the main road and several miles from the nearest town of Settle.

He told BBC News: "The term Thai bride does not necessarily mean the woman comes from Thailand but that she is a lady who has taken up a relationship with a white gentleman and has come back to live in the UK in the late 1990s or early 2000s.

"The fact that no-one has reported her missing suggests the relationship has broken down and her disappearance was because she's 'gone back home'. In this case, her partner had a natural excuse to explain her absence and for that reason I think, for now, he's got away with it."

Stable isotope analysis, which was not available back in 2004, was used to find out where the woman was living before her death. 

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Scientists studied the levels of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen in samples of her hair, teeth and bones. This provides information about drinking water and soil which could shed light on a person's previous location.

Tests on her bones and teeth confirmed she grew up in south east Asia and a hair sample had isotopes on it found in just a few places in Britain, including south Cumbria and northern Lancashire.

The woman was found off a rocky track which can only be reached using a 4x4, leading investigators to believe the killer lived in a rural location. It is also thought the murderer had good knowledge of the area because the body was not dumped in the Sell Gill Holes caves where walkers often visit, but was instead positioned out of sight under a hump in the grass.

The woman was likely aged between 25 and 35, weighed about 10 stone and was 4ft 11ins tall, with shoulder-length dark brown hair. 

In 2007 a coroner recorded an open verdict and she was buried in Horton in Ribblesdale after the parish council stepped in to organise her funeral when no one came forward to identify her.

Pathologists concluded she had been dead for between one and three weeks and had been in the open air for just a few days.

They found no obvious injuries which might explain her death and her organs were so decomposed that they could not determine if she died of natural causes.

North Yorkshire Police told The Telegraph they do not have any new information about the case.

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