Beds Police launch Cold Case review

21 June 2010, 06:00

The Beds and Herts Major Crime unit is putting out a major appeal across the area to try and identify unsolved cases.

They’re trying to find the stories behind 4 people who died in the last 35 years – but who were never identified despite in-depth investigations.

Recent technology has helped them create facial reconstructions – click here to see the gallery.

Only one died in rather suspicious circumstances. Detective Chief Inspector Sean O’Neil says: “Some of these people did in highly unusual circumstances and others died of natural causes, but either way, it’s a tragedy they were never identified and their families and friends never got to say goodbye”.

In fact they’ve just managed to solve the case of a fifth person, Lesley Ann Pickavance, which had remained a mystery for 20 years. She’d come from Bedford but wasn’t living with her family in 1990 when she was seen walking along the hard shoulder of the M25 near Junction 23. 

She tried to cross the carriageway and was knocked over and killed. Despite a large-scale media appeal, no one identified her and she hadn’t been formally reported as missing. But modern fingerprint systems revealed a match and meant police could contact her family and explain what had happened. 

Do you know anything about any of these people? If so – you can contact the Police on 0845 33 00 222.

Here are details of the four people who died across Beds and Herts:

1. The Tattoed Man

Believed to have been in his 50s.

Well spoken

Distinctive Tattoo

The Tattooed man is believed to have been living rough around the time of his death in 1997 and died from natural causes (cancer).

He lived in a manmade shelter in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, and was found by three young boys on February 6th, who were bunking off school. 

He was well known around the town as a vagrant, possibly under the nickname ‘Old Ragbones’ and would visit local farms for food - but no-one appears to know his true identity. 

He did have a very distinctive tattoo. It features a woman’s head and a heart. 

The Tattooed man is described as being very well-spoken, well-educated and reserved and a local farmer recalled a rumour that ‘Old Ragbones’ used to work in the City of London.

 What he was wearing: 

  • Black zip-up jacket with grey woollen lining
  • Black sleeveless crew neck jumper
  • Black short sleeved polo shirt
  • Black trousers
Beds Police

2. The Woodland Worker 

The Woodland worker died from heart disease and his body was found by a dog walker in woodland near Lockleys Farm, Welwyn Garden City. 

He was dressed in blue overalls and looked for all the world like he was in the middle of carrying out manual work of some kind when his heart condition caught up with him unexpectedly. 

But he’s never been identified. No wife, mother, father, sister, brother, grandparent, child, friend, acquaintance or work colleague has ever come forward to claim him. 

His body was found by the dog walker in Puttockhill Wood – land that was not open to the public at the time, on March 27, 1994.

In his pocket was a rolled up copy of The Sun newspaper dated March 17, 1994, so it’s possible this is the date he actually died.

What he was wearing:

  • Blue overall boiler suit
  • Black elasticated sided Chelsea boots (no mud on them)
  • Clean white shirt underneath the overalls
  • Brown cable knit jumper
Beds Police

3. The Lady in the Afghan Coat

In the early hours of February 18, 1975, at around 5.35am, a lorry pulled into a layby on the A1M, north of the Stotfold/Baldock turn-off. The male lorry driver said a lady came and knocked on his cab door. 

He sent her away but following this, a milkman spoke to her. She told him her name was Ann and she wanted a lift to London. 

She asked him if she could have something off his vehicle – with what appeared to be a slightly foreign accent. The milkman offered her a lift and told her he was going to Astwick. She got in the vehicle but then changed her mind and said she wanted to go to London. She subsequently got out of the vehicle on the A1. 

Some time later, various motorists reported seeing her in the carriageway and some were forced to swerve to avoid her. At some point, she was in collision with a vehicle and was found in the slow lane of the carriageway, just south of the access road from the A507 at Radwell in Hertfordshire. 

The woman had no shoes on, was not carrying a handbag or any form of identification and was wearing a big Afghan coat. 

Despite the motorway being closed a number of times so a search could be carried out, no handbag or shoes were ever found. It was surmised at the time that she had possibly left a vehicle in a hurry because her feet indicated she had not walked barefoot very far. 

The vehicle that struck her was never traced. 

What she was wearing:

  • A brown sheepskin three quarter length Afghan coat with fur trimming and a hood
  • Black corduroy jeans with a label in from a French chain store – ‘Prisu’
  • A ‘Chelsea Girl’ blouse, aged 12 to 13 years, blue and white cotton in a smock design with a floral design and lace at the neck
  • A white cotton blouse over the top of the Chelsea Girl blouse – with embroidered floral edging and bouffant sleeves
  • A brown suede leather waistcoat lined with khaki wool with four buttons – the two bottom buttons were missing
  • Dark blue childrens’ footless tights/long johns – brand name ‘Prova’ – a BHS brand – to fit 4 to 5 years
  • Levi mini skirt  - which had been converted from a pair of blue jeans
  • A blue chiffon lace scarf which was double knotted around her waist
  • Wore a copper band on the little finger of her left hand
Beds Police

4. The Smartly Dressed Man

His body was found smouldering in a disused railway cutting at East Hyde near Luton on April 19, 1974.

The body was badly burnt and a gallon petrol can containing a small quantity of petrol was by the body. It is believed death occurred during late Thursday, April 18 or early April 19 at the site where the body was found which was near the Lower Luton Road.

A post mortem found he had died from inhalation of fire fumes.

The description of his clothing: 

  • A  grey herringbone three-piece suit with a slight red stripe in it of a ‘Continental make’
  • A black Mohair double breasted overcoat with white flecks in it, a herringbone pattern, grey lining and black fur collar with leather bound edges and light coloured bone buttons
  • A ‘St Michael’ (Marks & Spencer) Bri-nylon cream shirt with a size 16 collar
  • A two-tone blue tie
  • A white t-shirt underneath the shirt
  • Size Nine elastic-sided shoes with suede uppers
  • Green and brown socks with black and red diamond pattern on the sides
Beds Police