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British woman murdered in Belgium identified after international appeal

FILE: Image of Rita Roberts, and her distinctive tattoo
FILE: Image of Rita Roberts, and her distinctive tattoo Copyright INTERPOL
Copyright INTERPOL
By Euronews
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‘The woman with the flower tattoo’ is named as Rita Roberts after 31 years.

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Police have identified a woman murdered in Belgium 31 years ago after an international appeal. 

The appeal was launched in May by Belgian, Dutch and German police, in collaboration with INTERPOL, seeking the public’s help in identifying 22 women believed to have been murdered.

One of those cold cases, known as ‘the woman with the flower tattoo’, dated back to June 1992, when a woman’s body was found in a river in Antwerp, Belgium. 

She had been violently killed.

Her most striking physical feature was a flower tattoo on her left forearm of a black flower with green leaves and with ‘R’Nick’ written underneath. For three decades, the victim remained nameless.

How Rita Roberts was identified

Rita Roberts was 31 when she moved to Antwerp from Cardiff in February 1992.

She last communicated with her relatives via postcard in May 1992.

When 'Operation Identify Me' was launched in spring this year, it generated some 1,250 tips from the public. 

A member of Roberts' family in the United Kingdom recognised the tattoo on the news and notified INTERPOL and Belgian authorities via the appeal's website. 

The family then travelled to meet with investigators in Belgium, and formally identified their missing relative through distinguishing personal identifiers.

After the family had identified the body, the Antwerp family court was petitioned to have the victim’s death certificate amended to reflect her identity.

“The news was shocking and heartbreaking," Rita's family said in a statement.

"Our passionate, loving and free-spirited sister was cruelly taken away. There are no words to truly express the grief we felt at that time, and still feel today."

“Rita was a beautiful person who adored travelling. She loved her family, especially her nephews and nieces, and always wanted to have a family of her own. She had the ability to light up a room, and wherever she went, she was the life and soul of the party. We hope that wherever she is now, she is at peace.”

FILE: Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock talks to journalists during an interview outside the Interpol headquarters in Lyon, central France, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023.
FILE: Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock talks to journalists during an interview outside the Interpol headquarters in Lyon, central France, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023.Laurent Cipriani/AP

New search for Rita's killer

Now that Rita Roberts' identify is known, Belgian authorities are calling on the public for any information they may have about her, or the circumstances surrounding her death. 

“After 31 years an unidentified murdered woman has been given her name back and some closure has been brought to her family. Such cases underline the vital need to connect police worldwide, especially when missing persons are involved," said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock.

Operation 'Identify Me' was the first time INTERPOL released public extracts from Black Notices. These are used to seek information on unidentified bodies and to determine the circumstances surrounding the death.

Black Notices can include information on the location where the body was found, biometric information like DNA, fingerprints and facial images; dental charts, physical descriptions of the body or clothing, and any other details relevant to identifying the deceased.

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