State has lost skull of mystery woman

By Fintan Lambe

Published 08/12/2015 | 00:00

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ABOVE: The unusual Lee motif on the jeans of the woman's denim jeans. RIGHT: The final resting place of the woman in Crosstown cemetery. BELOW: the inscription on the gravestone.
ABOVE: The unusual Lee motif on the jeans of the woman's denim jeans. RIGHT: The final resting place of the woman in Crosstown cemetery. BELOW: the inscription on the gravestone.

IT has emerged that the State has lost the skull of an unidentified woman whose remains washed up at Ballinamona Strand, Kilmuckridge, twenty years ago this month.

The skeletal remains were discovered by a man out walking on Ballinamona Strand, Kilmuckridge, on December 12, 1995. Inspector Sean Clince, who was a Blackwater-based garda at the time, recalls attending the scene, on the day. 'A big effort was made at the time to try to identify her,' he said. 'I've always believed that she was someone from outside the jurisdiction.'

The woman was wearing unusual denim jeans with a diamond shaped motif on the back pocket of a woman wearing sunglasses. It was later established the jeans were manufactured in Belgium and were never sold in France. Two Volkswagen keys with a ball shaped keyring were found in the pocket of the jeans. She wore laced-up brown flat shoes, sized 39, and white socks. The insole of the shoes said 'Made in France'. She had a brace on her lower teeth.

Following a report in this newspaper years later, the case came to national attention and the woman's body was exhumed in 2007 so a DNA sample could be taken. The DNA profile was sent off internationally but no match with any missing persons database came back.

While reviewing documents in the case, journalist Barry Cummins, who has highlighted the woman's case in RTE's Prime Time and in his book 'Without Trace', discovered that when the body was exhumed, the skull was missing. He explained that the mandible and lower jawbone were taken away for investigation in 1996, but they were never located afterwards.

'Her whole head is missing,' he said. 'It was taken away to be examined, with the best of intentions, to see what could be done for identification. It was taken for the right reasons but now it can't be found.'

'On a human level, how sad and awful to think of a poor woman buried without her head,' he added. 'If that skull was there today, they could do a 3D reconstruction to see what she might have looked like when she was alive. How awful it is that Ireland has accidentally lost this woman's head, diminishing the chances of identifying who she is.'

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