‘The woman with the flower tattoo’ is identified after three decades: Murder victim found in a river in Belgium in 1992 is revealed to be missing British 31-year-old – as hunt for killer continues
- The body of Rita Roberts was identified by a relative who recognised her tattoo
A murder victim known only as ‘the woman with the flower tattoo’ has finally been identified after three decades as a British 31-year-old, with the hunt for her killer still underway.
Rita Roberts was violently killed before her body was dumped in a river in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1992.
She had moved to Antwerp from Cardiff in February of that year and her family last heard from her when they received a postcard in May.
On June 3, her body was discovered floating against a grate of a water treatment plant in the Groot Schijn river, near Ten Eekhovelei, with detectives saying it had possibly been in the water for some time.
She was wearing distinctive neon sports clothes and her most striking physical feature was a flower tattoo on her left forearm of a black flower with green leaves and with ‘R’Nick’ inscribed underneath.
For three decades, she remained nameless, until an international effort to identify her was launched this year, allowing her agonised family to say goodbye at last.
Rita Roberts had moved to Antwerp from Cardiff in February 1992 and her family last heard from her when they received a postcard in May that year
The 31-year-old’s 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
On June 3, Rita’s body was discovered floating against a grate of a water treatment plant in the Groot Schijn river
Now that she has been identified, Belgian authorities are calling on the public to come forward with any information they may have as they continue to search for her killer.
An international appeal was launched in May this year which saw Belgian, Dutch and German police collaborate with INTERPOL to try and identify 22 unknown women believed to have been murdered.
While many of their identities are still unknown, a family member in the UK recognised Rita’s tattoo on the news and came forward, contacting The International Criminal Police Organization and Belgian authorities online.
The family then travelled to meet with investigators in Belgium, and formally identified Rita.
‘The news was shocking and heartbreaking,’ they 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.
‘Whilst the news has been difficult to process, we are incredibly grateful to have uncovered what happened to Rita.’
The family said that while they continue to miss Rita deeply, they are thankful for the support of Belgium Missing Persons, Antwerp Police, INTERPOL and Durham Police in the UK.
Her body was found near Antwerp’s Sportpaleis events hall, which is near a motorway, park and a busy residential and shopping area
Rita had been wearing distinctive sports clothes and neon trainers when she was found dead
What are black notices?
Black Notices are used by INTERPOL to uncover information on unidentified bodies.
They appeal to the public to help determine the circumstances surrounding a death, usually sharing key pieces of information, like the rose tattoo on the body of Rita Roberts.
This could be information on the location where the body was found, biometric information such as DNA, fingerprints, facial images, dental charts, physical descriptions of the body or clothing, and a range of other details.
‘This cross-border collaboration has given a missing girl back her identity, and enabled the family to know she is at rest,’ they said.
‘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.’
The investigation fell under the ‘Identify Me’ programme, launched earlier this year and aimed at cold cases.
Created to help identify 22 suspected female murder victims, Identify Me has received more than 500 messages and tips from the public, INTERPOL said.
Secretary General Jürgen Stock said today: ‘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.
‘We congratulate the authorities in Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands for their leadership in Operation Identify Me. Its important work continues.’
INTERPOL urges members of the public, particularly those who remember a missing friend or family member, to get in touch via their Identify Me portal if they recognise anyone on the site.
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