A woman, known only by her unique flower tattoo for 31 years after being found dead in a river, has finally been identified.
Cardiff native Rita Roberts had moved to Antwerp in February 1992 and was murdered four months later. Her body was discovered against a grate in the river Groot Schijn.
For three decades, her identity remained a mystery until an international appeal launched this year cracked the cold case. A family member recognised the distinctive tattoo from the appeal.
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The family has now expressed their heartbreak but thanked the police for restoring her identity and giving them closure. The international appeal was initiated in May this year by Belgian, Dutch and German police, along with Interpol. They sought public assistance to identify 22 women believed to have been murder victims.
One of these cold cases, known as "the woman with the flower tattoo", dates back to June 3, 1992, when a woman's body was found in the river in Antwerp. The most noticeable thing about her was a tattoo on her left forearm. It was a black flower with green leaves and the name "R'Nick" underneath it. For 30 years, no one knew who she was, and the last time Rita's family heard from her was when she sent a postcard in May 1992.
On May 10, 2023, Operation Identify Me started, with police getting more than 1,250 tips. A member of Rita's family in the UK saw the tattoo on a news app and told Interpol and the Belgian authorities through the Identify Me website. The family then went to Belgium to meet with the investigators and they were able to identify their missing relative. Now, they're asking a court in Antwerp to change Rita's death certificate to show her real name.
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They said: "There are no words to truly express the grief we felt at that time, and still feel today. While the news has been difficult to process, we are incredibly grateful to have uncovered what happened to Rita. We miss her deeply but are thankful for the excellent support and care of Belgium Missing Persons, Antwerp Police, Interpol and Durham Police in the UK. This cross-border collaboration has given a missing girl back her identity, and enabled the family to know she is at rest."
Now that Rita's identity has been confirmed, Belgian authorities are urging anyone with information about her or the violent circumstances of her death to come forward. Information can be submitted via an online form on Interpol's website.
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