How the British ‘woman with flower tattoo’ was identified: Name of Belgium murder victim revealed as police hunt killer

14 November 2023, 14:52

Interpol issued a, rare, Black Notice which led to the identification
Interpol issued a, rare, Black Notice which led to the identification. Picture: Interpol

By Asher McShane

A British woman who was murdered in Belgium has finally been identified after three decades.=

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Rita Roberts died along with 21 other women in a case that has baffled police for years.

Her identity has finally been confirmed as part of an Interpol investigation into the deaths of 22 unidentified women, who are all believed to have been murdered.

Rita was violently killed when her body was found against a grate in the water of the river 'Groot Schijn' near the Ten Eekhovelei in Antwerp, Belgium.

Her family said learning the news of what had happened to her years later was "shocking and heartbreaking".

"Our passionate, loving and free-spirited sister was cruelly taken away," they said in a statement shared by police.

"Whilst the news has been difficult to process, we are incredibly grateful to have uncovered what happened to Rita."

Police in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium worked tirelessly as they tried to piece together what happened to the 22 women, who are all thought to have been murdered in mysterious circumstances going back 50 years.

Under Operation Identify Me, they went public pleading for information about what happened to the women.

Among the information released by police was Rita’s distinctive tattoo.

A relative of hers came forward and identified the distinctive flower tattoo - a black rose with green leaves and R Nick underneath.

It emerged she went to Antwerp from Cardiff in February the year she died.

She sent her family a final postcard in May - her body was found not long afterwards.

Most of the victims were aged between 15 and 30 when they died between 1976 and 2019.

Belgian police are now pleading for more information in the hope they may be able to identify her killer.

The decision by police to release the women’s detail scale after the unsolved murder of a woman found in a wheelie bin in a river in Amsterdam.

The bin was nailed shut and police found a woman’s body - she had been shot and part of her body was cast in cement.

Rita Roberts
Rita Roberts. Picture: Interpol
She was identified by her tattoo
She was identified by her tattoo. Picture: Interpol

Rita's last communication with her family was in May 1992, just one month before she was brutally killed.

'Operation Identify Me' was launched in May this year, which led to her identification after a family member recognised the picture of her tattoo.

Rita's family issued a full statement: “The news was shocking and heartbreaking. Our passionate, loving and free-spirited sister was cruelly taken away.

"There are no words to truly express the grievance 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."

Read More: Three children among five family members killed in Hounslow blaze as dad ‘screamed my kids, my kids!’

Read More: Man charged with murder after mother-of-two stabbed to death in front of children

"We miss her deeply but are grateful for the excellent support and care of Belgium Missing Persons, Antwerp Police, INTERPOL and Durham Police in the UK," it continued.

"This cross-border collaboration has given a missing girl back her identity, and enabled the family to know she is at rest."

They added that Rita was a "beautiful person" that "loved travelling".

Operation #IdentifyMe: UK woman murdered in Belgium identified

"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.”

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

Interpol’s Identify Me has received more than 500 messages and tips from the public.

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.

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

A builder has pleaded guilty to the murder of a woman he was building an extension for.

Builder admits to murdering woman, 58, he met through church friends after row over extension

Police officers pursue a deer down a hallway at Cedar Grove Elementary School in Toms River, New Jersey

Deer’s escape after breaking into US school captured on police bodycams

Police officers stand by the tail of a small plane that made an emergency landing in Villejuif, outside Paris

Small plane makes emergency landing in Paris suburbs

The mayor of Kyiv has claimed president Zelenskyy is becoming increasingly autocratic.

‘Zelenskyy is becoming an autocrat’ Kyiv mayor Klitschko says, as he warns Ukraine will soon be 'no different to Russia'

Actor Jonathan Majors arrives at court in New York

Jonathan Majors assault trial starts with competing versions of confrontation

Wood drove 158 metres with Mr Watson under the car.

'It's fine, I deserve it': Woman arrested after running over and killing boyfriend, dragging his body nearly 160 metres

Manuel Rocha when he was US ambassador to Bolivia

Former career US diplomat charged with secretly spying for Cuba for decades

The infected blood scandal tore Tony's family apart.

'The family imploded': Son of haemophiliac tells Andrew Marr how infected blood scandal tore his family apart

A UK city has been crowned the prettiest in the world, according to a study.

UK city crowned ‘prettiest in the world’ - putting Venice in second place

Jonathan Majors domestic abuse trial started today

Marvel star Jonathan Majors 'hit ex-girlfriend over the head to cover up infidelity', court hears

Aitana was created by an AI modelling agency.

‘Spanish influencer’ created entirely by AI generates its modelling agency £9,000 a month with 200,000 followers

In his victory speech in November, Mr Milei promised Argentina that "the reconstruction of Argentina begins."

'It's not a joke, it's a provocation!': Argentina launches another attack on Britain amid Falklands row

Home Secretary James Cleverly

'Enough is enough': Home Secretary unveils five-point plan to slash migration including hiking minimum salary to £38k

Bianca Williams arriving at Lavender Hill Magistrates' Court after pleading guilty to failing to give information relating to the identification of the driver/rider of a vehicle when required on three occasions

Team GB sprinter Bianca Williams says Olympic 'dream' now impossible after being banned from driving for six months

Ravel Morrison

Former Manchester United star convicted of fraud after paying £50 for dead person's blue badge

A new fare structure is being introduced.

Millions face increase in rail tickets as five operators abolish super off-peak tickets