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Crime News Cold Cases

Murdered “Woman with the Flower Tattoo” Identified as British National After 31 Years

Rita Roberts, 31, was found dead in Belgium’s Groot Schijn river in June of 1992. She was identified through a tattoo of a black rosebud on her wrist. 

By Dorian Geiger
A police handout of Rita Roberts and her tattoo

She was known only as the “woman with the flower tattoo" for decades.

That’s the moniker cold case investigators ascribed to an unidentified woman who was violently murdered and dumped in a Belgian river in 1992. For 31 years, the identity of the mysterious murder victim — who had a black rose tattooed on her left forearm — would baffle international authorities. 

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On Monday, Interpol, the organization that connects police organizations from around the world, formally identified the mystery cold case victim as 31-year-old British national Rita Roberts.

Who is Rita Roberts and what happened to her?

Roberts was found dead in the Groot Schijn river in Antwerp, Belgium in June 1992. Her body was discovered resting by a grate in the river, according to officials. She’d been brutally murdered. At the time of her death, a tattooed rosebud on her left forearm was one of the few clues and physically distinguishing features investigators had banked on in identifying her. The tattoo featured a black flower with green leaves and had the lettering “R’Nick” written underneath.

How was the “woman with the flower tattoo" identified as Rita Roberts?

Interpol said the woman’s family came forward to identify her after a relative saw recent coverage of the case on television, which had included an image of the woman’s floral tattoo. 

Interest in Roberts’ case was reignited this year as part of Interpol’s recent Operation Identify Me initiative, which aims to identify 22 women who were found murdered in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands in cases stretching back at least four decades. The campaign, which launched in May, generated approximately 1,250 public tips related to the Roberts case. It was through the campaign’s webpage that Roberts’ family ultimately notified and tipped off Interpol and Belgian police. 

Roberts’ family later formally identified her through “distinguishing personal identifiers,” Interpol said in a press release this week. They’ve since petitioned Belgian courts to amend the U.K. woman’s death certificate to include her name. Her loved ones described the developments as “shocking” and “heartbreaking.”

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“Our passionate, loving and free-spirited sister was cruelly taken away,” Roberts’ family said in a prepared statement released by Interpol. “There are no words to truly express the grief we felt at that time, and still feel today.”

Officials now say Roberts had relocated from Cardiff, Wales to Antwerp in 1992. Her family described Roberts as a “beautiful person who adored traveling” and “loved her family.” 

“She had the ability to light up a room, and wherever she went, she was the life and soul of the party,” Roberts’ family’s statement continued. “We hope that wherever she is now, she is at peace.”

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In their remarks, Roberts’ family also thanked the wide array of law enforcement agencies that had participated in investigative efforts to identify the 31-year-old woman, including Belgium Missing Persons, Antwerp Police, Interpol and Durham Police in the U.K. The grieving family has since asked for privacy. 

“Whilst the news has been difficult to process, we are incredibly grateful to have uncovered what happened to Rita,” their statement added. “We miss her deeply.”

International authorities are still accepting tips in Roberts’ case. Anyone with information related to her death is urged to notify Interpol via its tip portal.

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