Published: 06:00, 28 June 2020
| Updated: 06:56, 28 June 2020
Lipstick, an Oxford tourist information guide, a handbag with the name Christina May inside it, a purse and half a bottle of vodka. These were the items found alongside the body of a woman discovered at the bottom of Dover's white cliffs back in August 2000.
Thought to be in her late 30s or early 40s, the woman was wearing a pearl necklace, a pinstripe dress and had short, black hair. But, 20 years on, she still remains nameless.
In total, there are 27 bodies in Kent whose identities remain a mystery, found between 1971 and 2017. Their details are posted on the UK Missing Persons website in the hope someone might recognise the description.
The website, set up by the National Crime Agency (NCA), aims to bring peace to families searching for loved ones who suddenly disappeared.
Where it is deemed appropriate, images of the dead are displayed, or sketches of how people may have looked in life.
A photo of a brown-haired man with a goatee and blue eyes sits alongside a description of a body found at the bottom of a 150 feet viaduct in Folkestone in 2007.
A picture of a wetsuit has also been posted, after a diver's body was recovered by a passing ship and brought to shore at Dover in 1992.
The finest details of jewellery, hairs styles, tattoos and clothing are written up, in case anyone recognises a distinctive feature or possession.
In the majority of cases when a body is discovered, identification is straightforward. Often police will already have an idea of who the dead person may be.
And even if they are not carrying a mobile phone or documentation, there are fingerprints and dental records to run through databases.
But in a few cases, identification becomes more complicated and other techniques are needed to bring closure to families.
It is particularly challenging when bodies wash up on Kent’s beaches, which is where many of the county's current 27 unnamed dead were discovered.
The difficulty is the tide can bring people who died off the coast of France, or even further afield, to Kent.
Two men found in the English Channel, one in 1984 and the other in 1997, are thought to possibly have been French fishermen.
The first, who had light brown hair, a moustache and could have been aged anything between 30 and 55, is believed to have been dead for around two or three weeks before he was pulled from the sea.
He was wearing a fisherman's 'Polichimale Boutige' jumper and a watch showing the time in France.
Recovered from near Dover Docks, the other man was also in French clothing, had greying hair and and a support bandage around his ankle.
The Missing Persons Bureau has partnered with equivalent agencies in Belgium, Norway, France and Germany in an effort to coordinate searches, but some still remain anonymous after almost 50 years.
However, although many of the bodies have been found in the waters which lap Kent's coastline, this does not count for all.
Three years ago, a dog walker made a shock discovery when they found a man dead in a field near Hollow Lane in Canterbury.
He had passed away around 48 hours beforehand and had an Oyster card, a book on clinical theology and a black suitcase containing toiletries.
Aged between 50 and 70, the blue-eyed, bearded man died of natural causes, a post-mortem revealed.
Months later, officers still had no leads and so he joined the growing list of unnamed dead.
"It’s a very sad situation. Their family and friends don’t know where they are, they’ve got nobody who will remember them..."
Others have met their fatal end on the county's railway lines, such as a dark-haired man struck by a train at Canterbury East in 2001.
In most cases, these bodies will be laid to rest in an unmarked grave, so if family or friends recognise them in the future, DNA evidence can be used to give solid proof.
Despite modern technology, it can sometimes still be very difficult to link up missing people with their relatives.
A spokesman from the Missing Persons Unit said: "We have a high number of people who do go missing, and most return safe and well, but some don’t and that includes a few unidentified people.
"It’s a very sad situation. Their family and friends don’t know where they are, they’ve got nobody who will remember them, and they are buried in unmarked graves"
"We are hopeful a number can still be solved, and I’ve no doubt that in the future there will be new techniques and methods that we can’t even think of now that will help us identify some of these individuals.”
But for now, the identities of the 27 bodies will remain a mystery, with the Missing Persons Unit forever hoping they will, one day, no longer be nameless.
More by this authorRebecca Tuffin
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