Graves exhumed by police probing woman's disappearance 14 years ago


Detectives investigating the disappearance of a young mother 14 years ago have begun exhuming several graves at a cemetery.

West Midlands Police said officers were acting on new information about the disappearance of Natalie Putt, who was aged 17 when she left her home in Dudley to visit a shop in September 2003.

A police spokesman said the inspection of a number of graves in Ruiton Cemetery in Upper Gornal, near Dudley, was expected to take several days.

The exhumations follow numerous other inquiries in recent years to trace Natalie, whose son was 11 weeks old when she was last seen.

Officers have previously scoured open land near the teenager's home, as well as carrying out underwater searches of rivers and lakes, and examining farmland in nearby Wombourne.

Detective Inspector Ian Iliffe, from the West Midlands Police cold case review team, said: "All cases are periodically reviewed and the disappearance of Natalie has led us to believe that we are looking at a murder inquiry.

"We have had no positive sightings of Natalie in all these years and there has never been any financial activity connected to her bank accounts or any access to health services across the country, which points to the fact that she is no longer alive.

"Following a review of the information we have received, we have been granted permission to exhume a number of graves in Ruiton Cemetery."

The senior officer added: "We also believe that at least two people know what has led us to this site and they may have further information which could assist our search.

"We would very much like to hear from them."

An 18-year-old local man was arrested in March 2004 in connection with Natalie's disappearance, but was later released without charge.

Anyone with information to help the investigation is urged to call police on 101 or 0121 428 6092. The Crimestoppers service can also be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111.