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Special report: Questions remain in mystery of missing Natalie Putt

By Richard Guttridge | Dudley | Crime | Published:

At only 17, Natalie Putt vanished just weeks after giving birth to her baby.

Natalie Putt, inset, vanished in September 2003

It was supposed to be the happiest time of her life. Young mother Natalie Putt had only recently given birth to her son and was utterly devoted to him.

But only weeks after welcoming her baby son into the world the 17-year-old vanished - and has never been seen since.

Woodland, lakes and graveyards were searched as part of the investigation

The teenager disappeared from her home in Lower Gornal, Dudley, in September 2003 and it is a case that has had experts scratching their heads in the decade and a half that has passed.

One thing they and her family now accept is that Natalie is dead.

That was the verdict delivered by the Black Country's senior coroner in January following a long-awaited inquest, which was unusual in the fact it was carried out despite Natalie's body ever being found.

Natalie lived in Thornleigh, Lower Gornal

Zafar Siddique also said it was his belief that the mother died at her home or nearby, bringing Thornleigh, the quiet street where she lived, firmly into focus.

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However, whether or not she left the area is not entirely clear. A detective speaking after the inquest suggested Natalie may have taken a bank card, opening the possibility she may have willingly left the address.

Her former partner Kevin McCallum denied being involved in her disappearance under questioning from the coroner and said he had not argued with her on the day she went missing.

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The hearing was told two "tiny" spots of her blood were found on a T-shirt in her loft - but as it was her home it could, of course, have came from anywhere at any point.

Natalie Putt

Rebecca Coggins has spent the last 16 years battling to find out the truth about what happened to her younger sister. She said she seemed perfectly normal the last time he saw her, although a "bit sad", perhaps not out of the ordinary someone coming to terms with motherhood.

Woodland, lakes and graveyards were searched, while possible sightings were reported far and wide across the UK but Rebecca agrees that the key lies close to home.

She says she is a "billion per cent" sure Natalie didn't run away and come to harm somewhere else.

Rebecca said: "Everywhere she was her baby was with her. I have spoken to hundreds of people over the last 16 years and they have all said the same thing: there is no way on this earth Natalie would have left the baby behind.

Woodland, lakes and graveyards were searched as part of the investigation

"She had nothing with her. Her benefits book was on the side, her mobile phone was on the side."

Rebecca said she broke down when she found out Natalie was missing four days after she was last seen and believed immediately that she was dead.

"One of the things I said was is the baby with her? Natalie never left him behind. I just broke down, I was unbearable, shouting."

Expert criminologist Elizabeth Yardley, from Birmingham City University believes women whom the killer moved onto in the years since Natialie's death could be key.

She said: "The man - and it is likely a man - who killed Natalie will have harmed other women. He has likely threatened them, these threats may have contained veiled or overt references to Natalie’s murder.

Woodland, lakes and graveyards were searched as part of the investigation

"The women he has harmed may hold valuable information about Natalie’s murder but may not realise it. If they do, their fear of this perpetrator may prevent them sharing this information.

"Cases involving serial abusers are often difficult to crack, such is the level of control they are able to exert over their victims, both the ones they choose to kill and those they don’t."

She added: "This is an horrendous case of a family who have lost a young, vibrant woman and a little boy who lost his mum. The fact that Natalie’s body has never been recovered compounds the trauma for her family. Natalie is gone, likely murdered, but this is all that is known."

Sue Duggan has lived a few doors down on Thornleigh for 41 years and spoke to the teenager the day she went missing.

The 62-year-old said: "She said 'You haven't seen my baby' and she showed me him.

Natalie lived in Thornleigh, Lower Gornal

"She seemed fine, she was quite happy. She didn't seem depressed in any way, just absolutely normal.

"There have been so many theories about where she went and what happened to her.

"She could be anywhere over Cotwall End. You can't scour all that. My theory is she is buried over there somewhere. But how did they get the body over there? There are so many questions.

She added: "It means someone is walking around who shouldn't be. It has gone on so long now I don't think it will ever be solved."

So what happened to the new mother and why was she killed? It's a question Rebecca has grappled with for 16 years.

Natalie Putt vanished in September 2003

"At the end of the day the coroner's court concluded she died within the premises or within the vicinity."

Rebecca added: "Someone could have come from outside, that is a possibility.

"When you met Natalie you would be absolutely captivated by her. She was an amazing person, with the warmest heart, she was kind and generous. Why would anyone want to harm her?"

West Midlands Police said it remained determined to find Natalie's killer.

A spokeswoman said: "The investigation into the disappearance and murder of Natalie Putt continues. If anyone has any information - no matter how insignificant they feel it might be - we urge them to contact the investigation team on 101."

Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 or at crimestoppers-uk.org

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Investigations Editor - @RichG_star

Investigations Editor for the Express & Star.

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