Netherlands – The international campaign Operation Identify Me has provided a breakthrough in a 31-year-old Belgian murder case. A previously unknown woman who was found murdered in Antwerp on June 3, 1992 turns out to be 31-year-old Rita Roberts from Wales. Her relatives are grateful that it is finally clear what happened to their loved one. Justice in Belgium has reopened the investigation and is also asking Dutch citizens for help. There are indications that Rita Roberts also visited the Netherlands shortly before her death.
In May 2023, the Dutch, German and Belgian police organized the Operation Identify Me campaign together with Interpol. At the initiative of the National Investigation Communication Team of the Dutch police, 22 cases from the participating countries were presented to the international public via www.interpol.int/im. In all cases, the victims are unidentified girls or women who probably died as a result of violence. Internationally known women such as Carice van Houten, S10, Regina Halmich and Veerle Baetens also contributed to the campaign.
Soon after the launch of the campaign in May 2023, a relative of Rita Roberts reported to the police. This family member had seen the tattoo of the unknown woman from Antwerp in the British media and recognized it immediately. After investigation, the judiciary in Belgium determined that it was indeed 31-year-old Rita Roberts from the United Kingdom. The surviving relatives last received a letter from her on May 6, 1992. Then it remained quiet until a family member recognized the striking flower tattoo in the search report.
The surviving relatives have been closely involved in the investigation by the Belgian justice system in recent months. “The news was shocking and heartbreaking,” said a spokesperson for the family in the United Kingdom. “Our passionate, loving and free-spirited sister was cruelly taken. We cannot find words to truly describe the sadness we felt then and still feel. Although the news is difficult to process, we are incredibly grateful that we now at least know what happened to Rita. We miss her dearly, but we are grateful for the excellent support and care from the Missing Persons Unit, Federal Judicial Police (FGP) Antwerp, Interpol and Durham Police in the United Kingdom. This cross-border collaboration has given a missing woman her identity back and it has ensured that we as the family now know that she is at peace. Rita was a beautiful person who loved to travel. She loved her family, especially her nieces and nephews, and she always wanted to have a family of her own. She could light up a room with her presence, and wherever she went, she was the life and soul of the party. We hope that wherever she is now, she is at peace.”
The family asks the media not to contact them during their recovery process.
Now that after more than thirty years it is clear who the Antwerp victim is, the investigation can also be resumed. The police are therefore asking everyone in Belgium and also in the Netherlands who knew Rita at the time to contact the police. The police have released a photo of the woman so that it is clear what Rita looked like at the time. There are indications that Rita Roberts also spent some time in the Netherlands. The case will therefore be discussed in detail this evening in the broadcast of Opsporing Verzocht.
Other 21 cases
Initiator and project leader Martin de Wit is very grateful that the Operation Identify Me campaign has led to an identification. ‘During the preparation we always said to each other; if even one woman is identified, it will be worth every effort.” The Dutch police now hope that the success for the Belgian case will also give new impetus to the 21 other cases. ‘We already knew that the redeeming answer for these cases probably lies across the border. Now we also know that even after thirty years there is still hope. There must be many more relatives, somewhere in the world, waiting for news about their loved one. We hope that our appeal will now reach them. As a surviving relative, make sure that you are sure that the disappearance is also known in our countries.’ Information about all cases can still be found on the campaign website www.interpol.int/im. Tips can be submitted via a contact form. The campaign has already generated approximately 1,250 tips.
Pass on information
Do you know more about Rita Robberts’ case? Did you possibly know or speak to her in the early 90s? Please contact the investigation tip line on 0800-6070. You can also pass on tips anonymously via Report Crime Anonymous: 0800-7000 (can also be done online).
Call the Investigation Tip Line
Information source: Politie.nl