The Mystery Behind the Lady in the Well

5x5MysteryZoinks! I feel as though I should be a member of Mystery Inc. when I admit to loving a good mystery. Not all types of mysteries catch my attention, but mysteries occurring long ago, mysteries which involve the supernatural and Canadian mysteries often do. So there was no surprise when a message arrived in my inbox entitled ‘The Lady in the Well’ that I’d have to learn more about this lady.

The Lady in the Well – as she was dubbed – was discovered June 2006 when a construction crew excavated an abandoned water well in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in an area once known as Sutherland. It is believed the woman was murdered, stuffed in a gunny sack and sealed in a barrel which was then tossed down the well.

Police are searching for the identity of the woman but understand the person responsible for her death may never be uncovered. Dozens of leads have come in from people as far away as Europe. Family members hoping to discover the whereabouts of their missing mother, grandmother or aunt have contacted the police service with historical information about their ancestors.

From evidence gathered at the scene and through the forensic unit, a picture has been created of the victim. The woman was between 25 and 35 years old, five feet and one inch tall, white and had a prominent nose and light brown to reddish hair. She was dressed in middle-class clothing typical of that worn between 1908 and 1916. A broken golden necklace was also found with the body. The quality of gold indicated it was purchased in Europe or Eastern Canada.

A man’s black vest and trousers were found stuffed in the barrel on top of the body. It’s assumed the clothing was soiled from the murder and was discarded.

Investigators have narrowed the murder date down from between 1908 and 1916, however, some speculate it could have been any time between 1900 and 1924.

In June 2009, two-dimensional and three-dimensional images of the victim by two separate artists were released to the public. Although the artists had no contact with each other, both created similar images. To view pictures of the facial reconstructions, visit Victoria Lywood’s site.

Police are using DNA recovered from the well-preserved body to help connect the murder victim with relatives. Individuals coming forward with stories of missing family members that relate to similar circumstances are being tested.

Others have stepped forward to provide historical data about Sutherland, a railway town of about 1,000 people at the time of the woman’s death. One archivist suggested the murder took place after 1914 because the well would have been abandoned when the body was dumped. Sutherland began receiving water from Saskatoon that year.

The Saskatoon Police Services are very interested in solving this mystery. If you believe this may be a lost relative, contact them at Saskatoon Police Services, 130 4th Avenue North, Saskatoon, SK, S7K 2L3, or call 306-975-8300.

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Diane Tibert is a writer based in central Nova Scotia. Her alter-ego is Diane Lynn McGyver. Her short story collection Nova Scotia – Life Near Water is now available.

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