MYSTERY still surrounds the identity of a baby found buried on a beach, on the day she would have reached her 16th birthday.
The body of the newborn was discovered in a shallow grave at Crimdon Dene by a 13-year-old girl and her 12-year-old brother, as they played near the amusement arcade at the nearby caravan park.
They spotted the infant’s head and limbs sticking out of the sand near the waterline.
The children were treated for shock at hospital and were left deeply traumatised by the ordeal, returning to their County Durham home to recover after just one day of their holiday, in August 1996.
Police, who later named the baby Beth after the first woman officer on the scene, said the child had not been fed, clothed or wrapped in blankets before being dumped near to the old coastguard station. She was aged just one to three days old.
Crowds of holidaymakers gathered on the sands and watched as a tent was put up around the body and the area sealed off.
A Home Office pathologist carried out a preliminary examination on the beach, before the body was taken to Dryburn Hospital, now the University Hospital of North Durham.
Doctors were unable to establish at that time whether the baby died through lack of attention at birth, or was stillborn.
A team of 20 officers questioned holidaymakers and residents in 300 caravans at the sites, along with campers, dog walkers and others who regularly visited the dene.
Detectives believed the baby’s mother could have been staying at the caravan site and could have given birth in secret.
Officers appealed to hospitals and doctors’ surgeries as they tried to track down the mother.
It was feared she would have needed medical treatment and could be at risk of dying because of severe blood poisoning and blood loss.
The police did have strong leads at the time – Detective Superintendent David Grey appealed for a man who called anonymously to get in contact again after his first telephone conversation was interrupted.
Also, a jogger and a dog walker came forward to say they had spotted a woman holding a baby in a shawl, sitting alongside an older man on some steps, just days before the discovery of the body.
But despite extensive inquiries being carried out, the mother was never traced or came forward.