The ex-boyfriend of a young mother who vanished in 2003 on her way to the shops leaving her 11-week-old baby behind today denied killing her at an inquest.
Natalie Putt was just 17 when she left her home in Dudley in the West Midlands on September 1, 2003 but was never seen again.
On the day she disappeared, she had just been dropped off at home by her new boyfriend Chris Millard having broken up with the father of her son, Kevin McCallum, weeks earlier.
Natalie Putt (left) was just 17 when she left her home in Dudley in the West Midlands on September 1, 2003 but was never seen again. On the day she disappeared, she had just been dropped off at home by her new boyfriend having broken up with the father of her son, Kevin McCallum (right), weeks earlier
Despite never finding her body, West Midlands Police are treating her disappearance as murder.
Mr McCallum was quizzed by police on several occasions and arrested on suspicion of murder in March 2004 before being released without charge.
Mr McCallum, of Dudley, gave evidence at her inquest in Oldbury, West Midlands and again protested his innocence.
Black Country Coroner Zafar Siddique asked him: ‘Did you play any part in the disappearance of Natalie Putt?’ Mr McCallum, 32, replied: ‘No’.
He told the inquest how he met Natalie at a training course in the summer of 2002.
He said: ‘She was happy, lovely, bubbly and a bit feisty. Our relationship kicked off really quickly – I was 16 or 17-year-old at the time. We would see each other every day.
‘I started going to her house, our relationship was fine and normal. I would go on lads’ night outs and she wouldn’t be happy about that. I was training to be a brick layer at some point.
‘We didn’t make any plans for the future – the baby was born in June. When the baby was born I stayed over at hers a few times to do some nappy changes and feeds.
‘I didn’t know what their relationship was between Natalie and Chris. When she started to see him we were on a break.
‘I wasn’t too happy, I wanted to know who this man was spending time with my son. She felt she needed some space, time on her own.
Despite never finding her body, West Midlands Police are treating her disappearance as murder (Miss Putt in pictured aged 17, in 2003)
‘I wasn’t happy with it, we would have phone calls over the break about our relationship. We didn’t have any heated arguments.’
Describing the day she disappeared, Mr McCallum said: ‘We went upstairs to talk about the relationship. We were smoking at the time.
‘Then she said she was going to get some more cigarettes. I didn’t see her leave the front door. I went back to feeding the baby. It had taken 45 minutes to feed him and then I went down stairs. Later that evening I saw her phone was on the side.’
The inquest heard a taxi driver told police he had been called to the house and a man came out carrying a baby and holding four or five black bin bags.
During the police investigation, bin bags were recovered from the loft as well as a blood-stained T-shirt which matched Natalie’s DNA.
Mr McCallum denied putting bags in the taxi. He told the inquest: ‘I never said I didn’t get a taxi, I’m saying the taxi driver is a liar. I want to make sure the truth comes out. I didn’t put anything into the taxi.
Since her disappearance, officers have also searched land near to her home, including underwater searches of rivers and lakes
‘I was arrested on suspicion of her murder. I was a released on bail. I had various interviews over the years. I didn’t play any part in Natalie’s disappearance. I was never shown this bag of clothing.’
Mr Millard, 32, told the hearing he had dropped Natalie off at her home on the day she disappeared in a car he changed a week later.
He said: ‘In 2003 I was living with my nan. I was about 17-years-old. I met Natalie through the horses and I think her dad had a horse off me.
‘It started off as friends and grew into a bit of a relationship but nothing serious. It happened a month before she went missing.
‘She was crazy, fun, always up for a laugh, always wanting to be the centre of attention. I was aware of her relationship with Kevin, they had just broken up.
‘She wanted sometime away, she was fed up with things – she just wasn’t happy with things. She was with me on that Sunday night -August 31, 2003.
‘She used to laugh at one of my vehicles as it reminded her of one of the cars from Barbie and Ken. The baby was with us too.
‘On the day she went missing I dropped her off at home in the morning about 8am and Kevin was waiting for her at the house.
‘I went off to work, she was never without her phone. I was told she was missing either later that day or the next day.
Mr Millard, 32, told the hearing he had dropped Natalie off at her home on the day she disappeared in a car he changed a week later
‘I remember sending her a few messages – it would be ‘give me a call when you’re free. You usually would have a reply sooner than later. I was 99 per cent sure Kevin was at the house.
‘David Putt (Natalie’s dad) phoned me to ask if I had seen her and I hadn’t. The police came and asked me a couple of questions and I told them what I knew.
‘I changing my car a week later as I would change them all the time.
‘To be honest the reason why I didn’t look for her was because I wouldn’t know where to start looking for her. She didn’t have any concerns about Mr McCallum
‘She, her dad, her baby and the horse were her all.’
Her father Mr Putt last saw his daughter the day before she disappeared when he gave her a lift home.
He said: ‘She had left vouchers for child income support and benefits.
‘I found that strange in my opinion if I was going to do a runner I would take every penny I had but she didn’t. My property was searched, we had to leave and stay in a hotel.
‘I was told after about the T-shirt found in the loft. I don’t know how it got there. Rubbish would usually be kept in the loft.’
Detective Sergeant Angela Baggott, of West Midlands Police, told the inquest: ‘There doesn’t appear to have been any reason for her to go missing.
‘There didn’t appear to be any disturbance at the address.
‘Bin liners from the loft of the property were recovered and a T-shirt had a couple of blood spots on it were found. The DNA matched that of Natalie’s.’
Describing the claims that a taxi had been called to the address days after she disappeared, she said: ‘A man came out with four or five black plastic bags, and then came out with a baby.
‘A pram, black plastic bags were put in the back of the taxi. The taxi driver made a statement in November 2003.
‘This was put to Kevin and he denied using the taxi company. We have evidence that his phone was used to make the call to the taxi firm. The taxi driver attended a line up and failed to pick anyone out.’
Recording an open verdict, Mr Siddique said: ‘The medical case of death is going to remain ascertained.
‘I’m satisfied she is deceased. It is unclear as to how 17-year-old Natalie Putts had died. From extensive police inquires and proof of life enquires pointed to the fact that she is deceased. For those reasons I am going to leave an open conclusion.’
Police reopened the cold case after ‘The Missing People Choir’ featured Natalie in one of their performances on Britain’s Got Talent in 2017.
Following the appeal, police searched a graveyard in Upper Gornal after receiving ‘crucial information’ from a mystery caller.
Four graves were exhumed in Ruiton Cemetery near to her home but nothing was found.
Since her disappearance, officers have also searched land near to her home, including underwater searches of rivers and lakes.
Officers also searched farmland in Wombourne, where she kept her horses after a member of the public remembered seeing a man digging nearby.
Police scoured land hear the stables in South Staffordshire but again nothing significant was found.