A FILM-MAKER’s latest project will cast doubt on the long-held belief a woman’s skeleton uncovered in St Osyth is that of notorious 16th-century witch Ursula Kemp.

Retired Essex policeman John Worland, now a Colchester-based documentary-maker, says he has the evidence to disprove local theories about the bones.

Mr Worland is promising to reveal the body’s true identity at the premier of his film, Ursula Kemp – The Witch Who Wouldn’t Stay Buried, at the Headgate Theatre, Colchester, next month.

Villagers have long believed the skeleton resident Charles Brooker found in 1921, during excavations in his Mill Street back garden, was that of Ursula Kemp.

The 57-year-old village midwife was hanged as a witch in 1582 after being blamed for the death of Edna Stratton, and two children, Joan Thurlow and Elizabeth Lethl.

The skeleton found in Mr Brooker’s garden appeared to have had iron spikes driven into the body, possibly as a superstitious precaution against its owner returning from the dead.

It was put on display in the village as a tourist attraction before ending up in a witchcraft museum in Cornwall and finally in the private collection of eccentric artist and bibliophile Robert Lenkiewicz, who died in 2002.

Mr Worland came across Mrs Kemp’s story while making a documentary about witchcraft for his company Fade to Black TV.

He said: “Until recently, no one had done a proper examination of the remains.

“While they were in the possession of the Lenkiewicz Foundation, I was allowed access to them.

“I asked Dr Jackie McKinley, from Channel 4’s Time Team, to examine the remains and carry out carbon dating.

“The carbon dating puts the age of the remains squarely where they should be, from the late 16th century.

“But the examination also revealed some interesting things about the probable age of the individual at the time of their death and from that I am fairly convinced this is not Ursula Kemp.

“However, as a result of the investigation we are able to say who we think the person is.”

The skeleton became the subject of a legal battle after Mr Lenkiewicz’s death.

After Mr Worland learned about the remains and the story of the St Osyth Witch, he pressed for them to be returned to Essex.

Eventually Mr Worland was given the bones, which he kept at his home for many months before finally arranging for them them to be reburied in unconsecrated ground at St Osyth in April.

Mr Worland, added: “I stumbled upon the story while making a documentary about the Witchfinder-General Matthew Hopkins.

“The St Osyth film has been fascinating to make and is more about 20th and 21st century history than that of the 16th century.

“During the course of making it, I turned up some inaccuracies and even found the original trial documents at the National Archives in Kew.”

The 50-minute documentary film took four years to complete and includes interviews with people from the Witchcraft Museum and the Lenkiewicz Foundation.

It will be screened for the first time at the Headgate Theatre, in Chapel Street North, Colchester, on January 9 and January 10.

Tickets are £5 and available from the box office, on 01206 366000.