Worcester Cathedral has seen a few dramas in its time, but in recent years few have matched the discovery of a body buried beneath one of its towers.

In the mid-1980s, checks were carried out on the building's foundations, particularly beneath the four huge towers which provide its central support.

Three were probed without undue alarm, but digging beneath the fourth suddenly stopped the workmen in their tracks.

As Katherine Lack writes in her new book, The Cockleshell Pilgrim: "They found his boots first. There, under a tower of Worcester Cathedral, a pair of leather toe-caps met the startled gaze of excavators.

"Further investigation revealed the carefully buried remains of a fully clothed man, dressed in loose woollen garments and knee-length boots."

Excavations were halted as specialists rushed to examine the site and advance their theories.

Now, a decade-and-a-half later, Katherine, an author and lecturer on church history who lives in Whitbourne, believes she has finally nailed down the mediaeval man's identity.

He was, she says, Robert Sutton, the Worcester City Bailiff.

The name has been advanced before, but now Katherine claims to have put it beyond all doubt and in the process unravelled the reason why Sutton, who was born in moderate circumstances, came to occupy a prime burial spot in Worcester's most distinguished building.

It didn't take experts long to work out the remains found in the Cathedral were those of someone who had been on a pilgrimage, for alongside the skeleton lay a cockleshell and a distinctive staff, both classic symbols of the religious journey.

But Katherine has taken the story several steps further, for not only does she identify the Worcester Pilgrim, as he came to be known, she also traces the journey he would likely have taken from the city to the shrine of St James at Compostela in north west Spain.

Along the way, she relives the trials and tribulations he would have faced, such as attacks by brigands, packs of wolves or even rogue robber priests.

Then there was the threat of the Black Death and the sheer physical exhaustion of the trek, which would have been 3,000-4,000 miles depending on the route.

Her unveiling of Robert Sutton has been a detective work of Sherlock Holmes proportions.

"The discovery in Worcester Cathedral provided a unique example of a pilgrim's grave because of the items found with the skeleton," Katherine explained.

"Now I have been able to go over the evidence again and I believe I have found some clues to his identity that were missed during initial research."

Probably the most important of these was the unusual colour of the pilgrim's staff beside the skeleton.

"It had been coloured purple as a sign of mourning," she added.

"This would have been done after his death by his friends or family, but the dye used was called kermes.

"Now in mediaeval times this was only available from two places in the civilised world, Seville in Spain and Bosnia.

"It was used over here in the cloth trade, but was very expensive. It usually arrived by ship into Bristol docks where a pound in weight of kermes cost three shillings, while a pound of most dyes would be only two pence.

"It wouldn't have made economic sense for someone to buy kermes specially to dye the pilgrim's staff, so it was likely the dye was already in his house in connection with his business."

Without stealing all her remarkable thunder and giving away her research, I will just say Katherine reveals Sutton as the pilgrim, discovers he lived in a house on the corner of Deansway and Copenhagen Street, Worcester, and undertook his pilgrimage in 1423 at the age of 33.

As the Bailiff of Worcester, he was responsible for apprehending ne'er-do-wells and able to keep for himself half the amount they were fined.

This last fact also helps to explain how Sutton came to be buried where he was.

"Firstly, being City Bailiff, he was an important local person, and secondly he had undertaken a particularly arduous pilgrimage, so this would have given him extra respect," said Katherine.

"Thirdly, as a dyer, he was a key player in the cloth trade at a time when Worcester was one of the leading centres in the country and fourthly, because of the income from his business and his position as City Bailiff, he could afford to purchase a burial site exactly where he wanted."

Katherine believes at the time of his interment, a statue of St James probably stood near Sutton's chosen spot.

So there you have it, Robert Sutton, dyer of Copenhagen Street was almost certainly the Worcester Pilgrim.

His boots are now on display in the Cathedral - minus the rest of him.