Unsolved Crimes

10 Unsolved Crimes in Forensic History

Do you enjoy a good mystery? Trying to put the clues and pieces of the story together? Well, sit back because you are in for a wild ride with these unsolved crime cases.

He murdered five prostitutes between August 7 and November 10 in 1888 in the Whitechapel district of London. The women’s throats were slashed and their bodies mutilated. He even sent the police the liver of one of his victims.

These criminals are so elusive, and their crimes so confusing, that they continue to baffle police and the public to this day.

iTHINK brings to you 10 unsolved crimes in forensic history.

The Murder of JonBenét Ramsey

On Boxing Day 1996 the body of six year old JonBenét Ramsey was found by her father in the basement of their family home. She had been beaten and strangled. Eight hours prior to this, the family received a ransom note that asked them for $118,000.

This is almost the exact amount of money that JonBenét’s father, John Ramsey, had received in the form of a bonus from his job earlier in the year. A proper search of the house was not able to be conducted due to the fact that investigators had allowed the family and their friends to walk around the house.

Police were expecting a ransom call but no call came, thus suspicion was placed upon JonBenét’s parents and her nine year old brother, who were at home during the time of her murder.

In 1999 her brother was questioned in connection to the crime, however he was cleared by a grand jury.

In 2006 a man admitted to the murder, but he was cleared due to DNA evidence. Prosecutors have also cleared JonBenét’s parents based on DNA evidence. The case continues to garner huge media attention, however it remains unsolved.

Jack the Ripper

Unsolved Crimes

You would be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of Jack the Ripper – he is very likely the most famous unsolved case in history. As you well know, Jack the Ripper is a nickname as the actual killer has never been identified.

He murdered five prostitutes between August 7 and November 10 in 1888 in the Whitechapel district of London. The women’s throats were slashed and their bodies mutilated. He even sent the police the liver of one of his victims.

There are many theories out there regarding the identity and profession of Jack the Ripper. People believed him to be a well-educated upper-class man, possibly a doctor, due to his perceived medical knowledge of the human body.

Today, Jack the Ripper’s killings have inspired books, novels, films, television shows, games, songs and operas.

There is no waxwork figure of Jack the Ripper at Madame Tussauds’ Chamber of Horrors, due to his likeness being unknown. He is simply depicted as a shadow.

In 2006, BBC History magazine and its readers deemed Jack the Ripper to be the worst Briton in history.

The Zodiac Killer

Similarly to Jack the Ripper, the Zodiac killings generated huge media attention and widespread fear. During the 1960s and 1970s the Zodiac killer was responsible for the murders of at least five people in secluded areas near San Francisco, often targeting couples.

He is considered to be one of America’s most infamous serial killers. He taunted the police with notes and threats, and threatened that if his notes were not published in newspapers he would kill again.

He is well-known for the notes and four cryptograms he sent to the press. One cryptogram was solved and the message began ‘I like killing people because it is so much fun,’ and concluded with the statement that he was ‘collecting…slaves for my afterlife.’

Similarly to Jack the Ripper, the Zodiac killings have influenced a number of books and television programmes, with the most famous popular culture reference to him being the 2007 film entitled ‘Zodiac’ starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr…

The Zodiac killer’s identity has never been discovered, and three of the cryptograms he sent out remain unsolved.

The Sims Family Murders in Tallahassee

On October 22 nd , 1996 Robert Sims, Helen Sims and their daughter Joy Sims were found murdered in their home by Jeanie, the oldest daughter of the couple.

A local news station, WCTV, reports that ‘A massive search was launched to find whoever committed the crime.’

However the Sims family had no known enemies and with no discernible motive for the crime it quickly became a mystery to police.

Although there were a few suspects nobody was charged. As technology is ever-evolving, police are hopeful that one day the evidence that they have stored away will provide a new lead.

The case of the men in the lead masks

An extremely mysterious case occurred in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1996. Two electronics repairmen were found dead; they were wearing suits and lead eye masks, the type that are typically worn to protect people from radiation.

Next to their bodies was a list of instructions in a notebook to ‘be at agreed place,’ then to ‘swallow capsules’ and ‘wait for mask signal.’

It will never be known, however, if the men did indeed swallow the capsules or even what they contained due to the toxicology report being inconclusive.

This is arguably the strangest case on this list; despite the physical evidence, it is likely it will never be solved.

The Love Me Tender Murders

Unsolved Crimes

On December 28th, 1956 Barbara Grimes, who was 15 years old, and her 12 year old sister Patricia disappeared after watching the film Love Me Tender.

Crime historian Ray Johnson stated that ‘What followed was one of the most labour-intensive missing person’s cases in Chicago history.’

Unfortunately the sisters were not found alive, as one month later their bodies were discovered, naked, on the side of a local road. The coroner’s report on the case has been widely criticised.

He claimed that the sisters died from exposure within four hours of their disappearance. He has accepted partial blame for the case going cold.

The murder of Jean Marie Townsend

Jean Marie Townsend left a party during the evening of September 14, 1954.

However she would not make it home alive, as her body was found the next morning in South Ruislip, England.

She had been strangled by her own scarf. Rumours were rife that her murder had been committed by an American solider, however, police never arrested or identified a single suspect.

Despite the case being reopened in 1982 it remains cold and unsolved.

The Black Dahlia

On January 15, 1947 in Los Angeles a mother walking with her child came across a gruesome sight: the body of a young woman, who was naked and sliced in half at her waist.

To begin with the woman did not realise it was a body, as it was posed as if it was a mannequin. There was extensive wounds on her body, but no blood at the scene, indicating that she had been killed somewhere else.

The body was identified in just fifty-six minutes thanks to the help of the FBI through the use of fingerprint analysis. The woman was identified as Elizabeth Short, who was 22 years old at the time of her death.

She was given the nickname ‘Black Dahlia’ by the press ‘for her rumoured penchant for sheer black clothes and for the Blue Dahlia movie out at that time.’

Unfortunately, despite a lengthy list of more than 150 suspects, the killer of Elizabeth Short has never been identified.

Suzy Lampugh

On July 28, 1986 Suzy Lampugh, an estate agent, went to show a man supposedly called Mr Kipper a property in Fulham. However, after this she was never seen again.

Police actually found her white Ford Fiesta parked outside a different property and not at the one she was expected to be at. Police searched the vehicle and found that her ignition key was missing, but her purse remained in her car.

Since this day, the Metropolitan Police have followed up numerous leads and, as The Mirror reports ‘conducted DNA tests on 800 unidentified bodies in an attempt to solve the case and identify Suzy, who was officially declared dead in 1994. But have continued to draw a blank.’

Last year the police were hopeful for a breakthrough in the case, after they began digging up the former home of the mother of murderer John Cannan, who was a suspect in the Lampugh case.

However no evidence was recovered from this dig, and the case remains unsolved.

‘Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm?’

Unsolved Crimes

On April 18, 1943 four boys from Stourbridge, England were playing in Hagley Woods and made a gruesome discovery – a human skull inside the hollow trunk of a wych elm tree.

Police were called and inspected the tree, where they discovered a nearly complete female skeleton with fragmented clothing, a gold wedding ring and a shoe. However, the woman’s right hand was sawn off.

Police considered the burial to be some kind of ritual. Forensic examiners placed her age at 35 and proclaimed that she had been dead for 18 months, meaning that she had died in October 1941.

They concluded that she died of suffocation as they found taffeta placed inside her mouth. As the murder took place during World War II, it made identifying the body a difficult task.

Resources were strained during wartime, with people often going missing, resulting in police being overwhelmed with work and missing person reports.

In the midst of the investigation the autopsy report and the remains disappeared, adding further fuel to the mystery. News spread quickly of the murder, and ignited the curiosity of many. People had lots of opinions, some considered it to be witchcraft, and others believed it to be the murder of a prostitute.

Then, mysterious graffiti appeared near the Old Hill that read: ‘Who put Luebella down the wych elm?’ Another piece of graffiti appeared in Birmingham that read: ‘Hagley Wood Bella.’ Finally, on the base of the obelisk atop Wychbury Hill the final version appeared: ‘Who put Bella in the wych elm?’

Police attempted to identify the author behind the graffiti but they were ultimately unsuccessful. Interestingly, as The Lineup reports ‘To this day, the question still appears scrawled across the walls of back alleyways, reigniting interest in the case.’

It is unlikely that this question will ever be answered as the murder remains unsolved.

While these are among some of the tragic unsolved cases, there are many cases forensics have finally solved.


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