Jack the Ripper
The most famous of them all, Jack the Ripper killed and mutilated prostitutes in Whitechapel, east London. A series of murders in 1888 often featured removal or organs. A letter claiming to be from the killer, and containing half a human kidney, helped spread public belief that one killer was responsible. The ensuing media frenzy lives on today, with hundreds of theories put forward about his identity. These range from painter Walter Sickert to ‘Jill the Ripper’, a theory put forward by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The Zodiac Killer
With more twists, turns and red herrings than a crime writer would dare to cook up, the Zodiac Killer case has remained unsolved since the late 60s. The Zodiac murdered four men and three women in various locations including San Francisco between 1968 and 1969. What captured the imagination of the public were the cryptic and mocking letters sent by the killer to the local press. Despite a long string of these letters surfacing – some of which were later revealed to be hoaxes – the murders have never been solved. The case file remains open.
The images of six-year old JonBenét Ramsey in full make-up, blow-dried hair and prom dress are as haunting and horrifying as when she went missing in 1996. Within six hours her body had been found by police, in the basement of her family home. She had been hit on the head and strangled. The case has become one of the most notorious unsolved murders ever. Her parents were immediate suspects, and the court of public opinion judged them harshly for entering JonBenét into child beauty pageants. DNA evidence finally exonerated them in 2008 while the case remains unsolved.
Another affluent family thrust into a trial-by-media, the McCanns were staying in Praia da Luz resort on Portugal. On the evening of May 3 2007 the couple left Madeleine (just about to turn four) and her twin siblings asleep while they dined nearby. Their daughter’s disappearance from the apartment sparked the largest missing-person campaign in history, with both a local Brit and her parents becoming suspects. The McCanns had any case closed against them in 2008, but the case has remained a tabloid staple and modern-day mystery.
Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G.
In 1996 rapper Tupac Shakur was in the passenger seat of the Death Records boss Suge Knight. A white Cadillac pulled up at a stoplight and fired multiple rounds at the car. Shakur died six days later. A few months later in a strikingly similar situation, the Notorious B.I.G. was also fatally shot. Partly due to a shoddy police investigation, partly due to reluctant witnesses, the case has never been solved, leaving the door open to conspiracy theories that Tupac faked his own death.
The Black Dahlia
In a town not easily shocked, the murder of Hollywood waitress Elizabeth Short was particularly gruesome and well publicized. Her body was found in a vacant lot in 1947. The body was severed in two at the waist and completely drained of blood. Her mouth had been cut at each corner, and the body had been washed and then posed with her hands over her head. The nickname ‘Black Dahlia’ was created by the press, who painted the victim as ‘an adventuress’. To date at least 50 people – male and female – have at some point confessed to the crime, and it remains fascinating to crime writers and detectives today.