Murder can be a tricky business to unpick, and the real world rarely offers as neat a conundrum to unravel as those cases faced by Sherlock Holmes, or those cracked by the brilliant mind of Columbo. Often when a case is solved the murderer is revealed to be someone who was not even considered a suspect, and clues upon which an entire case seems to revolve can turn out to be only a distraction.
For all this confusion however most murders are straightforward affairs, and once the world of the victim is unpicked and understood there are usually clear answers. However some cases seem so willfully obscure and confusing that a logical solution seems outright impossible.
Here are eight of the strangest unsolved murders.
1. JonBenét Ramsey
On Christmas Day 1996 a six year old girl went missing from her family’s home. JonBenét Ramsey was a successful child beauty queen and had just returned from a Christmas party, and a ransom note was found in the family home.
Almost before the search had started however it was over. JonBenét’s body was found in the basement of her own home, strangled and with a broken skull. How the family had not noticed her down there is only the start of the strangeness.
The ransom note had apparently been written in the family home, while the family was in the house, and was long and rambling as if the killer was in no hurry. The police however were convinced that the murder had been perpetrated by an intruder. The case remains unsolved to this day.
2. Lindsay Buziak
On February 2nd 2008 Lindsay Buziak, a realtor, left her office to show a home to a new couple. Buziak had told her boyfriend Jason Zailo that she thought something was weird about the request, primarily because the couple were shopping for an expensive home but had contacted her out of the blue by phone.
However Buziak apparently dismissed these concerns, although she did ask her boyfriend to wait outside the home while she showed her clients around. She was last seen entering the house with the couple, and when she did not reappear after 20 minutes Zailo went to check on her.
Buziak’s body was found in an upstairs bedroom in a pool of blood. She had been stabbed to death, apparently caught by surprise. There was no sign of the couple who had entered the house with her, and no motive for the murder has ever been established.
3. The Setagaya Family
There are few things more chilling than a home invasion, but the incidents which befell the Miyazawa family of Setagaya, a district of Tokyo in Japan, seem almost unbelievable. The entire family or two adults and two children were murdered by an unknown assailant on December 30th, 2000.
The killer had apparently climbed a tree outside the family home before entering the house through an upstairs bathroom window. After finding and strangling the youngest child, the killer moved through the house and killed the remaining occupants. They then stayed there for some hours, eating food from the fridge and tending their wounds. They didn’t even flush the toilet.
The case led to outrage and enormous media coverage, but the police were completely dumbfounded at the apparently motiveless attack. Despite having the killer’s DNA and a litany of clues from the crime scene, nobody has ever been identified as the murderer
4. Sophie Toscan du Plantier
Sophie Toscan du Plantier was a Parisian fashionista, the estranged wife of a famous French film producer who had given up the glittering life of a Paris celebrity for the wild, romantic Irish coast. She had rented a cottage in southern island which she lived in alone.
Two days before Christmas in 1996, her body was found on the road in front of her house. She was wearing a nightgown and wellington boots, and had been killed by several heavy blows to the head. It appeared she had been chased from her home and killed as she tried to escape.
The Irish police, by their own admission, were ill-equipped to handle this case. The French police however remain convinced they know who did it. Ian Bailey, a local journalist and eccentric who “howled at the moon” was arrested twice and has been convicted in absentia by a French court. There is plenty of circumstantial evidence to support Bailey’s guilt, but the case remains open.
5. Roland T Owen
In 1935 a man named Roland T Owen booked a room for one night in room 1046 of the Hotel President in Kansas City, Missouri, in the United States. He then went and waited in the room, with the blinds drawn and only a single dim lamp for illumination.
Two days later the hotel staff went to wake Owen, but found the door locked. A strange voice inside the room invited the staff to enter, but the door remained locked and the staff member had to leave.
Several times through that morning staff entered the room and saw Owen, but assumed he was drunk. Only at 10,30 am did someone notice all the blood on the bed and bathroom, and raised the alarm. Owen had also been bound, but the staff had somehow not noticed this.
Owen was rushed to hospital but died without naming his assailant, saying only that “nobody” had done this. It would later emerge that Roland Owen was not his real name, but despite discovering who he was, no progress has ever been made in solving the case.
6. Martha Moxley
Belle Haven, Connecticut, is a gated community for the cream of United States society, filled with large houses and leafy gardens. However the community was shocked by the brutal murder of Martha Moxley in 1975.
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Martha had been visiting with the Skakel family who lived nearby, and had been involved with neighborhood pranks for Halloween. However she never made it home that night, and her partially clothes body was found under a tree on the family’s lawn the next morning.
Two of the Skakel family, Michael and Thomas, changed their alibis for the night over the following years, but the whole situation remained impossible to solve. Eventually Michael Skakel would be sentenced to 20 years for the murder, but many consider this a miscarriage of justice. It seems we will never be sure who killed Martha Moxley.
7. Katarzyna Zowada
In November 1998 Katarzyna Zowada, a Polish student in Krakow, went missing after she failed to meet her mother. She had been booked into a local treatment center for depression but she never made the meeting.
Two months later her skin was found on a tug boat travelling up the Vistula River. After police were called her leg was also recovered from the river. Initially it was thought that boat propellers may have dismembered her body as it floated in the river, but when the body parts were examined it seems that something altogether more horrifying had happened to her.
Her skin had been deliberately and carefully removed, and the way this was done led investigators to believe her murderer was trying to fashion a wearable outfit from it. Katarzyna had been bled to death to avoid damage to her skin, but who did this remains a total mystery.
8. Isdal Woman
The case of the Somerton Man may now be solved, but Norway has another case, just as baffling and still unsolved. The town of Bergen in 1970 was thrown into confusion when local hikers found the burned body of a woman in the nearby “Ice Valley” of Isdalen.
The woman had a stomach full of sleeping pills, but it had been the carbon monoxide produced by the fire that had killed her. When police traced her luggage to Bergen railway station and her hotel, it seemed she might have been a covert agent.
All the labels were missing from her clothes and she had travelled extensively in the months leading to her murder, leading the authorities to believe she was involved in espionage. She had changed hotels frequently as well, but none of this seemed to help her, and her killer had evidently caught up to her in Bergen. But the identity of the killer, or the Isdal Woman herself, remain a mystery.
Top Image: These unsolved murders have baffled police, and in some cases even the identity of the victim is unknown. Source: New Africa / Adobe Stock.
By Joseph Green