Who murdered Superman?

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We all thought the Man of Steel was impervious to bullets, but in 1959, we were proved wrong. George Reeves, the first man to play Superman on TV in the 1952 series Adventures of Superman, was shot dead in his bedroom. Officially ruled a suicide, Superman’s death remains shrouded in mystery…

George Reeves donned Superman’s red cape and Clark Kent’s specs and began saving the world long before Christopher Reeve and Henry Cavill in the movies, Dean Cain in 90s TV show The New Adventures of Superman and Tom Welling in Smallville. Adventures of Superman ran for six seasons between 1952 and 1958 and was cancelled after the sixth season. There were plans to revive it, but George Reeves’s untimely death in June 1959 stopped these plans in their tracks. Mystery and controversy have surrounded his death ever since.

According to witnesses, George Reeves and his fiancé Leonore Lemmon were out for dinner and drinks on the night of his death with their friend Richard Condon. Reeves and Lemmon had an argument in front of Condon and, shortly afterwards, the three of them returned to Reeves’s home in Benedict Canyon in Los Angeles.

Reeves went to bed, but sometime around midnight, friends William Bliss and Carol Van Ronkel turned up at Reeves’s house for an impromptu party. Reeves was in no mood to join in; rather, he came down and had a go at them all for the noise. He ended up having a reluctant drink with them, before retreating upstairs again in a bad mood.

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The dark side of the police – the Steven Avery conspiracy

makingamurderer
Right folks, I think it’s about time I talked about the hottest conspiracy theory around right now: the conviction of Steven Avery…

The Steven Avery case has dominated headlines and got tongues wagging in outrage all over the world since Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer aired last December. (Yes, there are significant spoilers for the series ahead, so if you haven’t watched it and you want to experience the outrage first-hand, do NOT read on.)

My housemate and I watched the series in January. As some of you know, I used to practise as a criminal defence lawyer. She still does. We therefore spent most of the series with our chins on the floor.

I have to say, it’s nice to see a programme that doesn’t paint the defence lawyers as baddies. Here we’re seeing the prosecution and the police in a dark and nasty light, something huge swathes of the public are ignorant about. Sorry guys, but having dealt with dodgy cops myself—cops who wilfully disregard procedure just so they can nail someone—I can tell you that many of them are not the knights in shining armour you think they are. And the Steven Avery case is one big, glaring example of that.

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Was Pope John Paul I assassinated?

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John Paul I was pope for a mere 33 days before he was found dead in his bed, aged 65. Numerous oddities, inconsistencies and unanswered questions have given rise to theories that dark forces conspired to murder him…

On September 27th 1978, Pope John Paul I was found sitting up in bed like he’d been reading, dead. His papal reign was one of the shortest of all time.

But the circumstances of the pope’s death were – and still are – incredibly murky. This is thanks to lots of conflicting statements about when and who found his body; if and what the pope was reading before he died; and the lack of any autopsy to confirm the cause of death.

Inconsistent statements

Some witnesses stated that Pope John Paul I’s body was discovered at 5.30am by the pope’s private secretary, John Magee. Others state that the body was found at around 4am by a nun, Sister Vincenza Taffarel. There was disagreement, too, about the time and cause of death. A statement put out by the Vatican said that he’d died of a heart attack, while some witnesses said that he actually died of a pulmonary embolism. The Vatican statement said he’d died at 11pm the previous night; other witnesses said he died only a few hours before he was found.

Pope John Paul I - a picture of health?

Pope John Paul I – a picture of health?

What’s more is that Pope John Paul’s health basically couldn’t have been better. He drank very little, had a long history of low blood pressure and was a lifetime non-smoker. All the witnesses, including his own doctor, said that he was in perfect health. His brother said that he had an “iron health”. His doctor said, “He’s not well, he’s very well. I talked to him the night before. He seemed fine and didn’t mention any problems.”

Has there ever been a person more unlikely to suffer a sudden, fatal heart attack?

Spanish priest Father Jesus Lopez Saez and historian John Julius Norwich argue that a heart attack being the cause of death could not have been properly determined without an autopsy.

Yet was no autopsy – the Vatican decided not to conduct one. Apparently they tried to argue that autopsies on popes were not allowed. Since autopsies had been carried out on other popes, this was a flagrant lie.

What was he reading?

The official story from the Vatican is that Pope John Paul I went to bed to read The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. This book was in the pope’s hand when he was found dead in his bed.

However, Sister Vincenza said that she found the pope with “papers” in his hand. She didn’t specify what these papers were, but The Imitation of Christ is a book, a book she probably would’ve described as such. These “papers” sound like something else entirely.

Some have theorised that these papers might’ve contained certain names, names of people suspected of being involved in the corruption within the Vatican Bank. Or they might’ve been an agenda detailing the pope’s next actions to be taken against the bank.

Paul Marcinkus - part of a conspiracy to assassinate the pope?

Paul Marcinkus – part of a conspiracy to assassinate the pope?

This leads nicely onto potential motives. David Yallop in his 1984 book In God’s Name said the pope knew about the corruption in the Vatican Bank and was planning to make a move against those responsible. He said that one of the names on the papers in his hand was Paul Marcinkus, head of the bank. Marcinkus had been accused of being in collusion with Roberto Calvi, chairman of the bank Banco Abrosiano, which had been laundering drug money for the Mafia. The Vatican Bank had shares in Banco Abrosiano and was also accused of secretly funding rebel groups through it. After this scandal came to light, Yallop named Marcinkus as a possible accomplice in Pope John Paul I’s murder. He believed the pope was poisoned with digitalis.

The Vatican has maintained its silence over the issues surrounding the pope’s death for decades now. Why so much inconsistency? Why no autopsy?

I suspect foul play. Everything sounds off to me. Unfortunately, without more evidence, it’s a skeleton in the Vatican’s closet that looks destined to remain there. We may never know what really happened in Pope John Paul I’s bedroom on September 27th 1978…

Perhaps Dan Brown would like to have a stab at this one.

Next week: The Disney Conspiracy, Part 3. [Part 1 is about subliminal messages and a gay agenda in Disney movies. Part 2 is about whether Walt Disney was a racist.]

Was Queen Victoria behind the Jack the Ripper murders?

Queen_Victoria_by_BassanoBetween August and November 1888, Jack the Ripper struck Whitechapel and brutally killed five prostitutes. Was he a lone nutjob? Or was he part of an elaborate conspiracy involving the police, the Prime Minister and Queen Victoria?

Sounds nuts, doesn’t it. But this is the conspiracy theory that’s at the centre of the Johnny Depp-starring 2001 movie From Hell (and the graphic novel it’s based on). And it originates in a 1976 book by Stephen Knight called Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution.

The secret marriage of Prince Albert Victor

The story goes that Queen Victoria’s grandson, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, met and fell in love with Annie Elizabeth Crook, a working class Catholic girl who was one of the models for famous painter Walter Sickert. They married in a secret ceremony where the witnesses were Walter Sickert and Annie’s friend Mary Jane Kelly (who later became the fifth and final victim of Jack the Ripper). Prince Albert Victor and Annie Crook had a daughter together – Alice Crook – who was an heir to the British throne.

Prince Albert Victor

Prince Albert Victor

In 1888, Queen Victoria and Prime Minister Robert Cecil discovered Prince Albert Victor’s secret. Not only was the prince’s secret marriage to a working class girl scandalous for the Royal Family, but the heir produced by the marriage was Catholic, and Catholics were forbidden from the throne.

Basically, this needed sorting.

So Queen Victoria and the Prime Minister ordered the kidnapping of Annie and Alice. A raid of Annie’s apartment on Cleveland Street, London, was arranged, and Annie was placed into the custody of Sir William Gull, Queen Victoria’s physician. He certified her as insane, with some versions of the story contending that Queen Victoria instructed Gull to make her insane by impairing her brain functions, so she could never reveal the secret.

However, Alice Crook was not in the apartment when it was raided. She was being looked after by Mary Jane Kelly, who – along with her prostitute friends Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes – decided to blackmail the government.

Sir William Gull - the Ripper?

Sir William Gull – the Ripper?

At this point Queen Victoria, the Prime Minister and his fellow Freemasons, including senior London Met Police officers, are said to have conspired to put an end to the scandal once and for all. They decided to stage the murders of Mary Jane Kelly and her friends and retrieve Alice. Sir William Gull was given the task of murdering the women. With the assistance of coachman and accomplice John Netley, Gull became Jack the Ripper. And he clearly got a taste for murder and mutilation. The final victim was Mary Jane Kelly herself; she was basically torn to bits, her face carved off and her internal organs spread around her bedroom.

Still, Gull never got his hands on Alice, and it’s said that she lived well into old age and became Walter Sickert’s mistress.

All seems quite sensational, but could any of it be true?

The evidence for the conspiracy

There were already theories that Jack the Ripper might’ve been a physician or a surgeon because of the anatomical knowledge he displayed when he committed the murders. But the story I’ve detailed above pretty much all came from one man – Joseph Gorman, aka Joseph Sickert and allegedly the son of Walter Sickert and Alice. He was told the story about the secret royal baby, the conspiracy and Sir William Gull being the Ripper by his parents. Joseph Gorman revealed all of this as part of a BBC documentary series on Jack the Ripper in 1973.

Stephen Knight, when he heard about all this, conducted his own investigation and found a number of facts and coincidences supporting Gorman’s claims. Among these were the following:

  • It’s a fact that Annie Elizabeth Crook was institutionalised.
  • There really was a man called John Netley.
  • A woman named Elizabeth Cook – who Knight thought might be “Annie Elizabeth Crook” misspelt – did live on Cleveland Street.
  • Both Prince Albert Victor’s mother and Alice Crook were deaf. An inherited disability?
  • Knight identified similarities between the Ripper murders and alleged Masonic ritual killings, supporting the claim that Freemasons were involved in the conspiracy.
  • Clairvoyant Robert James Lees claimed to have identified Jack the Ripper using his psychic powers; his description of the Ripper matched Sir William Gull.

While none of it was concrete, it was enough to convince Knight that Gorman’s story was true. He believed that the lack of any tangible evidence was because of the government cover-up and the police destroying evidence. This led to him publishing Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution.

After this, Sir William Gull became one of the prime Ripper suspects.

Nail in the coffin

While it’s a truly fascinating tale, most modern historians reject the royal conspiracy theory, and with it, the idea of Sir William Gull being the Ripper. Why? It’s because, regardless of the coincidences, the main source of this conspiracy theory is Joseph Gorman. And Gorman retracted his story in 1978, telling The Sunday Times, “It was a hoax. I made it all up. It was a whopping fib.”

So that’s that then!

The mystery persists. I wonder if we’ll ever know the true identity of this infamous killer…

Next week: Queen Elizabeth I was a man!

Serbians, corrupt footballers or the BBC – who killed Jill Dando?

Jill Dando - 1961-1999

Jill Dando – 1961-1999

It was a sad and shocking day on 26th April 1999 when Jill Dando, newsreader and presenter of BBC TV series Crimewatch and Holiday, was shot dead outside her home. After Barry George was convicted of her murder, we all thought the case was solved. Then he was acquitted on appeal. So the question is, who killed Jill Dando?

At the time of her death, 37-year-old Jill Dando was a very high-profile BBC personality. That all changed at 11.32am on 26th April 1999, when she returned to the house she owned in Fulham. Just as she reached the front door, a single bullet was fired into her left temple. Her body was discovered 14 minutes later.

The murder weapon was said to be a 9mm automatic pistol, and forensic testing said that it was pressed against her head at the moment the trigger was pulled. Her next door neighbour, Richard Hughes, said he heard her utter a surprised cry which – interestingly – was “like someone greeting a friend”. He heard no gunshot.

Hughes also made the only eyewitness sighting of the killer. A 6-foot-tall white man, approximately 40 years old.

Barry George, a man with a history of stalking women, sex offences and anti-social behaviour, eventually became the focus of the murder investigation. The evidence against him hinged on his previous history, the fact that he was in the vicinity four and a half hours before the murder, and the tiny particle of firearm discharge residue that was found on his coat.

After being convicted of murder and serving just over 7 years in prison, George was found not guilty at a retrial. This was after the firearm residue evidence was ruled to be inadmissible because of possible cross-contamination, effectively whittling the prosecution case down to nothing.

But if it wasn’t him, who was it?

Assassinated by the Serbians?

Due to the way she was shot, the police have now decided that Jill Dando was executed by a professional assassin. This has helped fuel a number of conspiracy theories, the first being that she was assassinated by the Serbians.

At Barry George’s first trial, his defence barrister, Michael Mansfield QC, posited this theory based on Dando’s coverage of the Kosovo War. Britain was on the side of the Kosovo Albanian rebel group, who were fighting the Serbian government and dictator Slobodan Milošević.

Mansfield suggested that the Serbians may have targeted her for two reasons:

  1. She had recently presented a TV appeal for aid for Kosovan-Albanian refugees in the Kosovo War, which may have attracted adverse attention from Slobodan Milošević’s supporters.
  2. Her death was Serbian retaliation for Britain and America’s highly controversial bombing of the Radio Television of Serbia’s headquarters on 23rd April 1999.

Initially the police rejected the Serbian link because the bombing was only 3 days before her death and they wouldn’t have had enough time to plan it. But journalist Bob Woffinden argues that powers in Serbia had been planning it for a lot longer. He cited the murder of newspaper editor Slavko Curuvija – shot dead outside his Belgrade home on April 11th – as evidence that Milošević was hitting back at his perceived enemies in the media.

The damaged headquarters of Radio Television of Serbia - was Jill Dando killed in retaliation?

The damaged headquarters of Radio Television of Serbia – was Jill Dando killed in retaliation?

What’s more is that the day after Dando’s murder, a man with a mid-European accent called the BBC TV Centre to admit to Dando’s death and threaten to kill Tony Hall. Hall was the chief executive for BBC News, thus ultimately responsible for coverage of the Kosovo War. To this day, nobody knows if the call was a hoax or not. The mysterious caller said this:

“Yesterday I call you to tell you to add a few numbers to your list. Because your government, and in particular your Prime Minister Blair, murdered, butchered 17 innocent young people. He butchered, we butcher back. The first one you had yesterday, the next one will be Tony Hall.”

Assassinated by corrupt powers in football?

The Serbian assassination theory is the one that has gained the most traction, but a former BBC colleague of Jill Dando believes it is a red herring. Wishing to remain anonymous, she told the Daily Star in March 2014 that Dando’s death was to do with her investigation of the death of her friend Matthew Harding.

Three years before Dando’s death, Matthew Harding – deputy chairman of Chelsea football club – expressed concerns about corruption in football and, according to this unnamed source, repeated those concerns to Dando. Just months later, Harding was killed in a mysterious helicopter crash along with four others. Did somebody silence him? Dando was apparently looking into his death – and received two warnings to back off. She didn’t.

Matthew Harding

Matthew Harding

All sounds very colourful and scandalous, but could also be a string of coincidences – and Harding’s death was ruled an accident by an inquest jury. That’s not to say it’s impossible that there’s a huge cover-up going on, but beyond these allegations made by an unidentified source to the Daily Star, the evidence for a cover-up is thin.

Assassinated by the BBC?

Another anonymous source, also claiming to be a former colleague of Jill Dando, told the Daily Star in July 2014 that Dando was murdered in order to keep a lid on a paedophile ring within the BBC. Apparently Dando had information about ‘big-name’ celebrities and high-up BBC staff who were part of this ring and was in the process of investigating it when she was killed. Not surprisingly, the BBC said it hadn’t seen anything to substantiate the claims.

Another cover-up? Or perhaps the Daily Star spun this story themselves to capitalise on the extremely high profile of the Jimmy Saville abuse scandal and Operation Yewtree? Were they just running out of stories in mid-2014, and so decided to invent some conspiracy theories?

David Icke would argue – no. Despite not citing any evidence, he argues that Dando did know of a paedophile ring within the BBC, and that the State killed her to keep her quiet.

But then, David Icke also believes the government is under the control of lizards in human camouflage.

Will we ever know the truth?

Evidence for all these theories is pretty much non-existence. Even the coincidences they derive from are thin and barely hang together. Truth is, I haven’t got the faintest idea who killed Jill Dando. None of us do.

But what intrigues me the most – after all this talk of Serbian hitmen and huge conspiracies to cover up football corruption and paedophile rings – is the evidence of her neighbour Richard Hughes.

The sound she made, right before she was fatally shot, was “like someone greeting a friend”…

Next week: My fifth and final article looking at the world’s biggest conspiracy theory – the Roswell UFO Incident. In the meantime, catch up with Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4

The Death of Edward II – natural causes, suffocation or a red-hot poker up the bum?

Edward II - an ill-fated king

Edward II – an ill-fated king

The death of King Edward II during his imprisonment at Berkeley Castle in 1327 is shrouded in mystery. Nobody knows for certain whether he died of natural causes, was murdered on the orders of his wife, or in fact swapped his clothes with a servant and escaped…

It’s an understatement to say that Edward II had a pretty rough time as king of England. Unsuccessful military campaigns. Uprisings and civil wars. And after years of making enemies all over the country because of his controversial relationship with the unpopular Piers Gaveston, and later the hated Despenser family, he fell out of favour with his own wife – the French king’s sister, Isabella. In 1326, Queen Isabella turned against Edward, gathered an army and kicked him off the throne. As a result, Edward II became the first English monarch to be deposed. Depending on what you believe, it’s possible he then suffered a very gruesome death by having a red-hot poker shoved up his anus – on Isabella’s orders.

She sounds like a woman you wouldn’t want to mess with.

Queen Isabella – the ‘She-Wolf of France’

Isabella had a deep dislike for Edward’s close friend and adviser, the very rich and influential Hugh Despenser the Younger. Some people say he was the real ruler of England because of how much he dominated Edward. She was also embarrassed by Edward’s unsuccessful military campaigns in Scotland and considered him an incompetent king. Finally, because of rising tensions with the French, Edward and Hugh had decided in 1324 to confiscate Isabella’s lands and place her youngest children into the custody of the Despenser family. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

In 1325, Isabella went to France to negotiate a peace treaty with the French king on Edward II’s behalf. After negotiations completed, she decided not to return to England and plotted against Edward instead. She became involved with an exiled lord, Roger Mortimer, and the two of them hatched a plan to remove Edward II and the Despensers from power.

Queen Isabella and her forces

Queen Isabella and her forces

In 1326, Isabella and Mortimer gathered an army and invaded England. Edward was pretty unpopular by this point, largely because people hated the Despensers, and many rose up against Edward in support of Isabella, forcing the king to flee London. Eventually Edward was captured and imprisoned by Isabella’s forces, and she and Mortimer became the de facto rulers of England.

Was Edward murdered with a red-hot poker?

In January 1327, Edward II was forced to abdicate. His young son was crowned Edward III, with Isabella as queen regent. Edward II was moved to the more secure location of Berkeley Castle. What happened after this is still a massive source of debate.

On 23rd September 1327, Isabella and Edward III were informed by messenger that Edward II had died at Berkeley Castle because of a ‘fatal accident’ – which is the information that was given to Parliament. Nobody is clear on the nature of this accident or what is said to have happened. Others say he died from ill-health and depression brought on by his captivity.

But the most popular view is that he was murdered on the orders of Isabella and Mortimer. There is a legend that the two of them plotted to murder him in such a way that they could deny any wrongdoing. Allegedly, they sent a famous order, “Eduardum occidere nolite timere bonum est, which – depending where you place the comma – could be read as “Do not be afraid to kill Edward; it is good”, or “Do not kill Edward; it is good to fear”. The evidence is minimal, but the likelihood that most historians subscribe to is that Isabella and Mortimer did have Edward killed, because of concerns over plots to liberate him.

How they murdered him is also up for debate. Some say he was suffocated or strangled. But a sordid legend has it that a group of men held the king down, pushed a horn into his anus, and then inserted a red-hot poker to burn out all of his internal organs. It was a method of execution that would leave no visible marks on the body. However, most historians now agree that the red-hot poker story was just medieval propaganda – possibly inspired by Edward’s rumoured homosexuality.

It seems we’ll never know how Edward II died…

But maybe Edward didn’t die at Berkeley at all…

There is a minority view that in fact Edward II escaped Berkeley Castle and carried on his life in exile in Europe. This theory comes from the ‘Fieschi Letter’ – an undated letter written by priest Manuele Fieschi to Edward III, a copy of which was first discovered in 1877 in Montpellier. The letter says that when Edward II heard that he was to be murdered at Berkeley Castle, he swapped clothes with a servant and escaped by killing the gatekeeper.

Berkeley Castle - where Edward II was imprisoned and (possibly) murdered

Berkeley Castle – where Edward II was imprisoned and (possibly) murdered

The question is, who did they bury at Gloucester Cathedral if it wasn’t Edward II? Some say that it was either the gatekeeper – and Isabella knew her husband had escaped – or it was the servant, killed by Isabella’s assassins.

The Fieschi Letter goes on to state that Edward fled to Corfe Castle in Dorset, then travelled to Ireland, France and eventually settled in Italy, where he spent the rest of his days as a hermit.

Supporters of the Fieschi Letter point to royal accounts that mention Edward III’s meeting with ‘William the Welshman’ whilst in Germany – a man who claimed to be Edward II. No further details about ‘William the Welshman’ are known. Other documents detail how Edmund, the Earl of Kent, was executed for plotting to liberate Edward II from Corfe Castle – three years after his apparent death.

In addition, evidence that it was actually the king’s body buried at Gloucester Cathedral is a bit shoddy. For the first time, a wooden effigy of the king was carried through the streets instead of his body. Furthermore, the body was embalmed before it was viewed (from a distance) by local dignitaries, which possibly made it unrecognisable.

Do I smell a cover-up? One that maybe even Edward III was in on, or knew about?

It certainly seems quite fanciful that Edward II escaped and survived in the way the letter tells it – and the letter’s motives are doubted by historians. However, the evidence for all accounts of what happened to Edward II is inadequate. We don’t even have a cause of death, just a number of wildly different theories.

So perhaps Edward II was more resourceful than Isabella thought…

Next week: Who killed Jill Dando?

Sources:

Wikipedia: Edward II of England, Isabella of France, Fieschi Letter

Times Higher Education – A red hot poker? It was just a red herring

Susan Higginbotham – Hugh Despenser the Younger

 

LA’s most dangerous hotel and the gruesome case of Elisa Lam

Cecil_Hotel,_L.A

On February 19th 2013, 21-year-old Canadian student Elisa Lam was found dead and decomposing in a water tank at the Cecil Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. Theories as to how she got there range from mental illness to murder to demonic possession…

I’ve heard that Downtown LA has a bit of a bad rep. I suspect the grisly history of the Cecil Hotel on Main Street – which has now been renamed ‘Stay on Main’ and is a budget hotel and unofficial residence for ‘transients’ – is a big reason for that.

Hotel of Horror – suicides, stabbings and serial killers

Since the Cecil Hotel was built in 1924, three people have committed suicide by jumping out of windows. One jumper also killed a passing pedestrian.

In 1964, a woman named Goldie Olsen, known for feeding the pigeons in Pershing Square, was raped, stabbed and strangled in her hotel room. The room was ransacked. Her killer was never found.

Satanist Richard Ramirez, aka the Night Stalker, lived in a top floor room at the Cecil for several weeks in 1985, during which time he committed a vast spree of horrific burglaries, rapes, murders and attempted murders.

Killer-cum-journalist Jack Unterweger was a guest at the Cecil while he was supposedly working for an Austrian magazine, but was in fact up to his old tricks: strangling prostitutes with their bra straps.

And in 2013, Elisa Lam became the hotel’s latest victim.

The bizarre death of Elisa Lam

On January 26th 2013, Elisa Lam checked into the Cecil Hotel. On January 31st, she went missing. While authorities searched for her, guests at the hotel complained about low water pressure in their rooms, discolouration and a funny taste. Then, on February 19th, maintenance workers discovered Lam’s body in one of the water supply tanks on the room, naked and decomposing. No wonder the water tasted funny!

Elisa Lam

Elisa Lam

Her death was ruled to be an ‘accidental drowning’, possibly contributed to by her bipolar disorder. Many people take issue with this ruling…

The elevator video

One of the reasons this case caused such widespread speculation is because of the CCTV footage of Elisa Lam in one of the Cecil’s elevators, released by the LAPD on February 14th 2013. The footage is the last time Lam is seen alive.

In the footage, Lam behaves in an utterly bizarre manner. Looking frightened and as if someone is after her, she steps in and out of the elevator several times, hides in the corner, looks up and down the hallway and waves her arms about erratically. Eventually she steps out and is not seen again. For another minute, the elevator doors are seen opening and closing, apparently by themselves.

Some have theorised that she was having a psychotic episode, imagining that someone was pursuing her, because of her bipolar disorder. Others have theorised that she was under the influence of drugs. Given the Cecil’s dark and sordid past, some have said that her inexplicable actions are because she was possessed by a demon or a ghost. Others believe she was murdered, either by a lone killer or as part of an insidious conspiracy.

See for yourself…

Unanswered questions and shocking coincidences

A long list of questions still surrounds the mysterious death of Elisa Lam…

  1. How did she get onto the hotel’s roof? Doors accessing the roof were locked, and the only way of getting to it without triggering an alarm was to use a staff member’s pass code or key.
  1. How did she get into the water tank? Some have argued that she wouldn’t be able to get into the tank by herself or without a ladder, and wouldn’t have been able to replace the very heavy lid – one of the leading reasons why people argue that she was murdered.
  1. What happened to her phone? It wasn’t found in the water tank or in her room. Was it stolen just prior to her death?
  1. Who has been sporadically updating Elisa’s blog since her death?
  1. Is it merely an astonishing coincidence that at the time of Elisa Lam’s death, the Centre for Disease Control was testing for a new strain of drug-resistant tuberculosis that had broken out across Los Angeles – and the test was called the “LAM ELISA TEST”?
  1. Did some kind of conspiracy lead to Elisa’s death? Suspiciously, the release of the autopsy report was postponed many times, and her cause of death marked “accidental”, then three days later marked “undetermined” – apparently in error. Another big question hangs over the elevator CCTV footage. Disturbingly, the time stamp on the footage jumps by a minute, suggesting that the video has been edited and some of the footage of Elisa – or perhaps even her killer – is being withheld.

What do you think? Is the Cecil Hotel cursed? Are ghosts or demons at work within its walls? Is a much larger, more corporeal conspiracy at work? Or is all this just a series of strange and unfortunate coincidences?

I know one thing. I certainly won’t be booking a room.

Next week: what really happened to King Edward II?

 

Mystery solved? Jack the Ripper and the blood-stained shawl

The identity of notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper has long been one of Britain’s biggest unsolved mysteries. Not anymore. According to Russell Edwards, Jack’s name is Aaron Kosminski.

Between 31st August and 9th November 1888, Jack the Ripper brutally murdered five prostitutes – Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly. Their murders sparked one of the UK’s biggest manhunts, but ‘Jack’ was never found or identified.

Naming-Jack-the-Ripper

Until now. Or at least that’s what Russell Edwards – amateur detective and author of Naming Jack the Ripper – started claiming at the beginning of last month. His claims appeared in multiple newspapers, and in his own detailed article for the Daily Mail.

The shawl that started it all

Basically, Edwards got his hands on a shawl believed to have been taken from the body of Catherine Eddowes after her murder. He enlisted the help of scientist Jari Louhelainen, who found DNA linking the shawl to both Eddowes and Aaron Kosminski. Kosminski was a Polish immigrant and Jack the Ripper suspect, who was locked up in an insane asylum in 1891 due to a masturbation addiction.

Edwards says his work proves that Kosminski is “definitely, categorically and absolutely” the Ripper, and that “only non-believers that want to perpetuate the myth will doubt”.

Well, he sounds pretty sure of himself. But what’s the proof this shawl has anything to do with Eddowes’ murder?

According to Edwards’ Daily Mail article, David Melville-Hayes owned the shawl before he passed it to Scotland Yard’s Crime Museum in 1991. His ancestor, Sergeant Amos Simpson, had asked his superiors if he could take it home from the murder scene and give to his a wife, a dressmaker. His superiors said yes.

What?! That sounds fairly ludicrous for starters. Sergeant Simpson sounds like one seriously disturbed fellow – hardly police officer material – if blood-stained shawls from murder victims are the sorts of gifts he gets for his wife. And the police just let him take this potentially vital piece of evidence? I nearly spat out my tea when I read this.

Edwards also recognises that the shawl was far too expensive to have been owned by poor Ms Eddowes. He theorises that the Ripper brought it with him when he did the deed and left it at the crime scene as a clue.

All sounding rather daft so far.

The proof is in the DNA

Ah, but there’s proof. Jari Louhelainen apparently found evidence of blood ‘spatter’ consistent with slashing, plus what he “believed” to be a kidney cell. And Eddowes was found to be missing a kidney – one of Jack’s ‘trophies’. Louhelainen found a perfect DNA match when testing the blood against that of one of Eddowes’ descendants, ‘proving’ the shawl’s authenticity.

As to Jack himself, there were traces of semen on the shawl. Louhelainen tested this against a living relative of Kosminski’s and Bob’s your uncle. Another perfect match. Kosminski is Jack. Case closed. Goodnight.

But hang on a second…

I’m sorry, but no. That’s the attitude of Hull historian and Ripper expert Mike Covell, who rubbished Edwards’ conclusions a few days later. He said that Amos Simpson, who claimed to have taken the shawl, was never even at the murder scene. He added that no mention of the shawl was made in any of the official reports.

But what about the DNA? Covell argues that any DNA found on the shawl could have easily been contaminated. Lots of people have handled it since David Melville-Hayes gave it to Scotland Yard’s Crime Museum, including several of Catherine Eddowes’ descendents. He also pointed out that while blood and semen were indeed found on the shawl, mitochondrial DNA – which is what Louhelainen based his findings on – is less accurate. It can’t be used to identify individuals, only groups who might share an ancestor or two.

Most importantly of all, other scientists have not yet verified or lent credence to any of these findings.

From the sounds of it, they’re not going to.

Next week: Are there time travellers among us?