Posted on | February 25, 2014 | No Comments
The mad Sculptor is an absolutely fascinating book by author Harold Schechter. Released last week, the book tells the story of a grisly triple murder at one of New York’s most prestigious addresses. I am absolutely mad (pardon the pun) for researching historic newspapers so this book had instant appeal to me. Here’s the dish on this book:
Beekman Place had a curious way of making it into the tabloids in the 1930s: “SKYSCRAPER SLAYER,” “BEAUTY SLAIN IN BATHTUB” read the headlines. On Easter Sunday in 1937, the discovery of a grisly triple homicide at Beekman Place would rock the neighborhood yet again—and enthrall the nation. The young man who committed the murders would come to be known in the annals of American crime as the Mad Sculptor.
Caught up in the Easter Sunday slayings was a bizarre and sensationalistic cast of characters, seemingly cooked up in a tabloid editor’s overheated imagination. The charismatic perpetrator, Roger Irwin, was a brilliant young sculptor who had studied with some of the masters of the era. But with his genius also came a deeply disturbed psyche; Irwin was obsessed with sexual self-mutilation and was frequently overcome by outbursts of violent rage.
Irwin’s primary victim, Veronica Gedeon, was a figure from the world of pulp fantasy—a stunning photographer’s model whose scandalous seminude pinups would titillate the public for weeks after her death. Irwin’s defense attorney, Samuel Leibowitz, was a courtroom celebrity with an unmatched record of acquittals and clients ranging from Al Capone to the Scottsboro Boys. And Dr. Fredric Wertham, psychiatrist and forensic scientist, befriended Irwin years before the murders and had predicted them in a public lecture months before the crime.
Based on extensive research and archival records, The Mad Sculptor recounts the chilling story of the Easter Sunday murders—a case that sparked a nationwide manhunt and endures as one of the most engrossing American crime dramas of the twentieth century.
I asked Harold Schechter a question about how things have changed with the media since the 1930s:
QUESTION: Describe how you view the evolution of media and journalism since the time of the Beekman Place murders.
ANSWER: One word: technology. In the 1930s, the public was forced to gratify its prurient interest with daily newspapers. Now we have 24/7 cable TV coverage and the Internet.
NOTE: if your are lucky enough to be in NYC, Harold will be appearing at The Mysterious Bookshop on February 27.
Posted on | January 29, 2014 | No Comments
My website traffic had a massive surge last week and looking at my stats it is all thanks to the excellent website The Charley Project.
I have long been a fan of this blog, which is named after a famous missing persons case from the 1870s of a 4-year-old American by Charles Brewster Ross (You can read about the case here).
I think the Charley project is the most exhaustive resource on the internet devoted to Missing Persons.
Check it out. It’s fascinating and a very important source of information.
Posted on | January 28, 2014 | No Comments
Things have been busy so far this year. I wrote my first true crime book last year and it was published by the Five Mile Press in January. For a long time I have been reading true crime so it was a very new experience to be writing my own book!
The book is called Murder in Suburbia and it features over 20 cases of murder in Australia’s suburbs and small towns.
You can read an extract here about the shocking case from 1950 of the suburban Melbourne mother who axed her teenage daughter to death while she was in a sleepwalking state.
There’s also an interview with the parents of murdered Melbourne mum jane Thurgood-Dove, who was shot in front of her children in a mistaken identity hit in 1997.
You can also read another extract about the shocking triple murder of three young people in Melbourne in 1992. The killer, Ashley Coulston, is one of the prisoners in Victoria whose file is marked “never to be released”. Find the extract here.
Find out more about the book at emilywebbcrime.com
Posted on | January 7, 2014 | No Comments
The Sydney ‘backpacker murders’ of the 1980 and early 90s stand as perhaps the most infamous and scary chapter in Australia’s criminal history. Numerous books have been written about these serial killings from all angles. Fate by Neil Mercer targets the case from the point of view of the victims’ families. It tells of their first inklings that something may be wrong to their attempts to find their loved ones, and finally their reactions to the murder trial of Ivan Milat.
As a book on the backpacker murders it is probably best read in combination with others that contain more details on Milat’s life and family, for example Sins of the Brother by Mark Whittaker. What Mercer, a veteran Aussie journalist, does in Fate is put a very poignant face on the victims’ families, and their struggle for answers. He uses personal interviews and quotes to help narrate the unfolding horror of the families as they discover what monstrous atrocities their loved ones were forced to endure at the hands of the psychopath who then took their lives. It is moving to read of the search made by Manfred and Anke Neugebauer, parents of Gabor Neugebauer, and Norbert Habschied, Anja Habschied’s brother.
This is not a long book, but it does a decent job of outlining the case, and adding more understanding of the suffering felt by the victims’ families. It is a good introduction to the very convoluted case of the backpacker murders.
Posted on | January 1, 2014 | 1 Comment
When nine year old Samantha Knight was abducted from Bondi Road in 1986, Sydney reacted with a frantic search for any trace of the missing schoolgirl. Tips flooded in to police who pursued many avenues of inquiry, but ultimately failed to find her.
It took 16 years for some sort of justice to be obtained. The case “officially” ended with a plea of manslaughter from known paedophile, Michael Guider. He was allowed to plea to manslaughter despite the fact that he refused to tell the police where her body lay. Samantha, he claimed, was given an overdose of sleeping drug (in preparation of his abusing her). He was sentenced to only 12-17 years.
This is essentially where the story in Forever Nine by Denise Hoffman and John Kidman takes off as co-author and one-time friend of Guider, Denise Hoffman, attempts to get him to reveal where her body is hidden. Working for the police, Hoffman pretends to want to renew their rather fleeting relationship as bush surveyors.
It culminates in her wearing a wire to prison visits with Guider. But he is a remorseless narcissist and in a child-like manner, refuses to play the game. This book is a well-paced narrative of Samantha’s disappearance, although the authors do not seem to have had much access to the family. The authors make a compelling circumstantial case for Guider’s guilt, although the decisive physical link in the evidence (such as DNA) is missing.
The story does not quite hold its momentum when it gets to the tete-a-tete between Guider and Hoffman. It seems a bit perverse that he is getting so much attention (which is what he craves) when it is clear that he will not give up his secrets so long as he can string Hoffman along. This is not a criticism of their attempts, as they have the best intentions of finding Samantha.
The reader can empathise with their frustration and disappointment. Perhaps the most chilling part of the case is that with a conviction for manslaughter, Guider could be out of jail sooner rather than later. This is a very well written and gripping true crime book, that will definitely leave an enduring image of Samantha Knight’s tragic story, as well as the hope that someday she may be returned to her family.
Posted on | December 27, 2013 | No Comments
The Killer Next Door by Lindsay Simpson and Sandra Harvey relates the so-call “Granny Killings” of 1989 to 1990, perpetrated by the late-middle-aged pie salesman, John Wayne Glover. The killings of 6 elderly women occurred in the upper-class suburbs of Sydney’s North Shore, and shocked residents with their brutality and senselessness. I had heard of this famous case from a number of other sources, and thought I have a pretty fair understanding of the case. However I picked up this used copy out of curiosity one day, and within three pages I knew I had found a pure true crime gem.
Glover’s method of killing was to bash his victims over the head with a claw hammer, followed by manual strangulation. The book vividly portrays the public’s fear and confusion as the murders come one after the other with the police seemingly impotent to stop them.
There is an excellent and detailed history of Glover’s childhood and early man-hood, something which I had not come across before. There is sympathy and respect when dealing with the deaths of the elderly women. Readers find themselves incensed that this monster was able to prey upon society’s vulnerable members, and yet there is also a sense of the courage of those who were able to fight back against a bigger, meaner attacker.
Due to its age the book is somewhat outdated in terms of its discussion of the serial killer phenomenon. The quotes from Colin Wilson and Donald Seaman at the beginning of every chapter smacks at hero-worship, and do not really add anything to the discussion. The authors try to get behind what motivated Glover to commit such senseless crimes, but his actions defied the contemporary understanding of serial killers.
For example, right up until the end, the “profilers” had convinced police that they were looking for a very young man who lived at home with his parents. Glover was married with children and approaching retirement age.
This book held my rapt attention till the very end, although I would have liked a bit more detail about the trial. Never the less this is a very high standard of true crime writing and a must read for anyone lucky enough to locate a copy. 5 out of 5.
Editor’s note: John Glover was found dead in his prison cell in 2005, having hanged himself. Police in NSW and Victoria (where Glover once lived) believe he could have been responsible for several unsolved murders of older women.
Posted on | December 16, 2013 | No Comments
PART ONE On January 31st 1988, a cold, windy chill plunged Glenview Illinois, a Chicago suburb, into an icy city with temperatures reaching far below 20′s, when 67-year-old Knut Einarsen received an ominous phone call at his suburban home.
Picking up the receiver, Mr. Einarsen greeted the caller with a cordial “hello”.
“Is Shelia there?” the woman’s voice spoke in a whispered tone into the phone.
“Who’s calling, please?” Mr. Einarsen inquired.
“Ann”, the woman answered gently.
Thinking the young woman was a friend of his lovely daughter Shelia, Einarsen replied, “she’s in Houston Texas.”
“Okay, thank you, the caller said, ending the conversation.
On February 1st, several hundred miles away from Glenview, way down in Texas, Lieutenant Richard Holland with Houston Police Homicide Division called Sergeants Waymon Allen and Doug Bacon into his office.
“Got a dead female at a Townhouse at 2600 Westerland street off Westheimer.”
“It looks like foul play, the woman been shot, Holland advised the sergeants.
“Alright we’re headed out there,” Allen responded.
The evening traffic was pretty heavy as Sgt. Allen navigated the unmarked police car down Memorial Drive until turning onto 610 South passing through the fabulous Galleria area, zigzagging around vehicles until exiting the cruiser onto Westheimer. Arriving at Woodlake Townhouses at approximately 6:40 p.m.– the Sergeants exited the vehicle and headed up to apartment# 1812. TV news media crews were already there to broadcast a “breaking news” story about the woman’s death. HPD (Houston Police Department Officer) James Walker (no relations to author), briefed the Sergeants on the preliminary findings.
“Apartment manager found the victim when she went to the home to discuss with the victim the changing of floor carpet,” Walker informed the homicide investigators.
The victim was officially identified as Shelia Doll, a school teacher from Illinois who’d arrived in Houston on January 29th to live with her husband. Meanwhile Sgt. Bacon canvassed the apartments, knocking on doors in hope of finding someone who may have seen or heard something unusual. CSU officer G.L. Burke retrieved a fired .25 caliber shell and tagged it as evidence. An examination of the woman’s body kneeling on the chair with her face turned sideways showed she’d been shot in the back near her upper-left shoulder.
With no suspect in custody, Allen and Bacon braced themselves for a real whodunit. But when the victim’s husband Paul Doll, an Enron employee, arrived on the scene the investigation focused in on one person. Doll told detectives he’d been married to the victim for four years and that after four months of marriage they separated for 14 months as result of marital conflicts involving his wife’s dalliance with another man. She arrived in Houston from Illinois on January 29th.
Doll said during his separation he met a woman also a school teacher identified as Christine Larson. Doll recalled having a satisfying sexual relationship with Larson but that suddenly she changed, becoming obsessive, and threatened to commit suicide when he broke the news to her that he would reconcile with his wife.
On two occasions, according to Doll, Larson purchased a weapon and threaten to commit suicide by putting a gun to her head if he ended their relationship. Doll relented, and decided he should at least remain as a friend with Larson.
Sgt. Allen took copious notes as Doll revealed more interesting details. “My wife said prior to coming to Houston that a female called her in Illinois and told her that if she moved back to Houston she would be killed.” On January 31st, Doll elaborated, “My in-laws in Illinois said they received a phone call from a female who told them she was a friend of my wife Shelia and wanted to know when she would return to Houston, and when the caller was told Shelia was already in Houston, the female hung up the phone.”
Doll said the last time he spoke with his wife was around 10:45 a.m. when she told him she was waiting for someone to change the locks and carpet at the place where they were staying. When Doll called back at 11:30 a.m., his wife didn’t answer the phone.
Doll admitted he accused Larson of making the calls to his in-laws and that the only way she got the Illinois numbers was when she used the key he previously gave her when they were together, and by having the key this is how she entered his apartment while he was gone. The house key matter explained why Doll had requested apartment manager to change the locks on his residence.
Allen and Bacon received another lead when the apartment’s maintenance worker Carlos Ariaza said shortly before noon that day he saw a woman on the property that he knew by sight as Christine Larson, Paul Doll’s girlfriend. “I thought it was strange that Larson was going to the front of the apartments instead of the rear because most residents entered through the back where parking spaces are.”
Ariaza said the last time he saw Larson was when he was headed to lunch in his car and that he saw Larson turned off on Westheimer onto Jeanetta street. To expedite the investigation, Lieutenant Holland assigned Homicide Sergeant investigators Steve Garza and John Castillo (now deceased) to pay a visit to the home of Christine Larson who lived at 7302 Alabonson street–apartment# 1002. Their routine game plan was to cordially ask the woman to accompany them back to police station where Garza and Castillo would question Miss Larson about the murder of Shelia Doll.
Upon arrival at the suspect’s apartment both officers politely introduced themselves to Christine Larson when she answered the door. Both sergeants explained the urgency to speak with her about what happened to her lover’s wife.
“Shelia Doll was killed today and we need to talk with you about it,” Garza explained.
Larson voluntarily agreed to accompany the murder squad sergeants back to homicide division located downtown Houston at 61 Riesner Street. Arriving at downtown station shortly before 10:p.m., the suspect was escorted to room# 363A. Prior to interviewing Larson, Sgt. Garza issued a miranda warning explaining her right to remain silent if she wished to do so. Garza already knew the dynamics behind the relationship the suspect once had with the murdered woman’s husband Paul Doll, and the fact Larson threatened suicide to blackmail Doll into not breaking off the turbulent affair. With no eyewitness to the crime, no murder weapon, and no physical evidence to put Larson inside the house, Garza needed a confession. Or even if the suspect gave a self-serving incriminating statement this also would suffice to file charges. “I have nothing to hide,” Larson said.
During interview Larson denied killing Shelia Doll but she fondly recalled how she first met Paul Doll back in November 1987. “It was love at first sight,” Larson spoke in a monotone voice. Paul would make remarks inferring that someday we would be married and that he loved me.” She acknowledged Paul being separated from his wife Shelia and that Shelia had returned to Illinois after the separation. Larson said the victim cheated on Paul and the couple split up.
Larson and Paul Doll lived together periodically at Paul Doll’s townhouse during his separation from his wife. Recalling how the relationship between herself and Doll went sour, Larson said she was so despondent over Paul’s intent to break off their relationship to reunite with his wife until she purchased a weapon and threatened to kill herself at the home of Paul Doll’s mother. Paul eventually convinced Larson to put the gun down, asking her to please return the gun back to the store where she purchased it from.
“What kind of gun was it?” Garza asked skeptically.
“It was a small type gun,” Larson replied. “A few weeks later we had another bad argument and I purchased a second gun from a different gun shop,” Larson pointed out.
“I was really going to kill myself this time–and I went through a long period of depression,” she added as if she wanted Garza and Castillo to believe they were her confidant. For a second time, Larson said, her lover Paul Doll coaxed her to put the gun down.
Although Larson’s love affair with Paul cooled off still they continued to spend time together and have sex. Doll would later testify in court that Larson would drive him to the airport so he could catch a flight to Illinois to visit his estranged wife. Larson insisted she had not been nowhere near Shelia Doll when she was murdered. But Garza knew she lied because a witness had already informed Sgt. Waymon Allen that he saw Larson on the property before noon.
Garza played the game to trap Larson in more lies. Larson gave an alibi to prove she was not the killer. “This morning I went to school at Carr Elementary to get everything ready for the kids.”
Claiming stomach cramps forced her to leave early Larson said she returned to her apartment and later had the apartment manager to change her door lock. Next, she said she went to Houston’s Northwest Mall where she walked around, window shopping; then, she went to the home of Paul Doll’s mother to have lunch. Leaving there Larson visited a friend’s business place on Pinemont Street.
From there Larson further said she went to Willowbrook Mall to visit a friend at Zales’s Jewelry, a store where Larson also worked part-time. “I returned to my apartment to wait for a friend named Robert to arrive when you all came,” Larson stated. Garza pressed Larson about the second gun she purchased, asking her pointedly, “What kind of gun it was?” And, “where did she throw it to get rid of it?” Despite remembering specific dates, locations, and exact times she interacted with Paul Doll and other people, yet she feigned ignorance as to when she purchased the second gun, what caliber it was, and where she disposed it.
Sgt. Castillo took over the interview after questioning Paul Doll some more. Castillo said Doll remembered the first gun as a .38 and the second one as a .25. A .25 shell casing was found at the murder scene. Castillo pointed out Larson’s inconsistencies in her statement to Garza. He reminded her that a witness saw her on the property where the homicide took place around noon or shortly before. Larson’s eyes widened in surprise upon hearing she’d been spotted on Doll’s premises when she previously denied that she had not been there. “A witness saw you, he knows you from being there with Mr. Doll,” Castillo said. He also told Larson she’d been seen with a small caliber pistol similar to the one used to kill the woman.
“You need to get your business straight,” Castillo warned Larson.
“We know you first bought a .38 and then you bought a .25 caliber. “If you had an argument or a fight with the woman that caused you to shoot her, you need to tell us.”
Castillo went on to tell the woman that if they proved she first burglarized the house by using a key and then shot the woman, he said, “you could be looking at capital murder,” he warned her. The penalty for capital murder carried automatic life in prison or a death sentence. If a first-degree murder charge was filed against Larson the penalty carried less as five years and up to life in prison. A person with no prior felonies like Larson even qualified for probation under Texas law written at that time.
Castillo’s psychology worked. Christine Larson had another story to tell.
“I haven’t told the whole story. I want to tell the truth now,” Larson spoke tearfully. “After I left work this morning I went home to change my clothes and to have my door locks changed. Then I went over to Paul’s apartment.
“At first I walked around the front door to see if Shelia was watching TV in the front room. But I couldn’t see inside. Then I went around to the back door where the parking area is. I rang the doorbell and then put my finger over the peep hole so she couldn’t see.”
Larson’s story indicated when Shelia Doll opened the door, a wave of fear gripped the targeted victim when she saw this desperate looking woman standing there. Before Shelia closed the door, Larson pushed it open. “You must be Chris,” Larson recalled the woman saying. “And I said,” you must be Shelia.” Larson Continued. “I already had the gun in my hand and I asked her where Paul was, and she said upstairs. I know he wasn’t because I already talked to him at work.”
Larson’s versions of events further indicated that when the woman turned to go back into the apartment a shouting match between them erupted as the two struggled over the gun. As both women pulled on the gun Larson explained, the gun went off. Larson excitedly said she didn’t know if the bullet struck the woman because she ran through the living room, opened the patio door and felled on a chair.
“She was still breathing, I tried to talk to her but she didn’t say anything. I walked over to where she was and I could see all the blood on the chair.”
Next, suspect Larson described her exit strategy. “I locked the door that I came in, then went back out the patio door to make it look like somebody else committed the crime.” Trying to downplay the cold-blooded murder she committed, Larson offered this self-serving version.
“I thought if I had the gun in my hand that I could get her to talk without fighting. I didn’t want her (Shelia) to hurt Paul anymore–like she had the first time she left him. I love Paul.
“I didn’t tell the truth because I was scared; I’ve never done anything like this in my life.”
According to criminal investigative experts most killers usually give police self-serving statements to make their bad act appear not as bad as it seem. Or in many cases if there is a shooting similar like Larson’s case usually the suspect will claim self-defense or the gun accidentally went off. After studying the facts in Larson’s case, J.C. Mosier, a retired former city of Houston-Texas Homicide detective, said.
“Suspect in this case definitely gave a self-serving statement . It’s kind of hard to claim that during the struggle the suspect shot the victim in her back accidentally.”
“Guilty suspects want to make an intentional shooting look like an accident so they don’t get charged with murder,” Mosier said. Johnny Bonds, also a former Houston city homicide detective explained why it benefit an officer for a suspect to give a self-serving statement.
“Anytime(like in the Larson case) that you can get a suspect to talk it is a good thing even if the suspect tells a self-serving lie. In this case the suspect(Larson) admits the shooting; so this saves an officer from having to prove who did it. and the more lies they tell, the more you prove they’re lying.” Bonds continued.
“Best thing a guilty person can do is say nothing but most of them think they can talk their way out of it.” As a retired Lieutenant criminal police investigator with Harris County District Attorney office, Bonds, once the subject of a best-selling book, The Cop Who Wouldn’t Quit, can now be seen working true life cold case murder cases on TNT’s blockbusting reality show Cold Justice.
Obsessive Love And Murder
Following Christine Larson’s first-degree murder charge arrest in Shelia Doll’s death, the lurid details of marathon sex, obsession, undying love, and Larson’s suicidal blackmails against her lover Paul Doll, the dead woman’s husband, all the drama exploded into a media sensation.
Front page news and TV coverage dominated the story prime time. News reporters dubbed the case a true life “Houston’s Fatal Attraction Murder.”Fatal attraction stories like Christine Larson’s involvement with Paul Doll, a married man, swept the nation during the 1980′s following the popular blockbusting movie Fatal Attraction. Released in 1987, actors Michael Douglas and Glenn Close played the star roles that highlighted the extreme danger of marital affairs. Like the characters in the Fatal Attraction movie, Paul Doll and Christine Larson first met at a social club atmosphere.
“It was love at first sight,” Larson lamented to homicide investigators. Fatal attraction stories are a common occurrence among people. It is the oldest form of violence and jealously when a person desire to control another person’s life. Fatal attraction stories are common occurrences among people whose desire to control another person’s life.
According to psychiatrists, killers who murder in this fashion are in fact psychopaths, unable to accept rejection. They usually claim they kill out of an intense love similar to the Shakespeare’s Sonnets. “Rejection is the trigger of toxic and obsessive love,” according to Melanie Canie. Canie is the author of a book Poisoned Love. “People with obsessive love disorder between only the person they fixate on can make them feel happy and fulfilled,” Canie further says.
“The obsessed is trying to hook you into loving them, but their concept of love is control–and you will end up feeling like you are on a scary, twisted ride if you join them, says Mary Jo Rapini, a Texas-based psychiatrist in Houston. “Christine Larson tried everything to hold onto this relationship including threatening suicide.”
When this ploy didn’t work her final weapon was murder. Author Gloria Lee wrote in her spiritual book You Are the Prophet Of Your Life. Psychological assessments of Larson’s actions towards Paul Doll has a large degree of accuracy particularly when he rejected her and telling her he wanted to reunite with his wife. Author Lee further wrote, “the greatest illusion in the world held by women is ‘I can supplant the wife by using sex’.” Still the million dollar question is: why would a woman like Larson persist in a relationship where she is the third party?
Author Lee’s book explains it this way. “It took a woman with low-self esteem with the sense of competition pure and simple. I am going to be the winner.” Psychological assessments of Larson’s actions towards Paul Doll when he rejected her, but still he continually had sex with Christine Larson, although Mr. Doll already told Larson he would reconcile with his wife Shelia.
Efforts to bring capital murder charges against Larson shifted in high gear due to the unclear statement she made indicating how she entered the home. There was also the question of the exact position the victim was in to sustain a gunshot to the back and the fact Paul Doll suspected Larson of having keys to his home.
Lt. Holland assigned homicide sergeants Hub Mayer and A.J. Toepol to search Larson’s home for keys while CSU officer G.L. Burke searched Larson’s Honda vehicle. After searching Larson’s apartment Mayer and Toepol found keys but none matched the door where the victim was murdered nor did Burke’s search of the vehicle yield any clues. Sgt. John Adams (deceased) subpoenaed phone records that belonged to the victim’s parents’ landline service to determine if Larson’s phone records showed she had made the threatening calls to Illinois prior to pulling the trigger.
“If the suspects made the calls it shows intent,” Sgt. Allen said to fellow detectives while discussing the ongoing developments. But to file a capital murder charge they needed to prove Larson first burglarized the apartment. Christine Larson was released on a $10,000,00 bond pending trial for Shelia Doll’s murder.
An anonymous source reported to this author that while Larson awaited trial she accepted Christ as her savior and joined the same church that her parents belonged too. And when a spiritual friend of Larson asked how she felt about taking another human’s life the source says that Larson unleashed a stream of profanities to describe the character of the woman she murdered.
Next Installment: Jury Trial
Posted on | November 24, 2013 | No Comments
I find op shops (second-hand, charity or thrift shops to my overseas readers) a great source for finding true crime books, and often ones that are out of print or hard to find.
I came across Deadlier than the Male by Terry Manners in a local op shop a few weeks back. I snapped it up, of course. It’s a case file book of female killers. Some I’d heard of like Beverley Allitt (the British nurse dubbed “the angel of death”), Canadian killer Karla Homolka and serial killer Aileen Wurnos but there were some chapters of women I’d not known about (and for true crime buffs it’s always good to discover new information).
There’s a chapter on teenage babysitter Christine Falling who was arrested in 1982 and convicted ofmurdering three infants. She’s also suspected of killing two more. It was a horrifying chapter. These babies were left in the care of the disturbed teenager and did not survive. She’s been dubbed the Florida “babysitter from hell”. Falling remains behind bars. (there’s a good article from NY Daily News published in 2012 about Falling and what they dubbed “the casual horror behind the case. Read more here.)
There’s also chapters on Dorothea Puente, the landlady who was convicted in 1989 of killing her elderly tenants and burying them in her backyard. Puente died in prison in 2011 aged 82.
This book was published by Pan Books in 1995. Terry Manners was, at the time, assistant editor of the Daily Express newspaper in London and most recently edited The Times of Malta.
Posted on | November 10, 2013 | No Comments
Some crime news and links from around the web:
Missing in America – There are over 87,000 adults and children listed as missing in the United States and most of these cases receive no media coverage. Read more. (HuffPost Live, November 9, 2013)
Karen Williams cold case - In Australia, South Australian detectives have mad an arrest in the 23-year-old mystery of 16-year-old Karen Michelle Williams’s disappearance and presumed murder. On November u, 2013, police charged 42-year-old Nikola Novakovich with murder. He was the last person to see Karen alive and had been interviewed numerous times over the years. Police are currently searching for Karen’s remains in Coober Pedy, where she was last seen. Read more. (News.com.au, November 8, 2012)
Siberian serial killer Mikhail Popkov - A former policeman known as a ‘perfect husband and father’ led a secret life as serial killer who murdered at least two dozen women in Siberia. Read more. (Dailymail.co.uk, November 7, 2013)
Hunt for French Riviera Serial Killer - A hunt for a serial killer is underway after the skeletal remains of four people, including a skull with ‘Death to paedophiles’ written across it, were found off the French coast. Read more. (Dailymail.co.uk, November 8, 2013)
Young detective turns mass killer - English writer and journalist David Thomas writes the true story of a talented German detective who catches a serial killer in Wartime Berlin, but then goes on to become a Nazi war criminal. The book is called Ostland. Read more. (chichester.co.uk, November 8, 2013)
Posted on | October 24, 2013 | No Comments
On Father’s Day is a devastating and powerful book by Megan Norris that tells the definitive story of one of the worst Australian crimes of recent years.
In 2005, Victorian father Robert Farquharson’s car – with his three little boys in it – veered into an icy dam. The children, Jai, 10, Tyler, 7, and Bailey, 2, all died and the traumatic impact of the tragedy made headlines around Australia. The children’s mother Cindy Gambino (pictured below with the author) was left completely broken by the crime and, at first, believed her ex-husband that it was a tragic accident.
But Farquharson’s crime is the most extreme, and little understood, example of family violence – the murder of children to punish the mother. It took seven years, two trials and three appeal hearings (Robert Farquharson was jailed for a minimum of 33 years) for this story to finally be heard and it contains details never before revealed in the trials or media coverage.
Norris, who worked for many years with Cindy Gambino to tell this story, has written the story with such detail and narrative power that the reader is compelled to continue reading, even though the content is so tragic. There are also the stories of other women whose children have been murdered by their fathers in revenge killings intended to punish them forever.
On Father’s Day is published by The Five Mile Press and available from all good bookstores.
Posted on | October 6, 2013 | No Comments
Dead Run: The Murder of a Lawman and the Greatest Manhunt of the Modern American West is a journey into the modern wild west of America. Author Dan Schultz has written the definitive account of an extraordinary crime and three survivalists fugitives who would not be out of place as outlaws in American frontier times during the 1800s.
I found this book compelling. It’s exhaustively researched and that’s why it took me a while to read. I didn’t want to miss any detail. The backdrop of America’s “west” is fascinating and Schultz’s detailed writing provides social and geographical history as well as the story of the crime – the killing of a policeman in small town Colorado by three “desperados” Jason McVean, Robert Mason and Alan “Monte” Pilon, which resulted in a manhunt across 10,000 square miles of American wilderness.
The story did not end with the murder of Officer Dale Claxton – the mystery of what happened to his killers spanned a decade and I loved the detail about the workings of the various sheriffs offices and state and federal police and army units. The turf wars and failings of government agencies really add to this tale. The fugitives, all interested in survivalist pursuits, evaded even the most up-to-date technology and investigation techniques. The manhunt made international headlines.
This is one of my top true crime reads of 2013.
Dead Run is published by St Martin’s Press.
Posted on | October 1, 2013 | No Comments
Review by A. R. Muir
August 1934, a body was found in a culvert off a country road in Albury, a town on the border of NSW and Victoria. The body was that of a once voluptuous young woman. It was badly burnt and wrapped in a sackcloth. But the attempt at concealment had been unsuccessful, and the woman’s striking features were not erased by the fire. What followed was one of the largest murder investigation in New South Wales to date. The police and an avid media followed every available lead to identify their once beautiful victim. Yet surprisingly they were unable to match her to any missing women.
To aid in identification the NSW coroner took the unprecedented step of preserving the body entirely in a bath of formalin. Thus the mysterious Pyjama Girl (so named because of the oriental-style pyjama’s she wore) lay in state for the next ten years waiting for identification. Remarkably the case was re-opened in 1944 when new evidence and suspicions came to light. The Pyjama Girl’s body was so well preserved in the formalin that, after a liberal application of makeup, she was finally identified by those who once knew her as Linda Agostini. An Italian immigrant and hairdresser, Linda had been living with her husband in Sydney when she went missing in 1934. With these new revelations the police were able to track down her killer and pursue justice. Richard Evans’ book is excellently written, very much from the perspective of contemporary police investigators and the massive media response. The reader is invited to share the unfolding tale of mystery as police undertake a quest to put a name to the Pyjama Girl. It makes for addictive reading. Another advantage of the book is the astounding photographs of the preserved body (tastefully done but somewhat macabre). It would have helped to have some more explanations to go with the pictures to explain their context, or at least references in the text. However a quick search of the internet can quickly uncover extra detail and photographs.
This is a captivating read that is very hard to put down. 4 out of 5
Posted on | September 28, 2013 | No Comments
There’s much written about gangland activity in Melbourne and Sydney. Those with an appetite for reading about more crime from Australia’s other states are in for a good blast of it with Gangland North South & West.
Written by crime duo James Morton and Susanna Lobez, this book features fascinating tales of crime in “the wild west” of Western Australia and the “Top End” of the country. There’s also plenty of illegal goings-on in South Australia (a breeding ground for strange and shocking crimes). There’s contract killing, prostitution, robbery, illegal gambling and the stand-over game.
There are also the tales of the seeming exotic trade in pearls diamonds and gold, which are particularly appealing. One of my favourite chapters is ”Treasures of Diamonds and Gold” that features the story of about the Mickelberg brothers and the 1982 Perth Mint robbery. The brothers were framed for the crime and their convictions were finally overturned in 2004. There’s also a chapter on bikie activity and the organised motor cycle gangs that have ben active in Australia since the 1970s.
If you are like me and love a good crime case file book to get stick into then Gangland North South & West is a great addition to your reading pile.
Morton and Lobez have written several books together including Kings of Sting and Dangerous to Know.
Posted on | September 7, 2013 | 1 Comment
True crime writer Justice Ford has done a great job with this book – One Piece of the Puzzle, which is about “Australia’s most chilling homicide investigations”.
Ford has had access to homicide investigators around Australia for her well-researched book. I loved that she featured some cases that were little known, and the book gives an important voice for the families of the homicide victims.
There’s the still unsolved double murder of two women in Cowra in 1987. Friends Catherine Holmes and Georgina Watmore were axed to death in Ms Holmes’s house after a party. Ford poses the possibility that the killer could be a woman.
Then there’s the baffling double murder of teen hitchhikers Fiona Burns and John Lee whose decomposing bodies were found at a truck stop near the South Australia/Victoria border. Were they the victims of a thrill kill?
Crimes against the very young and the elderly are always particularly horrifying because of their vulnerabilities and Ford also looks at the unrelated murders of two older people in New South Wales. The cases are unsolved but investigators hope that someone will provide them with vital evidence to bring two killers to justice.
Ford has done a great job of fearing a wide selection of cases that will intrigue readers. maybe they have “one piece of the puzzle” to help solve some of the crimes?
Last year The Five Mile Press released Ford’s equally excellent book Missing You about some of Australia’s most baffling unsolved missing persons cases. One Piece of the Puzzle is another winner from Ford.
One Piece of the Puzzle is published by The Five Mile Press
For more information on Justine Ford go to justineford.net
Posted on | August 28, 2013 | No Comments
Review by A.R Muir
“Thomas Quick: The Making of a Serial Killer” is the English translation of Hannes Rastam’s Swedish true crime book “Fallen Thomas Quick [The Case of Thomas Quick]“. It chronicles the author’s own investigation of an 8-time convicted serial killer called Thomas Quick. In 1992 while spending time for armed robbery in a mental asylum, Quick announced to his doctors that he wanted to confess to the sexually motivated killing of an eleven-year-old boy. Then he admitted the killing of another teenage boy, then an Israeli tourist, and a Dutch couple vacationing in Sweden.
But his litany of horror did not stop there. Under the careful guidance of his therapists and the police, Quick continued to remember having committed more than thirty rape-murders in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. Eight of these murders were successfully brought to trial and Quick was sentenced to life in psychiatric confinement. He was thought to be Sweden’s most prolific serial killer.
There was only one problem as far as the journalist Hannes Rastam was concerned: Quick’s involvement in a number of these crimes seemed highly doubtful, even impossible. Throughout his exhaustive investigation, Rastam came to believe Quick has been wrongly convicted of ALL eight crimes. Rastam formed the opinion that Quick had in fact killed NOBODY, and his sentence was the largest miscarriage of justice in Swedish history. His book is a systematic and critical analyses of what went wrong in Quick’s psychiatric care and criminal trial. It contributed in a major part to every single conviction being overturned by the Swedish judicial system in 2012.
As a true crime book, Rastam’s work is above its game. But as a moral warning to the justice system (not just in Sweden) it is a standout triumph. Readers may be reminded of the recent release of the West Memphis Three, an American case that made headlines around the world for the deep questions raised about the justice system. There are a growing number of books on cases of injustice, and false confession, but Rastam’s book shoots straight to the top, and cannot be recommended highly enough.
This is one of the best true crime books of the year, and not to be missed. If readers can get passed the difficult Scandinavian spellings, it is well worth the effort. It goes without saying that readers are likely to find themselves more and more disgusted and outraged at the exploitation of this mentally disturbed patient, and the gleeful spree of opportunism exhibited by therapists, doctors and the police, not to mention Quick’s defence lawyer.
More true crime reviews by A.R. Muir can be read here at shelfari.com
Thomas Quick: The Making of a Serial Killer By: Hannes Rastam, Henning Koch (translator) and Elizabeth Day (introduction). Published in Sweden 2012 (English 2013)
Posted on | August 4, 2013 | No Comments
Review by A. R. Muir
‘Horrific’, ‘disgusting’ and ‘depraved’ can only begin to describe the crimes perpetrated by the subject of Things a Killer Would Know by Paula Doneman.
The murders committed by Leonard John Fraser in the Queensland town of Rockhampton are as bad as they come. As a criminal he ticks just about every box of perversion from necrophilia to bestiality, not to mention vicious rape, torture and remorseless murder. Fraser’s crimes started from when he was a boy, sent to a reform school for theft and threatening behaviour. As an adult, he spent much of his life in prison on various terms for rape and armed robbery. Yet he was granted early release and free to rape and murder at least four vulnerable or mentally challenged victims. One of these was eleven year old schoolgirl, Keyra Steinhardt. Her rape, abduction and murder being all the more tragic as it was witnessed by a couple who failed to immediately alert police.
Fraser’s crimes were committed using his fists, knives and strangulation with clothing. He further sought to hide his victims via burial, even going so far as to remove one victim’s head and bury it separately to hinder identification. He was tried and convicted in 1999 of four murders, although there is strong speculation that he may have killed more women in Queensland and New South Wales.
The book is very well narrated and well paced. The author takes time to reveal new details as the trial progresses so that the reader is induced to keep reading on for the final conclusions. As each crime evolves, it brings a new twist of revulsion and disgust. The only drawback is that there is quite a lot of repetition and retelling of each murder. It is as if the author needs to continually remind readers of what Fraser has done, even though the true horror of his crimes are quickly established during the first half of the book. Never the less, it is an extremely well put together true crime narrative which deals with a despicable predator and his crimes. It leaves the reader only too grateful that justice was achieved, and a serial killer was finally taken off the street.
Highly recommended, although some may find the details of these crimes distressing.
More true crime reviews by A.R. Muir can be read here at shelfari.com
Posted on | July 20, 2013 | 1 Comment
I’ve always been fascinated by relationships that happen between prisoners and people on “the outside”. In particular women who form relationships with men behind bars already. I mean, it’s like the ultimate way to have a relationship without lots of the drudgery that goes with long-term relationships. Or, how do women (or men) stay committed when their spouse goes inside?
Victoria Heywood has written a really interesting account of “love behind bars”. I found myself intrigued by the stories of some of the famous cases that have been in the news and especially the other ones of your average citizens caught up in really strange and horrifying situations.
The chapter I found really fascinating was the story of Perth woman Caitlyn John who has two children – one with a severe learning disability – and a boyfriend on death row in America. Caitlyn has been writing to death row inmates for over a decade and is active on Internet blogs and forums dedicated to the abolition of the death penalty. Her boyfriend Tim was on death row for the murder of a guard during an armed robbery. He is now in jail for life but Caitlyn is trying to prove his innocence. What was telling was Caitlyn telling Heywood that Timothy was “the perfect lover”. “She has her own life and is free to do what she wants…all the while knowing there is a man out there who adores her and constantly dreams of the day they will be together…”
Love Behind Bars is published by The Five Mile Press.
Posted on | July 7, 2013 | No Comments
There was a BBC article this week that shocked me.
There are currently around 1000 unidentified bodies on police files. Some of these bodies date back 50 years.
This is so sad and baffling. How is it that people can go missing and NO ONE tries to find out what happened? I understand that many of these bodies will be people from Europe or other countries but still, how does this happen?
The website UK Missing Persons Bureau gives details of these bodies but despite it being “live” for seven months, there have been no new leads on any of the cases.
Posted on | June 22, 2013 | No Comments
In 1940, the disappearance of a 20-year-old Sydney doctor’s daughter captured the headlines of newspapers around Australia.
Lucy Brown Craig, a happy, reliable and popular young woman, was last seen on Friday evening, April 11 getting off a tram at King’s Cross and walking towards Darlinghurst Rd. She had left her workplace in Macquarie St in the CBD and was assumed to have been meeting someone. The last person to see her an hour later (described in the newspaper as “…the son of one of Svdnev’s best known professional men and who knew Miss Brown Craig well..”) said she was “…with an athletic-looking man of about 22 with a small toothbrush moustache and dressed in a grev suit”.
Miss Brown Craig, who was often referred to in newspapers as a “society girl” was never seen again. Police appeals for this man “in a grey suit” to come forward were unsuccessful. Dr Brown Craig personally offered a reward of 200 pounds (he offered this reward several times over the years) for any information on the whereabouts of his daughter.
A Sydney woman, Ruby Gladys Evelyn, 27, appeared in court on April 27 after she rang Dr Brown Craig and demanded 1000 pounds for the return of his daughter. Evelyn knew nothing of Miss Brown Craig and was trying to menace money from the family.
Her family said it would be out of character for their daughter to disappear to “start a new life” and her father strongly refuted claims she had eloped. Newspapers reported that ”…the whole of her wardrobe, except the light clothes she was wearing, is intact and it is believed that she had only a few shillings in her handbag…”.
There were several alleged sightings of miss Brown Craig, including from a man who said he was certain he saw her, a week after she disappeared, in a car in Northern New South Wales at a petrol station. The witness said the girl “strikingly resembled Miss Brown Craig” and was with a man, around 35, with a thick toothbrush moustache. Another man rang police with a top that he had seen her hiking with a man, aged around 40, at Orbost, Victoria. Cruelly, one called rang police to say that the young woman was dead
The family and police were convinced Miss Brown Craig had met with foul play.
A photo of her was shown at cinemas before movie screenings in the hope it would jog someone’s memory and police around Australia conducted inquiries into the disappearance.
But there was never any solid leads on what happened to Miss Brown Craig.
In 1943, a handkerchief with her name embossed on it was found it a toilet block in Toronto, NSW. For a brief time this renewed hope for the family that their daughter wa sstill alive. However, the mystery was cleared up when it was discovered that Miss Brown Craig’s clothing had been givrn to a woman who had worked for the doctor. This employee had given the clothes to her daughter, who told investigators that she lost the handkerchief. (It seems strange to me that someone would use a handkerchief, let alone clothes from a missing woman, but then it was a different time).
In 1945 it was reported that her disappearance was still unsolved. The last report I could find on the case was in 1953 when she was mentioned as part of an article on a missing Perth man.
In her day, Lucy Brown Craig’s disappearance was probably the highest-profile missing persons case in the country.
If anyone know any more about this case please email email@example.com
Posted on | June 2, 2013 | No Comments
This is another great true crime offering from The Atavist. I am a big fan of The Atavist – non fiction stories by journalists that are longer than typical magazine articles but shorter than books. There’s fascinating “inline content” – audio the author, pictures, timelines, video. It’s the story behind the story and I was so impressed with the experience.
The Honeymoon Murder was a high-profile case and this longform article by Joshua Hammer gives a lot of fascinating detail. Anni Dewani was a Swedish-born Hindu from a wealthy family who married a handsome and extremely wealthy UK-born Shrien Dewani. They had a whirlwind romance that was the stuff of dreams. A Paris proposal, private jet flights and a lavish wedding, the couple were beautiful and seemingly untouchable. On their honeymoon in South Africa Anni and Shrien were kidnapped while on a backroads tour of slums in Cape Town. Anni was found with a single bullet wound to the neck and Shrien was released unharmed.
Playing the grieving husband, Shrien was devastated by his beautiful new wife’s murder but suspicion soon set in and he was the main suspect. It was alleged that Shrien masterminded the murder and to date, three South African men have been jailed for their part in Anni’s death.
Hammer gives a great detailed account of events in this dramatic case. I don’t want to ruin any of the story for readers, even if they know some of the details. Hammer’s account is really authoritative spanning South Africa to England, where Shrien lives.
Wanted in South Africa, extradition proceedings to get Shrien to face charges of murder will resume in July, 2013. The proceedings have been delayed due to Shrien’s alleged poor mental health.
To purchase The Honeymoon Murder for $2.99 go to The Atatvist.keep looking »