September 18, 2017
[crime] What Crime Most Changed the Course of History?
… Various people suggest a varied bunch of crimes … Josh Braun, executive producer, The Keepers: ‘The Manson-family murders were one of the first crimes that became a celebrity spectacle. They also changed people’s day-to-day perception of how safe they were at home: Suddenly the bogeyman was real.’
May 9, 2017
[crime] What Bullets Do to Bodies
… powerful profile of a trauma surgeon in North Philadelphia and what happens to the gunshot victims she treats …
It’s possible for a surgeon to get distracted by the wrong wound. The most dangerous wounds don’t always look the worst. People can get shot in the head and they’re leaking bits of brain from a hole in the skull and that’s not the fatal wound; the fatal wound is from another bullet that ripped through the chest. One patient a few years ago was shot in the face with a shotgun at close range over some money owed. He pulled his coat up over his mangled face and walked to the ER of one of Temple’s sister hospitals, approaching a nurse. She looked at him. He lowered the coat. The nurse thought to herself what you might expect a person to think in such a situation: “Daaaaaamn.” He was stabilized, then transferred to Temple. He lived.
The price of survival is often lasting disability. Some patients, often young guys, wind up carrying around colostomy bags for the rest of their lives because they can’t poop normally anymore. They poop through a “stoma,” a hole in the abdomen. “They’re so angry,” Goldberg said. “They should be angry.” Some are paralyzed by bullets that sever the spinal column. Some lose limbs entirely…
February 28, 2017
[crime] Serial Killers Should Fear This Algorithm
… hunting serial killers with statistics … ‘He spent months trying to develop an algorithm that would identify unsolved cases with enough commonalities to suggest the same murderer. Eventually, he decided to reverse-engineer the algorithm by testing his ideas against one well-known case, that of Gary Ridgway, the so-called Green River Killer, who confessed to killing 48 women over two decades in the Seattle area. Hargrove thought that if he could devise an algorithm that turned up the Green River Killer’s victims, he’d know he was on the right track. “We found a hundred things that didn’t work,” he recalls. Finally, he settled on four characteristics for what’s called a cluster analysis: geography, sex, age group, and method of killing. For gender, he stuck with women, since they make up the vast majority of multiple-murder victims who aren’t connected to gang-related activity. When he used women between the ages of 20 and 50—the cohort most commonly targeted by serial killers—the algorithm lit up like a slot machine’
January 18, 2017
[murder] Solving the crime that changed my life: the murder of British backpacker Peter Falconio
… some true-crime from the Outback of Australia… ‘Then a detective – the one Gwynne had chosen for her acute attention to detail and who had sifted through thousands of Murdoch’s belongings – discovered a small, round, Mary Jane hair tie. “It was the hair tie that was taken from Joanne Lees when she struggled to survive and keep her life. [Murdoch] had it wrapped around his shoulder holster, inside his belongings. I think it was a trophy but no one will ever know.” Months later, when the hair tie was presented as evidence in the trial, it clearly made an impression on Murdoch. “He recoiled and he wouldn’t touch it,” recalls Gwynne. “You could see that he knew that was it. That was the nail in his coffin.”’
December 13, 2016
[crime] JonBenét Ramsey: the brutal child murder that still haunts America
… ‘Parent-blaming is all-too-common these days, and usually the point is to make other parents feel better about their own parenting skills. But in cases such as that of JonBenét, something else is going on. By demonising parents who have suffered a terrible trauma, the rest of us can reassure ourselves that they are different from us: those parents are flawed, even evil, and we are good and therefore our child will never go missing – in Kos, in Praia de Luz, from our house in the middle of the night – like theirs did. The rush to blame JonBenét’s parents can also be partly put down to the public needing to reassure themselves that, contrary to what the Ramseys said, killers don’t break into houses and murder children where they should be most safe. That only happens when the parents themselves are killers. And yet.’
November 22, 2016
[crime] Framed – She was the PTA mom everyone knew. Who would want to harm her?
… an engrossing long-read about a suburban middle-class Mum and Dad’s attempt to destroy another parent at the school their child attended …
“I want you to use that big brain of yours, mouth closed, listen,” Brannon told him. “At some point during this conversation you’re going to have to make a big-boy decision, and that’s gonna be on you.”
In the age of computers and technology and cell phones, Brannon said, “Big Brother’s always watching. We’re absolutely not the smartest guys in the shed, OK? But we can follow the dots from one to the next to the next.”
They knew, he said, that Easter’s phone had been pinging in the middle of the night near Peters’ apartment. And if there was DNA on the drugs in Peters’ car, they would find it.
Brannon said, “I would hope and pray for your sake that there’s a big light going off, big bells going off. Knowing what I just told you, is there anything that you would like to add to your statement to me, whether retracting or adding anything to your statement?”
“I would like to get a lawyer.”
“That’s the big-boy answer.”
October 6, 2016
[savile] Louis Theroux: Looking back on Jimmy Savile
… Louis Theroux reflects on his relationship with Jimmy Savile … ‘With all the victims, there was the slightly uncomfortable moment of soliciting their opinions on my original documentary. It was oddly bracing to feel the force of their unvarnished feedback. “I remember thinking ‘Poor Louis’,” said one. She said she felt I’d been “hoodwinked” by him. Another remarked on how “silly” I seemed, being pushed around by a puffed-up celebrity. It is fair comment. At the time, I’d done my best to be tough with him. I knew he was weird and, with all his mannerisms, rather irritating – I had no interest in making a soft piece about Jimmy the Charity Fundraiser. The dark rumours – of sexual deviance, of being unemotional, of having a morbid interest in corpses – were one of the reasons I’d taken him on as a subject. I wanted to get the goods on Savile. The trouble was, I had no clear sense of what those goods were.’
September 16, 2016
[crime] The Detectives Who Never Forget a Face
… fascinating look at the Metropolitan Police’s Squad of “Super-Recognizer” detectives who scan CCTV and databases matching images to criminals … ‘Porritt sometimes talks about the database using mystical language, like a trophy fisherman musing about the sea. Scrolling through thousands of photos, he squints his eyes, as if looking for a pattern that is hidden just beneath the surface. “I still think in the database there’s a massive series—bigger than Caballero,” he said. “Keyser Söze’s in there.”’
September 2, 2016
[life] Dee Dee Wanted Her Daughter To Be Sick, Gypsy Wanted Her Mom Murdered
… disturbing true-life story of Munchausen by proxy and murder … ‘Because Dee Dee is dead, it’s impossible to diagnose her. She didn’t leave behind a diary or some other documentation of her intentions. She did keep a binder of medical information in which she seemed to be sorting through the different information she’d given to various doctors. And she did fit certain parameters that doctors often cite as red flags for Munchausen syndrome: For example, she had some medical training. The number of doctors she took Gypsy to see over the years, and her propensity for changing locations so there was no clear medical trail, is also common. So are the concerns over sleep apnea, which is one way Munchausen often seems to begin in the various documented cases.’
June 3, 2016
[murder] I know who killed the Black Dahlia: my own father
… a compelling story about a retired cop investigating his father for the murder Elizabeth Short
… ‘Steve says that, for him, the Black Dahlia case is like a loose thread in a sweater: you tug on it gently, thinking you’ve come to the end, and it continues to unravel. There has never been a comfortable end point to conclude his investigation: each piece of evidence leads to another, in turn leading to another crime. All told, Steve believes he’s located a trail that connects his father to dozens of murders, stretching across California. Details from murders in Los Angeles lead Steve to a string of murders in Chicago, which then led him to Manila and the slaying of a 28-year-old woman named Lucila Lalu, whose dismembered body had been found situated oddly like Short’s.’
May 2, 2016
[crime] Criminals Explain How They Justified Their Crimes to Themselves
… ‘These “techniques of neutralisation” form the basis of a concept known as “neutralisation theory”, which was posited by sociologists David Matza and Gresham Sykes in the 1950s. The theory holds that criminals are able to neutralise values that would otherwise prohibit them from carrying out certain acts by using one or up to five methods of justification: “denial of responsibility”, “denial of injury”, “denial of the victim”, “condemnation of the condemners” and “appealing to higher loyalties”.’
March 16, 2016
[crime] Why did two parents murder their adopted child?
… a long, disturbing true-crime story from Spain … ‘Immediately after his arrest, Basterra was put in a police cell next to his wife, separated by a flimsy partition through which they could speak – and be secretly recorded on video. The police amassed hours of tape but at no point in the recorded conversations was there any admission of guilt or any other evidence to use against Basterra and Porto (a court would also later declare the recordings inadmissible). “Look what trouble your overheated imagination has got us into,” was one of several enigmatic phrases used by Porto.’
February 23, 2016
[murder] The murderers next door
… Engrossing true-crime story about a couple who murdered the wife’s parents for money to buy celebrity memorabilia …
The couple admitted manslaughter, but not double murder. They said 63-year-old Patricia had shot William, 85, during a late-night row. In their version of events, Patricia had then turned on Susan, saying she was having an affair with Christopher, taunting and provoking her into turning the gun on her mother. Susan told the police she’d been sexually abused by her father until she was 11, and that her mother had been complicit. The couple said it was a crime of passion and claimed that Susan had acted alone. She told Christopher only a week after the shooting, they said, when they returned to Mansfield from their home in Dagenham, ate fish and chips, watched the Eurovision song contest, and got up at 2am to bury the decomposing bodies.
“They’d had 15 years to prepare a story that would bring them the least amount of time in prison,” DCI Rob Griffin, who led the case against the couple, tells me. It was his job to prove this was a calculated double murder, motivated by greed and deserving a long stretch in jail. But proving anything in a case this historic is a challenge: there were no phone records, no CCTV, no emails for him to trawl through (“The footprints people tend to leave behind nowadays weren’t there for us”). So Griffin turned to what he calls “old-fashioned detective work”: tracing relatives and neighbours from 1998 to try to piece together what had happened.
January 7, 2016
[truecrime] Serial thrillers: why true crime is popular culture’s most wanted
… a look at the rise of True Crime … ‘Even now, true crime magazines tend to be displayed by newsagents closer to porn titles than the Economist. In publishing, a market leader is John Blake Books – a firm whose lists are unlikely to come under scrutiny by judges of the Man Booker prize. Currently touted Blake titles include Doctors Who Kill and The Yorkshire Ripper: The Secret Murders. But an almost universal fascination with the extremities of human behaviour means the loftier parts of the arts also push through the police tape at crime scenes. In the 1930s, the New Yorker, the most literarily pristine of American magazines, began to profile killers of the sort that obsessed pulpier rivals. Next month marks the 50th anniversary of Truman Capote’s book In Cold Blood, which investigated, in a manner that has clearly influenced Serial, a mass killing in Kansas.’
October 12, 2015
[terrorism] Did Ken Dornstein Solve the Lockerbie Bombing?
… The engrossing story of one man’s attempt to resolve who murdered his brother on Pan Am Flight 103
over Lockerbie …
Dornstein ushered me up to the third floor, where two cramped rooms were devoted to Lockerbie. In one room, shelves were lined with books about espionage, aviation, terrorism, and the Middle East. Jumbo binders housed decades of research. In the other room, Dornstein had papered the walls with mug shots of Libyan suspects. Between the two rooms was a large map of Lockerbie, with hundreds of colored pushpins indicating where the bodies had fallen. He showed me a cluster where first-class passengers landed, and another where most economy passengers were found. Like the coroner in a police procedural, Dornstein derives such clinical satisfaction from his work that he can narrate the grisliest findings with cheerful detachment. Motioning at a scattering of pushpins some distance from the rest, he said, “They were the youngest, smallest children. If you look at the physics of it, they were carried by the wind.”
September 9, 2015
[crime] The selling of the Krays: how two mediocre criminals created their own legend
… Duncan Campbell on the Krays …
In May 1968, Ronnie and Reggie Kray were arrested. Their Old Bailey trial the following year was, at 39 days, the longest murder trial in English legal history at that time; the press and public galleries were both packed. The twins denied everything, but the Blind Beggar barmaid, thereafter known as “Mrs X”, gave damning evidence and the renegade members of The Firm did the rest. Ronnie gave a spectacular but crazed performance in the witness box, name-dropping the boxing champions they knew and portraying himself as an innocent East End philanthropist. They were jailed for life and a minimum of 30 years by Mr Justice Melford Stevenson, who told them that “society has earned a rest from your activities”.
There was to be little rest from the twins, who continued to promote their image as England’s No 1 gangsters so diligently. And that remains the great enigma about the Krays: the fame they craved ensured that they would be a target for the police, and yet they staged their crimes where they would be guaranteed an audience; the men they believed were totally loyal were the ones who ensured their downfall. Once jailed, they devoted their considerable energies to their image as gangland stars, always open to visitors from outside.
August 25, 2015
[crime] Denmark Place arson: Why people are still searching for answers 35 years on from one of the biggest mass murders in our history
… London, 1980: 37 people were murdered and then promptly forgotten about … ‘The fire’s causes and consequences partly explain the amnesia, [John] Withington suggests. There were no terrorists nor a cartoonish serial killer. It was the era of Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, and Dennis Nilsen, the Muswell Hill murderer, who worked in a Job Centre yards away when the fire happened, and used to find victims in the area. The Denmark Place murderer was a hateful, stupid criminal with a match. In the harsh world of news, that was less of a story. Thompson was arrested nine days later, while drinking at a club less than 200m from his own crime scene. He was tried at the Old Bailey the following May for just one murder, that of Archibald Campbell, 63. It was simpler that way. The trial clashed with the Ripper’s, drawing most reporters to the next-door court. The following year, Thompson’s life sentence earned a few column inches. When he died of lung cancer on the anniversary of the fire, in 2008, while handcuffed to a hospital bed, nobody noticed that either. Moreover, there was never a public inquiry. The clubs were illegal. There seemed to be few lessons to learn, no institution to blame…’
July 8, 2015
[crime] The Zero-Armed Bandit
… the forgotten story from 1980 of an attempt to blackmail a casino using a large sophisticated bomb …
Contrary to the claims in his extortion letter, John Birges’s machine did not contain any TNT at all. The ambiguous cylinders that the bomb squad saw in their foggy X-ray photographs turned out to be a material of entirely different chemical composition. They were tubes containing a combination of gelatin and nitroglycerin, a product known as dynamite. Just shy of one half of one ton of the stuff.
The sides of Harvey’s Wagon Wheel Casino’s eleven-story tower erupted in billowing geysers of atomized concrete. Distant rubberneckers, some of them already wearing T-shirts with sentiments such as “I got bombed at Tahoe,” whooped and cheered in schadenfreude celebration as meteors of glass, pulverized wood, and miscellaneous building shrapnel arced into the sky. Neighboring buildings shuddered and windows shattered. Pebbles of concrete fell like a light hail, and within minutes bits of papery detritus were flittering from the sky like filthy confetti. Harvey Gross declined to speak with anyone in the press regarding the incident, but his colleagues would later say there were tears in his eyes as he looked upon the bedraggled building.’
June 19, 2015
[property] This is the most incredible property deal in London right now — there’s just one small problem
… a bargain flat in desirable location with a remarkable history! … ‘It even has an awesome private balcony, which is rare in London flats at this price. One prospective buyer remarked to John that the property had “killer views”.’
May 26, 2015
[death] The most insane deaths seen by an NYC medical examiner
… fascinating overview of the career of a Medical Examiner in New York …‘When Judy Melinek was considering where to begin her career as a medical examiner — New York or LA? — she was given great advice. “If you really want to learn forensic pathology, do a rotation in New York City,” her chief resident said. “All kinds of great ways to die there.” Including, but not limited to: plummeting down a manhole, attack by egg-roll machine, miscalculating the tensile strength of cable cord and scaffolding collapse. In Melinek’s first week on the job, the tone became clear. As one novice began describing the case of “a man who was shot by a lady,” Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Charles Seymour Hirsch corrected him. “Shot by a woman,” Hirsch said. “Ladies don’t shoot people.” And so began Dr. Judy Melinek’s education in life and death in New York City…’
May 8, 2015
[tech] Conversation With a Tech Support Scammer
… fascinating transcripts of how a tech support scam happens … ‘“Take a look down here. See where it says processes?” he prompted. “That’s the problem. That’s why you’re getting the message popping-up. You see right here at the bottom?”
“46 processes? So that’s 6 more than normal?” I asked.
“Yes, right. What this means is, your computer is doing 46 different things at the moment,” he explained.’
April 30, 2015
[crime] Anatomy of a Hijack
… The story of an attempt to fraudulently commandeer a phone and bank account … ‘Check the online banking – I can’t get in. So I call the bank and get immediately routed through to the fraud department and go through an unusually large amount of security. They inform me that yes, something strange is happening, and did I by any chance recently make a large transfer out of my retirement savings? Er, NO.’
April 4, 2015
[serial] Dana Chivvis: ‘We were at the centre of this whirlwind and we were just hunkered down’
… Interview with a Producer of the Serial podcast
… ‘There isn’t a whole lot happening right now. Adnan has a hearing, at the June session [of the court of special appeals], which will most likely lead to an appeal, because if he wins then the state will appeal, and if the state wins he will appeal. Deirdre from the Innocence Project is in contact with Sarah about Adnan’s case on and off.’
[via Feeling Listless
March 2, 2015
[crime] The strange case of the ‘time travel’ murder
… a look at the fallibility of DNA in crime investigations … ‘In Germany in 2007, traces of DNA belonging to an unknown female were found at the scene of the murder of a police officer. When run through the German database, identical DNA was found to have been present at the scene of five other murders in Germany and France, along with several burglaries and car thefts. In total, the woman’s DNA was found at 40 separate crime scenes. The German authorities spent two years and thousands of hours searching for the culprit, only to discover that the DNA had in fact been present on the swabs the crime scene investigators had been using to collect their samples. The swabs had been accidentally contaminated by a woman working at the factory that produced them.’
February 9, 2015
[murder] The Chelsea Girl, the Playboy,
the Honest Cop and the Proven Lawyer
… a fascinating true crime story from 1967 about the murder of a young French woman in Swinging London … ‘Her body was discovered on the Tuesday by a Mark Shaw Lawrence, the landlord. She had lived in a bedsitter at 17 Walpole Street since July. She was face down on a divan, naked except for a bra and a pyjama top. Dr Donald Teare, the pathologist, after a post-mortem on Wednesday said that death was due to “suffocation following cerebral haemorrhage as a result of blows to the head”. Claudie Danielle, as she was known, a French girl, was said by a neighbour who didn’t want to be named to have “masses of boy friends”. And “her clothes were so extraordinary. She wore long vests like skirts and sombreros”. The police were visiting clubs and discothèques (then a word just coming into English usage) in Chelsea with photographs of Claudie. A ‘vital clue’ taken away by the police from the bedsit was a bundle of some 200 letters and cards, many from boyfriends. No murder weapon had yet been discovered at the crime scene. A description of a man in ‘a red military tunic’ and ‘mod gear’ and with long blond hair had been given to the police. He had been seen waiting outside Claudie’s room at 3am some two weeks earlier. A description that must have fitted half a million guys in the London autumn of 1967.’
January 15, 2015
[crime] The murder that obsessed Italy
… Engrossing true crime story from Italy about the investigation of the murder of Yara Gambirasio
… ‘The investigation was, by Italian standards, unusually secretive. Locals couldn’t understand why police hunting the murderer of a 13-year-old girl were taking DNA samples of elderly women. Bonicelli – a fan of the fictional detectives Maigret and Montalbano – says that the investigation “was lacking the traditional, human element: the sort of person who goes into a bar in the village … and puts someone at ease so that something slips out.” Locals felt there was something cold about this investigation, with its invasive demands for DNA samples. And it was changing the atmosphere in these small communities. People thought, says Bonicelli, “that the murderer was here, amongst us. So there was a sort of – not panic, but fear.”’
January 7, 2015
[crime] Steve Bell on the Charlie Hebdo Magazine Attack
… ‘Why are the fuckers still laughing at us?’
January 2, 2015
[serial] Jay Speaks Part 3: The Collateral Damage of an Extremely Popular Podcast about Murder
… Jay On life after Serial: ‘What’s so frustrating about this is that there haven’t been any clear fights. It hasn’t been confrontational. It’s been a hundred little things that have happened, like cars parked outside my house for an hour, somebody just stops talking to me at work before I was let go, people taking pictures. It’s the doorbell ringing, and my wife jumping up six feet into the air, because she’s so scared. It makes me feel paranoid. And it also makes me really angry, because the mistakes I’ve made are on me and not on my family. And there’s a part of me that just wants to break away from them and live in the bushes or the Appalachian mountains, so they can be safe.’
December 31, 2014
[crime] Exclusive: Jay, Key Witness from ‘Serial’ Tells His Story for First Time [Part 1
| Part 2
] … ‘From the way he carried himself, at least, it looked like he had never lost anything before. And it was really hard for him to deal with being on the losing end. In that situation, he was the loser. And people were starting to find out he was a loser, ‘Oh, you and Hae aren’t together anymore. She got a new boyfriend?’ And he didn’t know how to deal with that. And the other thing about it, I mean, there looked like there was real hurt and pain. What else could motivate you to choke the life out of someone you cared about? He just couldn’t come to grips with those feelings. However he ended up doing it—whether it was premeditated, an involuntary reaction at that point in time—he just couldn’t come to grips with being a loser and failing. He failed; he lost the girl. I know that he came from a very strict religious background and that he was uneasy with some of the things he was doing. He was having a hard enough time with that itself. There were some big forces going on that didn’t have anything to do with Hae.’
December 27, 2014
[serial] ‘Serial’ Podcast Finale: A Desire for ‘Eureka’ as the Digging Ends
… More thoughts on the conclusion of Serial
… ‘The last episode was a tangled and heartfelt yet frustrating hour of radio in which Ms. Koenig hemmed and hawed and pored back over old evidence and asked, “Did we just spend a year applying excessive scrutiny to a perfectly ordinary case?” The answer to that question, apparently, is no and yes, and yes and no. Unlike the conclusions of Agatha Christie novels, real life can make only murky puddles.’
December 26, 2014
[crime] Death Row Guard Has Always Had Soft Spot For The Innocent Ones
… ‘McFadden acknowledged he has felt a personal and enduring emotional connection to virtually every one of the not-guilty death row inmates he has known, from those assigned shoddy public defenders who failed to secure a plea deal, to those sentenced on the basis of clearly fabricated police evidence and later-recanted testimony, to those who were mentally unfit to stand trial in the first place.’
December 9, 2014
[crime] Serial: The Syed family on their pain and the ‘five million detectives trying to work out if Adnan is a psychopath’
… Jon Ronson meets Adnan Syed’s family … ‘As someone who’s written a book about psychopaths, I’ve had about a million people tweet me to ask if I think Adnan is one. I think it’s totally irresponsible to diagnose someone from afar, whether you’re a clinician or not, and I’m not. But for what it’s worth, nothing in Adnan’s conversations with Sarah rings any bells from the time I attended a course that teaches people how to identify psychopaths in part through the nuances of their language.’
December 6, 2014
[serial] Serial podcast and the genre question: investigative journalism, character study, or legal procedural?
… a look at why Serial can’t settle down on one particular genre … ‘I think there’s a deeper meaning to the way Serial has moved from a project that requires answers and resolutions to one that doesn’t. Maybe the uncertainty is even a small rebuke to us overeager fans, as if the powerlessness in not knowing might bend our minds back to one of the only things we know for sure: that a young woman, Hae Min Lee, was taken from her friends and family forever.’
December 3, 2014
[serial] Charts for People Obsessed with Serial
… useful info-graphics for people obssesed with the Serial podcast
November 5, 2014
[crime] My Grandma the Poisoner
… must-read, car crash story – what if Grandma was slowly poisoning your family? …
I can’t pin down exactly what she did with what ingredients. I can’t even be sure that she really did the things I think she did. All I have, really, are pieces of circumstantial evidence and hunches that have coalesced over the years. In my narrative of suspicions, she preferred to use vitamin A (which can cause sleepiness, blurred vision, and nausea, among other things), then she used laxatives, and then, as she got older and lazier, she moved on to prescription drugs.
Grandma never cooked the same thing twice, and her creations were greasy beyond belief and usually really weird. For example: chicken baked with apricots and canned tomatoes, or mixed-up ground meats with prunes, or pickled things. She was infamous at the local grocery store. They saved the shark livers for her.
September 9, 2014
[crime] Police vow to stop Jack the Ripper before he kills again
… ‘The investigation has so far interrogated 180,000 suspects, 140,000 of them black, 20,000 Polish, two Frenchman and the Duke of Clarence.’
July 10, 2014
[savile] David Hare on Jimmy Savile: biography of the man who ‘groomed a nation’
… ‘In his own words: “I am a man what knows everything but says nothing.” As he moved to consolidate his position and to work for the knighthood that he believed would make him untouchable, he took to raising vast sums of money for charity, most especially for a spinal injuries unit at Stoke Mandeville. His first question on arriving in any town was to ask where the hospital was. This was not just because a hospital offered sexual pickings and a captive audience for his ceaseless self-glorying monologues. Nor was it wholly because he needed the immunity that came from apparent respectability. Most important of all, he believed that the day would come when he would have to offer his good works as some mitigation against a final reckoning.’
July 7, 2014
[crime] Pablo Escobar’s hippos: A growing problem
… a strange legacy of the the late Colombian drug lord … ‘[Carlos] Valderrama, whose job until recently included watching over the hippos in the Magdalena, has seen animals up to 250km (155 miles) away from Hacienda Napoles. Fishermen are terrified of the three-tonne herbivores, he says. At night, the animals roam the countryside, wandering into ranches, eating crops and occasionally crushing small cows.’
July 5, 2014
[people] Rolf Harris, Savile and Clifford all pulled the wool over my eyes
… Simon Hattenstone reflects on his interviews with three celebrity sex offenders…
I have never felt so strongly the presence of two contrasting characters as when I interviewed Harris. For much of the interview he performed, just as he did in court – he sang, he laughed in that exaggerated way, he whispered in that exaggerated way, he drew me a miniature flick cartoon book. Then, when he wasn’t performing, he was miserable as sin.
Whereas Clifford and Savile never appeared to question their essential goodness as men and altruists, Harris hated himself. He talked about what a useless father he’d been – selfish, paying more attention to strangers than to his wife and daughter, chasing his own dreams and desires, ignoring those of his family. He had recently written an autobiography and it had forced him to reassess his life. “You start writing it by thinking what a great guy I am. I’ve done this, that and the other. Then you suddenly think it’s all been inward focussing, only me, me, me, me, me, me, me, and people who are really close …” I never began to suspect why he was so tortured. At the time he came across as a man with humility, in touch with his flaws. But in retrospect, I think even here he was indulging himself – only this time, it was his guilt rather than his libido
June 23, 2014
[crime] Sleazy, bloody and surprisingly smart: In defense of true crime
… an appreciation of true crime books …
The very thing that makes true crime compelling — this really happened — also makes it distasteful: the use of human agony for the purposes of entertainment. Of course, what is the novel if not a voyeuristic enterprise, an attempt to glimpse inside the minds and hearts of other people? But with fiction, no actual people are exploited in the making.
I love crime fiction, too, but lately I’ve come to appreciate true crime more, specifically for its lack of certain features that crime fiction nearly always supplies: solutions, explanations, answers. Even if the culprit isn’t always caught and brought to justice in a detective novel, we expect to find out whodunit, and that expectation had better be satisfied.
May 12, 2014
[crime] My Roommate, The Diamond Thief
… fabulous true-crime story about a man realising his flatmate has a big secret …
I thought about the break-in, his absences, the dead sister, the fingerprinting . . . but what did it all add up to? Was he a victim of circumstance—or a serial killer? Was I his next target? I became obsessed with getting answers. Then I searched the most obvious place of all: Google. I typed in the name “Dino Smith,” and a couple of clicks later, there it was. His mug shot, on the America’s Most Wanted Website. He was a suspect in the biggest jewel heist in San Francisco history. I gaped at the screen in disbelief, then ran in circles, howling obscenities: “Fuck fuck fucking shit fuck fucker! Holy FUCK!”
May 3, 2014
[yewtree] Max Clifford: the rise and fall of the UK’s king of spin
… Simon Hatterstone on Max Clifford’s downfall … ‘The trial ranged from Greek tragedy to Carry On farce. At times, it felt too strange to be true – or, as the prosecution argued, too strange not to be true. Max’s Angels, as Clifford’s all-female office team are known, attended on a shift basis, one at a time, sitting loyally in the public gallery as their boss was labelled an exhibitionist and an abuser. They were joined by a handful of civilians (largely retired, portly men), there on a regular basis to enjoy the spectacle. Occasionally, eccentrics walked into court: one man took umbrage when asked by the clerk to stop filming; a drunk woman sidled up to me and whispered that she had a story to sell. The air fizzed with schadenfreude.’
April 1, 2014
[conspiracy] Confessions of a Non–Serial Killer
… what it’s like to be part of a conspircacy theory and incorrectly identified as as serial killer… ‘ As I understand it, Penn first decided I was the culprit after analyzing the Zodiac’s messages to the San Francisco Chronicle and determining that the murderer was an artist with the initials HOH, whose crimes formed, on a map, some sort of graphic having to do with a radian (the angle formed by laying a circle’s radius along its circumference, about 57 degrees) and Mt. Diablo, a Bay Area landmark. There is also something about water, whose chemical formula is sometimes written HOH, and my initials (my middle name, which I rarely use even as an initial, is Henry).’
March 24, 2014
[crime] What the Kitty Genovese Story Really Means
… turns out most of what I knew about the murder of Kitty Genovese
is wrong … ‘The Times story was inaccurate in a number of significant ways. There were two attacks, not three. Only a handful of people saw the first clearly and only one saw the second, because it took place indoors, within the vestibule. The reason there were two attacks was that Robert Mozer, far from being a “silent witness,” yelled at Moseley when he heard Genovese’s screams and drove him away. Two people called the police. When the ambulance arrived at the scene—precisely because neighbors had called for help—Genovese, still alive, lay in the arms of a neighbor named Sophia Farrar, who had courageously left her apartment to go to the crime scene, even though she had no way of knowing that the murderer had fled.’
February 18, 2014
[crime] Death of a Playmate
… a long-read on the murder of Dorothy Stratten
… ‘The irony that Hefner does not perceive or at least fails to acknowledge is that Stratten was destroyed not by random particulars, but by a germ breeding within the ethic. One of the tacit tenets of Playboy philosophy—that women can be possessed—had found a fervent adherent in Paul Snider. He had bought the dream without qualification, and he thought of himself as perhaps one of Playboy’s most honest apostles. He acted out of dark fantasies never intended to be realized.’
August 8, 2013
[history] The Great Train Robbery
… Diamond Geezer visits the site of the Great Train Robbery.
June 18, 2013
[crime] Russian Mafia Tombstones
… Live Fast and leave a gravestone to be puzzled over by archaeologists in a 1000 years time … ‘These photos were taken in the cemetery of Dnepropetrovsk, in the Ukraine, a place much like the mafia-infested Yekaterinburg, in Mother Russia. Although the two cities are 2,000 km apart, mafia fashion is very much the same. During the Russian Mafia Wars of the ’90s bosses started commissioning these lavish tombstones for them and their loyal subjects.’
May 8, 2013
[crime] How a Mysterious Beaumont, Texas, Murder Was Solved
… fascinating true crime story from Mark Bowden – a real Sherlock Holmes-esque locked room murder mystery …
The circumstances of Greg Fleniken’s death, as reported, were unremarkable. On the table before him was a 55-year-old Caucasian male who appeared to be in decent shape. After methodical inspection, the only marks Brown found on the body were a one-inch abrasion on his left cheek, where his face had hit the rug, and, curiously, a half-inch laceration of his scrotum. This was interesting. The sack itself was swollen and discolored, and around the wound was a small amount of edema fluid. The bruising had spread up through the groin area and across the right hip. Something had hit him hard.
The story his body told grew more intriguing. When Brown opened the front of the torso he discovered a surprising amount of blood and extensive internal damage. A certain amount of partly digested food had been torn from his intestines. The doctor found small lacerations there, and on the stomach and liver, as well as two broken ribs and a hole in the right atrium of his heart.
The condition of his insides reflected severe trauma: Fleniken had been beaten to death, or crushed. Brown concluded that the wound to his genitals likely had been caused by a hard kick. He had also taken a blow to the chest so severe it had caused lethal damage. He would have bled out in less than 30 seconds.
On the official form, next to “Manner of Death,” Brown wrote, “Homicide.”
February 1, 2013
[guns] The Onion: AR-15 Assault Rifle Beginning To Worry It May Never Get To Kill Innocent Person
The Colt-manufactured assault rifle confirmed that, given the administration’s intention to advance gun control measures designed to curb the nation’s ready access to deadly firearms such as itself, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that the weapon will ever have the opportunity to act on its long-held desire to brutally execute even a single innocent person.
“Ever since I came off the assembly line, I’ve dreamed of being used to annihilate dozens of frantic people in a deadly rampage; it’s what I was made to do,” the semiautomatic rifle said from its display stand at Richmond-area gun retailer Pete’s Munitions. “But if the government clamps down on sales of guns like me, then I can pretty much kiss that dream goodbye. And, I have to say, the idea of that happening is massively disappointing for me.”