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List of unsolved deaths

List of unsolved deaths

This list of unsolved deaths includes notable cases where victims have died under unknown circumstances.

Unsolved murders

Unsolved serial killer murders

Unsolved deaths

Before 1900

  • Zoroaster (77), also known as Zarathustra Zaraθuštra, Zarathushtra Spitama or Ashu Zarathushtra was an ancient Iranian-speaking spiritual leader who founded what is now known as Zoroastrianism who lived during 1500 BC – 1000 BC, and was said to have been able to perform miracles.[1] There are different ideas to how he died[2] one being stated by later Pahlavi sources like Shahnameh, claim that an obscure conflict with Tuiryas people led to his death, murdered by a karapan (a priest of the old religion) named Brādrēs,[3] yet his exact death date and death cause remain uncertain.

  • Cleopatra (39), the last ruler of Ptolemaic Egypt, died on either 10 or 12 August 30 BC in Alexandria. According to popular belief, Cleopatra committed suicide by allowing an asp (Egyptian cobra) to bite her. According to Greek and Roman historians, Cleopatra poisoned herself using either a toxic ointment or sharp implement such as a hairpin.[4] Primary source accounts are derived mainly from the works of the ancient Roman historians Strabo, Plutarch, and Cassius Dio. Modern scholars debate the validity of ancient reports involving snakebites as the cause of death and whether she was murdered. Some academics hypothesize that her Roman political rival Octavian forced her to commit suicide in the manner of her choosing. The location of Cleopatra's tomb is unknown.

  • The Younger Lady, who had lived during the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt is the informal name given to a mummy whose death cause is unknown who was discovered in the Egyptian Valley of the Kings, in tomb KV35 by archaeologist Victor Loret in 1898.[5] Her identity remains unknown as well.[6]

  • A mummified man found high in the Alps at the Austrian-Italian border in 1991, later named Ötzi, is believed to have died in the 31st–32nd centuries B.C.[7] For ten years after the discovery, his death was attributed to hypothermia; however, later X-rays found an arrowhead lodged in his shoulder, matching a small tear on his coat. The wound would likely have been fatal even today, but the body shows evidence of other blunt force trauma, including a blow to the head which most likely killed him. The blood of four other individuals was also found on his effects. Theories of his death now include murder, battle, or a mercy killing when his injuries proved untreatable. It has also been suggested that his body was moved there after his death, or after the injuries.

  • Alexander the Great (32), died in 323 B.C. after a short illness.[8] Exactly what the illness was is a subject of debate; some historians believe there is a possibility he was poisoned.

  • Orgetorix, 58 BC, who was a wealthy aristocrat among the Helvetii, a Celtic-speaking people residing in what is now Switzerland during the consulship of Julius Caesar of the Roman Republic was trying to seize Gaul, and for this was put on trial.[9] After this his death cause is disputed.

  • Apollonius of Tyana (100), 100 AD, a Greek Neopythagorean philosopher from the town of Tyana in the Roman province of Cappadocia in Anatolia.[10] It was said that he was able to disappear and immediately reappear in another place.[11] The circumstances of his death remain a mystery.[12]

  • King William II of England (43–44), 1100, was killed by an arrow while hunting; it may not have been an accident.[13]

  • Margaret Hanmer (49–50), 1420, was the wife of Owain Glyndŵr[14] is said to have died, yet her death was never recorded and her body was never found.

  • Princes in the Tower used to refer to Edward V, King of England and Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York who disappeared in the summer of 1483.[15] In 1674, workmen at the Tower dug up a wooden box containing two small human skeletons. The bones were found in a box under the staircase in the Tower of London. The bones were widely accepted at the time as those of the princes, but this has not been proven and is far from certain.[16] King Charles II had the bones buried in Westminster Abbey, where they remain.

  • Amy Dudley (28), 1560, was the first wife of Lord Robert Dudley, favourite of Elizabeth I of England. She is primarily known for her death by falling down a flight of stairs, the circumstances of which have often been regarded as suspicious.[17]

  • Laurens de Graaf (51), was last known to be near Louisiana on 24 May 1704 where he was to help set up a French colony near present-day Biloxi, Mississippi. Some sources claim he died there, while others claim he died at different locations in Alabama.[18] His cause of death is unknown.

  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (35), composer, died on 5 December 1791. The circumstances of his death have attracted much research and speculation as it remains unclear whether he died from disease or poisoning. There have also been outlandish conspiracy theories.[19]

  • The Female Stranger (23) refers to an unnamed individual who died in 1816 and was elevated to national intrigue by the mysterious headstone and romanticized tale.[20] Accounts of the stranger increase in oddity over time and help to incite further speculation as to the identity of the person buried in the grave. The reported location of the woman's death, Room 8 at Gadsby's Tavern, is also a tourist destination, and supposedly her ghostly visage can be seen standing at the window.

  • A boat with three skeletons of sailors was discovered that washed up on Ducie Island.[21][22] during the 1820s–1830s, who are thought to be Obed Hendricks, William Bond and Joseph West[23] from the whaler Essex. Although it was suspected to be Hendricks' missing boat, and the remains those of Hendricks, Bond, and West, the remains have never been positively identified.[24]

  • Paul Johann Anselm Ritter von Feuerbach (57), German legal scholar, died on 29 May 1833. The circumstances remain unclear - his family as well as he himself shortly before his death believed that he had been poisoned due to his protection of and research work on Kaspar Hauser, who himself died the same year under suspicious circumstances (see below).[25]

  • The events that led to the death of German youth Kaspar Hauser (21), remain a mystery, just like many other points regarding his life and identity. On 14 December 1833, he came home with a deep stab wound in his chest of which he died three days later. While he had claimed to have been attacked, the court of enquiry doubted this due to inconsistencies in his claims and speculated that he wounded himself in order to seek attention and revive the fading public interest in him, a theory that is also supported by some historians today.

  • Thomas Simpson (31), was a Scottish Arctic explorer, Hudson's Bay Company agent and cousin of Company Governor Sir George Simpson. His violent death in what is now the state of Minnesota allegedly by suicide after gunning down two traveling companions in the wilderness on 6 June 1840 has long been a subject of controversy and has never been solved.[26]

  • Edgar Allan Poe (40), American writer, editor, and literary critic, died on 7 October 1849, under circumstances that remained mysterious. The circumstances leading up to it are uncertain and the cause of death is disputed. On 3 October 1849 he was found delirious in Baltimore, Maryland, "in great distress, and ... in need of immediate assistance", according to the man who found him, Joseph W. Walker.[27] He was taken to the Washington College Hospital, where he died days later.

  • Zachary Taylor (65), was the 12th president of the United States, serving from March 1849 until his death in July 1850. Almost immediately after his death, rumors began to circulate that Taylor was poisoned by pro-slavery Southerners, and similar theories persisted into the 21st century.[28][29] In 1978, Hamilton Smith based his assassination theory on the timing of drugs, the lack of confirmed cholera outbreaks, and other material.[30] In the late 1980s, Clara Rising, a former professor at University of Florida, persuaded Taylor's closest living relative to agree to an exhumation so that his remains could be tested.[31] His death cause remains unknown.

  • Solomon Northup (48–49), American author who during the summer of 1857, Northup was in Canada for a series of lectures. It was widely reported that Northup was in Streetsville, Ontario, but that a hostile Canadian crowd prevented him from speaking.[32] There is no contemporaneous documentation of his whereabouts after that time.[33] The location and circumstances of his death are unknown.[34]

  • Zeng Guofan (60), a Chinese statesman, military general, and Confucian scholar of the late Qing dynasty. He is best known for raising and organizing the Xiang Army to aid the Qing military in suppressing the Taiping Rebellion and restoring the stability of the Qing Empire. Along with other prominent figures such as Zuo Zongtang and Li Hongzhang of his time, Zeng set the scene for the Tongzhi Restoration, an attempt to arrest the decline of the Qing dynasty,[35] who died in 1872 of mysterious reasons.

  • L'Inconnue de la Seine was the name given to an unidentified young woman who according to an often-repeated story, was pulled out of the River Seine at the Quai du Louvre in Paris around the late 1880s.[36] Since the body showed no signs of violence, suicide was suspected.[37]

  • Colorado rancher Gottlieb Fluhmann (55), was last seen alive in 1892. His disappearance was not resolved until his bones were found in a secluded Park County cave in 1944; the cause of his death could not be determined.[38]


  • Sursinhji Takhtasinhji Gohil (26), popularly known by his pen name, Kalapi was a Gujarati poet and the Thakor (prince) of Lathi state in Gujarat who died on 9 June 1900. He is mostly known for his poems depicting his own pathos. It is believed that Kalapi's love for Shobhana became a source of conflict with Rajba-Ramaba and the reason for his subsequent death due to poisoning by her.[39][40]

  • German inventor Rudolf Diesel (55), disappeared in the English Channel in 1913, and was found dead at sea ten days later, his death cause is debated.[41]

  • Silent film actress Virginia Rappe (26), was found to have died of peritonitis due to a ruptured bladder following her death on 9 September 1921. While this could have been the result of some of her ongoing health problems, such as cystitis, or complications from a recent abortion (illegal at the time and thus very dangerous), Maude Delmont, an acquaintance, told San Francisco police that star film comedian Fatty Arbuckle had sexually assaulted Rappe during a Labor Day party in his suite at the St. Francis Hotel, another possible cause of the ruptured bladder. Arbuckle was charged with rape and involuntary manslaughter, but was acquitted.[42]

  • George Mallory (37), was an English mountaineer who took part in the first three British expeditions to Mount Everest who disappeared on 8 June 1924.[43] Mallory's ultimate fate was unknown for 75 years, until his body was discovered on 1 May 1999 by an expedition that had set out to search for the climbers' remains. His death cause is unknown.


  • Rudolf Steiner (64), Austrian esotericist who developed anthroposophy and Waldorf education, died from illness on 30 March 1925, but the nature of the illness was never confirmed and remains controversial, with theories suggesting cancer or poisoning as the most probable causes.[44]

  • Ottavio Bottecchia (32), 1927, Italian cyclist, was found by the side of a road, covered with bruises and with a serious skull fracture. His undamaged bicycle was discovered propped against a nearby tree. Bottecchia was taken to a hospital but died soon afterwards. An official inquiry concluded accidental death but many suspected that he had run afoul of the powerful and growing fascist movement in Italy at the time.[45]

  • Cuban rumba dancer José Rosario Oviedo (42), known as Malanga, died in 1927. The exact circumstances under which he died have never been known for certain.[46] One common account has it that he was murdered after a dance contest through broken glass hidden in his food, but no death certificate was ever filed and the location of his grave is unknown.

  • Starr Faithfull (25), 1931, a Greenwich Village flapper, was found drowned on the beach at Long Beach, Nassau County, New York on 8 June. Although Faithfull had left a suicide note, her family contended that she was murdered by wealthy politician Andrew James Peters, former Mayor of Boston, who had allegedly sexually abused Faithfull for years beginning when she was 11 years old and paid the Faithfulls to keep silent about it. Despite a lengthy investigation, it was never determined whether Faithfull's death was homicide, suicide, or accident.[47]

  • Shedrick Thompson (39), was an African-American man from Fauquier County, Virginia, who was accused of crimes against his white employers in 1932. He was later found dead, hanging from a tree. Upon discovery, his body was mutilated and burned. While an official verdict declared it a suicide, others maintained that he was lynched.[48]

  • The body of Princeton University undergraduate Jay Ferdinand Towner III (23), was found on campus shortly after an 11 November 1933, football game. He had suffered broken wrists and severe internal injuries. His death was variously attributed to a fall suffered in the stands during the game or a car accident amid conflicting accounts of his whereabouts prior to his death; its exact cause has never been determined.

  • Early blues guitarist Robert Johnson (27), died on 16 August 1938, near Greenwood, Mississippi. The cause was not officially recorded. He was reportedly in extreme pain and suffering from convulsions; this has led to theories he had been poisoned with strychnine by a jealous husband; however, the alleged poisoning is said to have taken place several days earlier and most strychnine deaths take place within hours of ingestion. Another report claims he died of syphilis or pneumonia. The uncertain location of his gravesite has made it impossible to exhume his body for further investigation.

  • The Unidentified body on Christmas Island is a body who was found on a life raft in the Indian Ocean, off that island, on 6 February 1942. He is widely believed to originate from the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) cruiser HMAS Sydney,[49] which sank off Western Australia in November 1941, after a mutually destructive battle with the German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran.

  • Jeanette Loff (35), was an American actress, musician, and singer who came to prominence for her appearances in several Pathé Exchange and Universal Pictures films in the 1920s who died on 4 August 1942 from ammonia poisoning in Los Angeles. Though law enforcement was unable to determine whether her death was an accident or a suicide, Loff's family maintained that she had been murdered.[50][51] The real cause behind her death remains unknown.

  • Władysław Sikorski (62), prime minister of the Polish Government in exile, was among 16 people killed on 4 July 1943 when their plane crashed into the sea shortly after taking off from a British base in Gibraltar. The plane had not managed to gain sufficient altitude due to its elevators being prevented from working properly; British investigators found the cause was most likely an accident while their Polish counterparts called it undetermined.[52] The bodies of Sikorski's daughter, chief of staff and other key aides purportedly on the plane were never found,[53] and the plane's only survivor, the pilot, had uncharacteristically worn his life preserver in the cockpit.[54] Sabotage and a possible assassination have been suspected, with the Nazis, Soviets, British or even rival factions in the Polish government in exile theorized to have been involved. Poland reopened the case in 2008; an exhumation of Sikorski's body found his injuries consistent with death from an air crash, ruling out some theories that he had been killed before being put on the plane, but the investigators still could not rule out the possibility of sabotage.[55] British files on the case will remain sealed until 2050.[56]

  • Emil Hácha (72), a Czech lawyer, the third President of Czechoslovakia from 1938 to 1939, who died in prison on 27 June 1945[57] under mysterious circumstances, and his death cause remains unknown.

  • King Ananda Mahidol of Thailand, died of gunshot wounds; suicide, accident or assassination on 9 June 1946.

  • The Body in the cylinder, refers to a male decedent discovered within a partially sealed steel cylinder on a derelict WWII bomb site in Liverpool, England. The discovery was made on 13 July 1945 and it is believed that the body had lain undiscovered for 60 years. Inquiries named a strong (but unconfirmed) candidate for the identity of the decedent; however, the cause of death and the reason for their presence in the cylinder remain a mystery.[58]

  • The Trow Ghyll skeleton, discovered in a cave in rural north Yorkshire, England in 1947, remains unidentified. The death probably occurred in 1941; the fact that the body was discovered with a glass bottle of cyanide has led to speculation that it was someone connected with espionage.

  • Jan Masaryk (61), 1948, son of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk; Czech diplomat, politician and Foreign Minister of Czechoslovakia, was found dead in the courtyard of the Foreign Ministry below his bathroom window. The initial investigation concluded that he committed suicide by jumping out of the window, although many are convinced that he was pushed.

  • Sadanori Shimoyama, 1948, first director of Japanese National Railways, was last seen leaving his official car to go into a department store on his way to work the morning of 5 July of that year. Others reported seeing him at various train stations, and walking along one line, that afternoon. His dismembered body was found at noon the next day on the Jōban Line.[59] It had indisputably gotten that way as a result of being struck by a train, but the autopsy suggested he had died before being struck. That conclusion has been disputed, and whether his death was a suicide or murder remains undetermined.


  • In 1951 human bones were found and were thought to be the remains of Percy Fawcett (57), who had disappeared on 29 May 1925 in Mato Grosso, Brazil,[60] This was proven to be untrue and they remain unidentified.

  • Joseph Stalin (74), the second leader of the Soviet Union, died on 5 March 1953 at the Kuntsevo Dacha after suffering a stroke. An autopsy revealed that he had died of a cerebral haemorrhage and that he also suffered from severe damage to his cerebral arteries due to atherosclerosis. It is possible that Stalin was murdered.[61] Poisoning with warfarin has been suggested.[62] Lavrentiy Beria has been suspected of murder, although no firm evidence has ever appeared.[63]

  • Indian politician Syama Prasad Mukherjee (52), died in a prison hospital 23 June 1953 one and a half months after his arrest for attempting to enter Jammu and Kashmir without a permit. The exact cause of death has never been disclosed; Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, whose government Mukherjee had resigned from in protest over Nehru's decision to normalise relations with Pakistan despite that country's treatment of its Hindu population, said at the time he made inquiries and was satisfied that his former minister's death was due to natural causes; speculation has continued that Mukherjee was actually murdered due to some unusual circumstances of his arrest and treatment.

  • The Dyatlov Pass incident was the death of nine hikers on the Kholat Syakhl mountain in the northern Ural Mountains range on 2 February 1959; all the bodies were not recovered until that May. While most of the victims were found to have died of hypothermia after apparently abandoning their tent high on an exposed mountainside, two had fractured skulls, two had broken ribs, and one was missing her tongue. After testing, the clothing of some of the victims was found to be highly radioactive. There were no witnesses or survivors to provide any testimony, and the cause of death was listed as a "compelling natural force", most likely an avalanche, by Soviet investigators.[64]

  • Dr Gilbert Stanley Bogle (39), and Margaret Olive Chandler (29), were found dead, both partially undressed, near the banks of the Lane Cove River in Sydney, Australia, on 1 January 1963. Their bluish pallor and the presence of vomit and excrement led to a finding that they had been poisoned, but the coroner was unable to determine what the toxin was. It was suspected they had been murdered (possibly by Chandler's husband) although no suspect has ever been identified. A 2006 TV documentary suggested their deaths were not due to foul play but the result of hydrogen sulfide gas leaking from the river bed and reaching dangerously high concentrations in the low-lying depressions where their bodies were found.

  • Lead Masks Case involves the death of two Brazilian electronic technicians, Manoel Pereira da Cruz and Miguel José Viana whose bodies were discovered on 20 August 1966, in Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1966.

  • Alvar Larsson (13), a Swedish boy who disappeared on 16 April 1967 while going for a walk.[65][66] In November 1982 a human skull was found on a small island 6 km away that was identified as belonging to Larsson.[65] The disappearance attracted a lot of media coverage at the time and many theories as to what happened have been put forward. Thomas Quick has confessed to the crime,[67] but has recanted all his confessions.

  • Oakland, California, police officer John Frey was fatally shot on the morning of 28 October 1969, during a traffic stop where he had pulled over Black Panther leader Huey P. Newton, who was wounded in the shootout and convicted of voluntary manslaughter the following year. The gun Newton purportedly used was never found, and following two hung juries after the conviction was overturned on appeal in 1970 the district attorney's office announced it would not try him a fourth time. Newton suggested that Frey may have been shot by his partner; there has been no new investigation to determine whether this was the case and whether this was an accident.

  • Joan Robinson Hill (38), 1969, Texas socialite. At first ruled to have died of influenza following a brief hospitalization on 19 March suspicions were aroused when her body was released to the funeral home and embalmed before a legally required autopsy could be carried out. Despite the compromised evidence, three autopsies, all with their own irregularities, were performed and her husband John eventually became the only person indicted by a Texas grand jury for murder by omission, or failing to take proper action in the face of a life-threatening situation. The first attempt to prosecute him ended in a mistrial in 1972; he was murdered before he could be retried and the gunman who was suspected of his murder died in a police shootout. Two other alleged accomplices were later convicted.

  • Mustafa Zaidi (40), a Pakistani Urdu poet who died on 12 October 1970 in Karachi under mysterious circumstances.[68][69]

  • Ronald Hughes (35), was an American attorney who disappeared while on a camping trip in November 1970. His body was found in March 1971, but his cause of death could not be determined.

  • Isdal Woman, a partially charred unidentified corpse found on 29 November 1970, hidden off a hiking trail near Bergen, Norway. The official conclusion that her death was a suicide has not been widely accepted, since some believed she was murdered.[70] Her identity remains unknown and is considered one of Norway's most profound mysteries, the case has been the subject of intense speculation for many years.[71] Multiple investigations point to the possibility that she was a spy.[72]

  • Giangiacomo Feltrinelli (45), who had during the 1950s published the smuggled manuscript of Boris Pasternak's novel Doctor Zhivago but later became a left-wing militant during Italy's Years of Lead, was found dead at the base of a power-line transmission tower outside Segrate, near his native Milan, on 15 March 1972. It was believed that he had died when a bomb he was attempting to plant on the tower went off, and later testimony by other members of the Red Brigades supported this. However, the death was always viewed suspiciously, and in the 2010s forensic reports surfaced that suggested he had been tied to the tower before the bomb went off, with various intelligence agencies inside and outside of Italy suspected of responsibility.

  • Chilean diplomat and poet Pablo Neruda (69), died on 23 September 1973 under suspicious circumstances in a hospital in Santiago. While the cause of death was officially ruled heart failure, there are serious doubts about this, and speculation that he was murdered is ongoing. In 2013, his body was exhumed and forensically inspected. Patricio Bustos, the head of Chile's medical legal service, stated "No relevant chemical substances have been found that could be linked to Mr. Neruda's death" at the time. However, Carroza said that he was waiting for the results of the last scientific tests conducted in May 2015, which found that Neruda was infected with the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium, which can be highly toxic and result in death if modified. A team of 16 international experts led by Spanish forensic specialist Aurelio Luna from the University of Murcia announced on 20 October 2017 that "from analysis of the data we cannot accept that the poet had been in an imminent situation of death at the moment of entering the hospital" and that death from prostate cancer was not likely at the moment when he died. The team also discovered something in Neruda's remains that could possibly be a laboratory-cultivated bacteria.

  • Nuclear power whistleblower Karen Silkwood (28), died in a car accident on 13 November 1974, while driving to a meeting with a New York Times reporter in Oklahoma City.[73] Whether that accident involved another vehicle, which may even have deliberately run her off the road, or resulted from her own fatigue remains a matter of debate.


  • Marcia Moore (50), a writer on yoga and astrology, disappeared near her home in the Seattle, Washington, area during winter 1979.[74] Her skeletal remains were found in nearby woods in 1981. It has been presumed in the absence of any evidence that would more conclusively establish a cause of death, that she died of hypothermia while wandering the woods under the influence of ketamine, a drug whose use she had promoted. However, true-crime writer Anne Rule, a friend, says what appeared to be a bullet hole was found in her jawbone, although authorities said it could just as easily have been a result of the bone decaying during the cold winters. Officially the cause of Moore's death remains undetermined.

  • On 29 November 1981, actress Natalie Wood (43), who had been boating with her husband Robert Wagner and fellow actor Christopher Walken, was found drowned near Santa Catalina Island, California. While that has always been accepted as the direct cause of her death, the circumstances under which she went into the water have never been clear, and after reopening the investigation in 2012 the coroner changed the cause of death from "accident" to "undetermined", based on cuts and bruises on her body that may or may not have been suffered before her death.[75] In 2018, Wagner was identified as a person of interest.[76]

  • On 7 March 1983, East German football player Lutz Eigendorf died after being involved in a suspicious car accident two days earlier in Braunschweig. The circumstances of his death remain controversial as there is speculation that he was assassinated by the Stasi. Apparently, a large truck had blinded him by turning on its main headlights just as Eigendorf was approaching a curve, causing him to crash his car into a tree. Eigendorf had fled to West Germany by escaping from the rest of the team of his then club BFC Dynamo in West Germany in 1979 and started playing for 1. FC Kaiserslautern before joining Eintracht Braunschweig in 1982. After the German reunification, the public prosecutor's office in Berlin started an investigation into the possible murder of Lutz Eigendorf, but in 2004, the case was closed.[77] On 10 February 2010, a former East German spy revealed that the Stasi had ordered him to kill Eigendorf, which he claimed not to have done.[78] In 2011, the public prosecutor's office refused to reopen the case as it did not see any evidence of any third party involvement, leaving the case unsolved.

  • The cause of death of the baby born to Joanne Hayes in Ireland's 1984 Kerry Babies case was never established.[79]

  • On 11 October 1987, German politician Uwe Barschel (CDU) was found dead in a bathtub filled with water in his room at the Hotel Beau-Rivage in Geneva, Switzerland. He was fully clothed. Among others, the drug Lorazepam was found in his system. The circumstances of his death remain unclear and controversial, with suicide or murder both considered possible explanations and the case still being investigated in both directions.[80]

  • The deaths of Tate Rowland and Terrie Trosper, two siblings in Childress, Texas, occurred in 1988 and 1991, respectively. Their deaths, though ruled a suicide and an accident, were one of several cases attributed to the Satanic panic that occurred in the United States in the late 1980s.[81]

  • Whether the 17 August 1988 plane crash that killed Pakistani president Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (64), the country's longest-serving leader, and 30 others including the country's top military leaders and the U.S. ambassador, was an accident or deliberate, the result of sabotage or a shootdown, is a matter of debate.[82] American investigators came to the former conclusion, while their Pakistani counterparts produced a report reaching the latter. Theories as to responsibility if it were an act of malice have put the blame on a number of domestic and foreign actors.

  • Said S. Bedair (40), was an Egyptian scientist in electrical, electronic and microwave engineering and a colonel in the Egyptian army. He died on 14 July 1989 in Alexandria of unclear circumstances, though his wife thinks it might have been a suicide.[83]

  • Zviad Gamsakhurdia (54), former president of Georgia, died in 1993 from circumstances that remain very unclear.[84] It is known that he died in the village of Khibula in the Samegrelo region of western Georgia.

  • German RAF left-wing terrorist Wolfgang Grams (40) died on 27 June 1993 in a shooting exchange with the German police elite tactical unit GSG 9 at Bad Kleinen railway station. He died from a shot in the head and fell onto the railway tracks, but the exact circumstances of the incident were never fully found out and remain controversial. While his death was officially ruled suicide, there is ongoing speculation that he was shot by a GSG 9 member.

  • Rock County John Doe, commonly referred as John Clinton Doe, was the name given to an unidentified set of skeletal remains estimated to be a young adult or teenage white male, which were found alongside Turtle Creek near Clinton, Rock County, Wisconsin on 26 November 1995.[85] His death cause is also unknown.

  • Green Boots is the name given to the unidentified corpse of a climber that became a landmark on the main Northeast ridge route of Mount Everest.[86][87] Though his identity has not been officially confirmed, he is believed to be Tsewang Paljor, an Indian climber who died on Mount Everest in 1996.

  • Screenwriter Gary DeVore (55), left Santa Fe, New Mexico, on 28 June 1997, for Hollywood to drop off his final draft of the script for a remake of The Big Steal, a 1949 film about, in part, a man who stages his own disappearance. He never arrived, and was considered missing for a year until his body was found in his car in the California Aqueduct.[88] Its hands were missing, and it did not appear from the position in which it was found that the car had gone into the waterway after an accident. No cause of death has been conclusively established.

  • Dimitris Liantinis (55), disappeared on 1 June 1998. In July 2005 human bones were found in the area of the mountain Taygetos; forensic examinations verified that it was the body of Liantinis. No lethal substances were found to determine the cause of death.[89][90]

  • Yves Godard was a French doctor who disappeared from a sailing boat with his two children in 1999.[91] Several years later, bones belonging to Dr Godard and his daughter were discovered in the English Channel. No trace of his son or his wife (the latter did not go on the sailing trip and stayed at home) has ever been found, nor has any trace of the boat. However, investigators found traces of blood in the family home and in Godard's caravan, raising suspicion that Godard's wife was murdered. In 2012, the case was closed without charges. Prosecutors ruled out accidental death and believe that Dr Godard probably murdered his family before committing suicide at sea, but they also acknowledge that they are not certain of this.


  • Rodney Marks (32), an Australian astrophysicist, died of a sudden illness on 12 May 2000 at Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica.[92] It was not possible for his body to be flown to New Zealand and autopsied until after the Antarctic winter ended six months later; the cause of death was found to have been methanol poisoning. Suicide was ruled out as he did not seem to have a motive and had readily sought treatment for his apparent illness, nor did an accidental overdose seem likely either as there was plenty of alcoholic drink available for consumption at the base should he have wanted it. The New Zealand police believed instead that the methanol had been "unknowingly" introduced into Marks' system, but could not conclusively call the case a homicide. Further investigation has been frustrated by the refusal of American agencies to share their findings, the global dispersal of researchers and personnel at the base that winter, the 2006 disappearance of the doctor who treated Marks, and the loss of any possible crime-scene evidence during the winter after Marks' death.

  • On 11 August 2001, British musician Paul Cunniffe (40), formerly of the bands Blaze X and the Saw Doctors, died in a fall in the London neighborhood of Whitechapel. The circumstances that led to the fall, or even exactly where it occurred, however, remain unknown. His is one of several deaths among friends and acquaintances of Pete Doherty.[93]

  • Tempe Girl is the name given to an unidentified decedent whose body was discovered on 27 April 2002 in Tempe, Arizona. She had died of cocaine intoxication—ruled to be neither an accident nor a homicide—one day before the discovery of her body.[94] She is believed to have been of either Hispanic or Native American ethnicity and was allegedly picked up while hitchhiking, claiming she had been effectively disowned by her own mother for her frequent recreational drug use.[95][96]

  • Abu Nidal (65), Palestinian terrorist leader behind the 1985 Rome and Vienna airport attacks, already suffering from leukemia, was reported to have died from a gunshot wound in Baghdad on 16 August 2002. Iraq's government at the time claimed his death was a suicide;[97] the Palestinians believe he was assassinated on Saddam Hussein's orders to prevent his possible capture during the American invasion of Iraq that began six months later.[98]

  • Jeremiah Duggan (23), a British student studying in Paris, was found dead on a highway in Wiesbaden, Germany, early on 27 March 2003. The initial investigation concluded he had committed suicide by running into traffic. However, his mother, noting that he had called her in great distress over his involvement with the LaRouche movement, who may have discovered that he was British and Jewish, within an hour of his death, never accepted that theory, and a later investigation found evidence that the accident may have been staged to cover an earlier beating. The case was reopened in 2012 after extensive litigation in England, resulting in a change of the cause of death to "unexplained", with the note that Duggan may have been involved in some sort of "altercation" beforehand.[99]

  • Jürgen Möllemann (57), German politician (FDP), died on 5 June 2003 in a parachuting incident at Marl-Lohmühle. His death was investigated by the Essen district attorney's office, which published a final report on 9 July 2003. While outside interference was ruled out, no definite verdict was reached on whether Möllemann committed suicide or had died via misadventure. Shortly before his death, Möllemann, a passionate and experienced skydiver, had been confronted with allegations he had been involved in illegal arms deals and evaded taxes on millions of euros he allegedly earned from these activities. To enable a full investigation on these charges, the Bundestag lifted his parliamentary immunity on 5 June 2003 at 12:28, 22 minutes before his death. The tax evasion charges were dropped after his death.

  • Singer-songwriter Elliott Smith (34), died of stab wounds inflicted in his Echo Park, California, home on 21 October 2003. His girlfriend claims she got out of the shower after an argument, having heard him scream, to find him with the knife sticking out of his chest, and found a short suicide note on a Post-It shortly thereafter. While he did indeed have a history of depression and addiction, friends say he was actively working to finish an album at the time and seemed optimistic. The coroner found the stab wounds were inconsistent with a suicide attempt but could not say it was a homicide either; the cause of the stabbing remains undetermined and has not been further investigated.[100]

  • Jonathan Luna (38), an assistant U.S. attorney from Baltimore, was found dead of multiple stab wounds inflicted with his own penknife in Denver, Pennsylvania, on the morning of 4 December 2003, in a stream underneath his car, which had been driven there overnight from Baltimore. The FBI, which has jurisdiction over the possible murder of any U.S. federal employee, found that Luna had mounting financial problems and was facing an investigation over missing money at his office, considered it a suicide or botched attempt at staging a kidnapping. However, the Lancaster County coroner's office, pointing to evidence suggesting he had been abducted and someone else was driving for at least the final stage of his drive, ruled it a homicide and considers the case open.[101]

  • Lamduan Armitage was a formerly unidentified woman whose body was discovered in 2004 on the mountain Pen-y-ghent in Yorkshire, England, leading her to become known as the Lady of the Hills. The woman was found to have originally come from somewhere in South-East Asia, but despite an international police investigation, the identity of the woman, and how she arrived at the location remained a mystery until 2019.[102] The woman was identified in March 2019 through DNA testing.[103] Her cause of death remains unknown.[104]

  • The coroner investigating the death of Richard Lancelyn Green (51), a British Arthur Conan Doyle scholar who was found garrotted with a shoelace on his bed in his home on 27 April 2004, returned an open verdict. Many of his friends and family suspected homicide as he had complained of someone following him in his efforts to stop the auction of a cache of Doyle's personal papers that he believed to have been wrongfully acquired. However, despite suicide by garrotte being unusual and difficult, some investigators believed that he had followed the example of one of Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories in which a woman stages her suicide to look like a murder.

  • On 4 October 2006, the skeletonized remains of Frauke Liebs (21), a student nurse, were found off a road near Lichtenau, Germany. She had last been seen leaving a bar on 20 June, and called her roommate several times in the days afterwards indicating she would come home but was being vague about when or how. Police now believe she was being held against her will and might have been murdered, although the body was too decomposed to establish a cause of death.

  • Three years after the body of Corryn Rayney (44), was found in the Perth suburb of Kings Park, Western Australia a week after her 7 August 2007 disappearance, her husband Lloyd was charged in her murder even though a cause of death had not been determined. A judge acquitted him at his 2012 trial, finding the largely circumstantial case was further compromised by police misconduct. The verdict was upheld on appeal the following year; Rayney and his lawyers have called for two known sex criminals to be investigated as well.

  • Barbara Precht's (69), body was found on 29 November 2006 in Cincinnati, Ohio. She remained unidentified until November 2014. Her husband was located later on and is considered a person of interest in her death, which has unknown circumstances.[105]

  • Joyce Carol Vincent (38), was found dead in her London flat in January 2006, two years after she had died, by which time the body had decomposed so much as to make identifying a cause of death impossible; her story was profiled in the 2011 documentary Dreams of a Life.[106]

  • Bob Woolmer (58), Pakistan's national cricket coach, was found dead in his hotel room on 18 March 2007, after losing in the Cricket World Cup 2007 in the West Indies. Investigators at first ruled the death a suicide, but the jury that heard the inquest returned an open verdict.

  • Two-year-old Caylee Anthony, of Orlando, Florida, was reported missing by her grandmother in the summer of 2008, when she learned that her daughter Casey had not seen her in over a month. Casey claimed the girl had been kidnapped by a nanny and circumstantial evidence led to her arrest on murder charges that fall. A tip that could have led to the body's discovery in August was not fully acted upon until December; by then the body was so decomposed that it was impossible to establish how Caylee had died, although the coroner ruled it homicide. Casey Anthony, despite public sentiment strongly against her, was acquitted of the murder and child-abuse charges (but convicted of the lesser charges of lying to the police) after a heavily covered trial in 2011, where her lawyer claimed that Caylee had accidentally drowned in the family pool and Casey's domineering father had led a cover-up. Later, her father came forward with his own explanation: Casey had allegedly been known to drug Caylee to entice her to sleep so Casey could leave Caylee home alone and go out with friends for the evening. He alleges Casey or a friend accidentally overdosed Caylee, killing her, and in a panic, made up the kidnapping story as a cover.[107]

  • American guitarist Hiram Bullock (52), died on 25 July 2008 of an undetermined cause.[108] While it was known that he had tongue cancer and was still in treatment, he was believed to have completely recovered from the disease, which is why some sources dispute cancer as the cause of death and suggest that he died as a result of his drug addiction problems.[109][110]

  • The Peter Bergmann case is an unsolved mystery pertaining to the death of an unidentified man in County Sligo, Ireland. From 12 to 16 June 2009, a man using the alias "Peter Bergmann" visited the coastal seaport town of Sligo in northwest Ireland. He used this alias to check into the Sligo City Hotel, where he stayed during the majority of his visit, and was described by hotel staff and tenants as having a heavy German accent. Despite conducting a five-month investigation into the death of "Peter Bergmann", an Garda Síochána have never been able to identify the man or develop any leads in the case.[111]


  • Skeletal remains found in a dry creek bed in California's Malibu Canyon on 9 August 2010, turned out to be those of Mitrice Richardson (25). She had last been seen on the night of 16 September 2009 in the backyard of a former local television news anchor, after being arrested for marijuana possession and failure to pay the bill at a local restaurant where she had been acting strangely, behavior that investigating officers did not believe was caused by alcohol or drugs. The coroner has said her death did not appear to be a homicide, but the body was too decayed to determine the exact cause of death.[112]

  • On 23 August 2010, the partially decomposed body of Gareth Williams (32), a Welsh mathematician who worked for British intelligence GCHQ, but who was seconded to MI6 at the time of his death, was found in a padlocked bag in the bathroom of a safe house in the London neighbourhood of Pimlico. It was determined he had been dead for about a week. Due to the nature of his work, the investigation had to withhold details of it and some other aspects from any material made public; his family and friends allege that the Metropolitan Police compromised and mishandled key forensic evidence in the early stages of their response. An initial investigation by the coroner's office concluded that the death was a homicide; a later re-investigation by the police claimed that it was instead an accident.

  • British citizen Lee Bradley Brown (39), was arrested by Dubai police while on holiday there 6 April 2011 and charged with assault after an incident between him and a hotel maid; accounts of the circumstances differ. Held without bail, he died in custody six days later after, police claimed, being beaten by cellmates; later they said he had "thrown himself on the ground repeatedly." An autopsy, however, found instead that Brown had, under the influence of hashish, choked on his own vomit. British officials who were allowed to examine the body disputed that conclusion, saying they saw no evidence of choking or blunt force trauma; Dubai authorities have declined repeated requests to share evidence such as CCTV footage from the original incident and the police station that might clarify matters. A coroner's inquest in the UK that considered only the autopsy report and the diplomats' reports returned an open verdict.[113]

  • Exiled Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky (67), was found dead in his home near Ascot, Berkshire on 23 March 2013. At first glance he had hanged himself; he had recently lost what remained of his fortune, and some other close friends had unexpectedly died, which had left him despondent. The police soon ruled the case a suicide, but at the inquest, Berezovsky's daughter, who believes her father was murdered at the behest of the Russian government, introduced a report by a German pathologist that cast enough doubt for the coroner to return an open verdict.[114]

  • On 15–16 November 2013, skeletal remains of two adults and child were found in a field outside Red Oak, Oklahoma. A year later they were identified as the Jamison family, who had gone missing in 2009 while looking into some land they wanted to purchase. Their abandoned pickup truck was three miles (4.8 km) from where their bodies were found. No cause of death has been determined.

  • The decomposing remains of Canadian journalist Dave Walker (57), were found in Cambodia's Angkor temple complex on 1 May 2014, ending a search that began shortly after he failed to return to his hotel's guest house on the night of 14 February. While the medical examiner concluded that he had died weeks earlier, the cause of Walker's death could not be determined.

  • Bone fragments found along the Rio Culebra near Boquete, Panama, in late June 2014 were matched to Lisanne Froon, 21, and Kristin Kremers, 22, of Amersfoort, the Netherlands. The two had last been seen alive on 1 April when they went for a hike on the popular Pianista trail. The women's cell phones, recovered along with their remains, showed that they had repeatedly attempted to contact emergency numbers shortly after taking pictures of themselves at the Continental Divide. Those calls had continued over several days, and the phones also contained almost a hundred photographs taken during the next 10 days, most of which were completely dark but some of which showed plants and rock formations in closeup. It was impossible to determine from the remains that were found how exactly they had died. Local officials believe the girls suffered an accidental injury shortly after getting lost in a network of trails in the region's cloud forests and got lost in the wilderness around Volcán Barú; however, Panamanian lawyers for their families have pointed to failings of the investigation and suggested that foul play might have been responsible.[115]

  • On 27 June 2014, the body of Andrew Sadek (20), was recovered from the Red River near Breckenridge, Minnesota, with a small-caliber gunshot wound and a backpack full of rocks. He had last been seen by a security camera leaving his dorm at North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton around 2 a.m. on 1 May. At the time of his disappearance he had been working as a confidential informant for local police as a result of his own arrest for selling marijuana on campus, which could otherwise have resulted in a long prison sentence. It has not been determined yet whether his death was suicide or murder. Like Rachel Hoffman's death, the case has been used as an example of the mishandling of youthful CIs by police.[116]

  • John Anthony Walker (77), was a United States Navy chief warrant officer and communications specialist convicted of spying for the Soviet Union from 1968 to 1985,[117] who died on 28 August 2014, while still in prison of unknown causes.[118]

  • John Sheridan (72), formerly New Jersey's Transportation Commissioner, was found dead in his Skillman home along with his wife Joyce on the morning of 28 September 2014. The bodies were in an upstairs bedroom where a fire had been set; they were found with multiple stab wounds. An original ruling of murder-suicide was changed to undetermined in 2017 after a court challenge by the couple's sons, motivated by complaints of mishandled evidence and some evidence suggesting the couple had been attacked by an intruder. The sons are currently calling for the investigation to be reopened.[119]

  • Alberto Nisman (51), an Argentine federal prosecutor, was found dead in his apartment of a single gunshot wound to the head on 18 January 2015. He had been investigating the 1994 AMIA bombing, Argentina's deadliest terror attack, and had publicly accused President Cristina Kirchner and other high officials close to her of covering up for suspects in the case for foreign-policy reasons; he was scheduled to present these allegations to Congress the next day. While some of the circumstances of his death are consistent with an early statement that he committed suicide, friends and relatives say that he was eagerly looking ahead to his appearance before Congress and did not seem depressed or despondent at all. Kirchner has suggested the country's intelligence services were behind the killing, since he was about to expose their attempts to bring her down, and called for them to be dismantled. The case remains under investigation.[120]

  • Rakhat Aliyev (52), former vice foreign minister of Kazakhstan and Kazakh ambassador to Austria, who had been arrested for two murder charges, was found dead in his prison cell in Vienna on 24 February 2015. His death was officially ruled suicide by hanging, but a 2016 report ruled out suicide and noted that his body showed traces of burking. The case remains under investigation.[121]

  • On 22 April 2015, the body of Ambrose Ball (30), of London, was recovered from the River Lea in Tottenham.[122] He had last been seen leaving his vehicle following a single-car accident early on the morning of 24 January after visiting a local pub with friends. The body was too decomposed to determine a cause of death; police requested an adjournment of the inquest in order to further investigate, implying a murder charge was in the works. No charges were ever filed, and threats were later made against Ball's friends and family after they set up a Facebook page appealing for help from the public and questioning the conduct of the investigation.

  • Raudha Athif (20), was a Maldivian Vogue model and medical student who allegedly died by suicide in Rajshahi, Bangladesh on 29 March 2017.[123][124][125] Her death was investigated by 60 Minutes in Australia who suggested there might be foul play involved.[126]

  • Computer hacker Adrian Lamo (37), was found dead 14 March 2018 on a pile of sheets in the guest bedroom of the Wichita, Kansas, home of a couple he had been living with. After three months of investigating, the county coroner was unable to identify a cause of death. While there are some alternative theories suggesting his death had something to do with his controversial involvement in the criminal cases against Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange, the most likely theory is the possible adverse interactions of some of the medicines found near him with Kratom, which he often used.[127]

Date of death disputed

  • Raoul Wallenberg (34), a Swedish humanitarian who worked in Budapest, Hungary, was most likely executed in Russia in or around 1947 after being captured by the Red Army in 1945. His death is dated by Soviet authorities as 16 July 1947,[128] but this is disputed, and the case remains unsolved.

  • In 1948, a German court ruled that Hans Kammler (43), an engineer and SS commander who oversaw many Nazi construction projects including concentration camps and, later, the V-2 missile program, died on 9 May 1945 of what was later claimed to be suicide by cyanide poisoning.[129] Some other accounts, however, have him being killed by his own side to prevent his capture during an attack by Czech resistance fighters; others suggest those accounts of his death were put out to cover his surrender to American forces, in whose custody he supposedly hanged himself two years later.

See also


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