July, 2001

July 2, 2001
Clogged pipes have proven to be the undoing of more than one serial killer. In February 1983, residents of a small North London apartment house complained that their toilets wouldn't flush. When a plumber showed up to check out the problem, he opened a nearby manhole and descended into the sewer. As expected, he found a blocked drainpipe leading from the building. What he couldn't possibly have anticipated was the nature of the obstruction - a reeking mass of putrifying flesh, mixed with human fingerbones. It didn't take long for police to discover the source of this nightmarish glop. It had come from the upstairs flat of a thirty-seven year old Civil Servant named Dennis Nilsen, who - just several days earlier - had murdered and butchered his 15th homosexual victim, then flushed the remains down his toilet. (The A to Z Encyclopedia Of Serial Killers)

July 3, 2001
Between 1905 and 1908, six close relatives of Boston resident Mary Kelliher died under mysterious circumstances, all displaying similar symptoms of stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea. The dead included Mary's husband, three of her children, her sister, and a sister-in-law. In July 1908, autopsy surgeons found lethal amounts of arsenic in Mary's daughter, and similar results were obtained when other family members were exhumed. Authorities suspected Mary, but police were short of evidence until they searched her home, discovering a mattress soaked in arsenic. All six victims, it appeared, had slept in the polluted bed before they died, presumably absorbing poison through their skin. At her trial on murder charges, Mary denied any knowledge of the poisoned mattress, and she had no explanation for her own miraculous survival in the midst of so much death. The prosecution's case ran aground on unanswered questions, and Mary was finally acquitted, but no other suspect has ever been named in the killings. (Bad Girls Do It: an Encyclopedia of Female Murderers by Michael Newton, donated by Barb T)

July 4, 2001
In November, 1577 Thomas Sherwood was imprisoned in a loathsome dungeon beneath the Tower Of London. He suffered 'in the dungeon among the rats', the earthen floor of which was below the high-water mark of the River Thames. At high tide, the filthy waters would flood the cell floor, driving before it the hordes of scampering, squeaking rats which infested the river banks. In the darkness of the bitterly cold cell, the prisoners would not dare to relax but would need to repel the vicious onslaught as long as their strength held out, a contemporary report stating that 'flesh had been torn from the arms and legs of sleeping prisoners by these ferocious creatures.' ( Rack, Rope and Red-Hot Pincers)

July 5, 2001
Jun Higashi was an eyewitness to the post-atomic devastation of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945:
"We saw a person running blindly in what he must have believed was a safe direction, but he was running on feet of bone - shock and fear prevented him from realizing the the flesh of his heels was gone. When a rescue team pointed out his grave injury, the man immediately lost consciousness and collapsed. We couldn't bear to watch this event straight on - it was like something in a nightmare." (
Nagasaki Journey)

July 7, 2001
A Latvian man kept the body of his dead sister in his flat for six months so he could continue to celebrate holidays with her. After he was arrested (in May, 2001), the 49-year-old man told police he hid the body in his bed and covered it with blankets and tree branches. His sister, who was 57, died in November, 2000. The body of the woman was discovered after neighbors told police about a bad smell coming from the man's apartment in the seaside resort of Jurmala, 15 miles from the capital, Riga. Police spokesman Andrejs Civjums said: "He told us he wanted to spend Christmas, then New Year's, then his upcoming birthday with her. He said only after the celebrations would he consider burying her." The man is undergoing a psychiatric examination and police have ordered forensic tests to determine how she died. The man will not be charged if it is determined that his sister died of natural causes. (Ananova, donated by AlphaDawg)

July 9, 2001
Two Papua New Guinea fishermen have bled to death after having their penises bitten off by pirahna-like river fish. The fish, which zero in on urine streams in the water, have struck terror among villagers along the Sepik River, in north-western PNG. Authorities believe the killer fish is an introduced member of the South American pacu family and a relative of the piranha. In both of last month's fatalities, the fish demonstrated a trait of the piranha by following a trail of urine in the water, swimming to its source and then biting it off with razor-sharp teeth. Some believe the killer may be a food-source fish introduced from Brazil in 1994 by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation and the PNG National Fisheries Authority. However, marine biologist and aquaculturist Ian Middleton said he believed they were a different species, introduced from across the PNG-Indonesia border. He believed the fish had started biting humans because of a lack of naturally occurring food. "The reason for biting people on their genitals is a result of the fish detecting a chemical change in the water, swimming up the urine trail and biting the genitals." This behavior was well documented in the Amazon, he said. The director of the PNG Office of Environment and Conservation, Dr Wari Iamo, yesterday expressed "grave concern and dissatisfaction" at the way some government agencies and donor organisations had gone about importing exotic plant and animal species. (The Age.Com Au, generously donated by Bruce Townley)

July 10, 2001
The following quote is courtesy of Great Britain's Public Health Laboratory Service Communicable Disease Report, edition of 28 April 1995 and is used in the context of procedures to follow upon finding long-dead bodies in coffins, in graves or crypts:
"Rarely it may be necessary to open coffins, or they have been broken open by building works, soil pressure due to subsidence, or vandals. The degree of preservation of a cadaver cannot be predicted by the type of coffin used or the location of the interment. Completely preserved bodies have been found in wooden coffins buried in the ground and completely decayed bodies in apparently intact lead coffins in crypts. Most lead coffins contain dry bones but some are found to be about one third full of a viscous black liquid (coffin liquor), which contains bones and (sometimes) soft tissues. Well preserved, partially mummified bodies are sometimes found and, very rarely, intact and totally preserved bodies are found that are not even discoloured." (
CDR Review, donated by Adipocere)

July 11, 2001
A Japanese man has been accused of bludgeoning his mother to death with a statue of the Goddess of Mercy. Police in Fuji allege Hirokazu Tsuboi was angry because she refused to let him go out drinking. They claim the 34-year-old used the statue of Kanon to batter Masako Tsuboi repeatedly about the head. (Ananova, donated by Bruce Townley)

July 12, 2001
A murder that occurred in 1551 became the subject of one of the most popular of early Elizabethan plays, the anonymous Arden of Faversham. The lady concerned was Alice Arden, who married a Kentish gentleman, Thomas Arden, the mayor of Faversham. It seems likely that Arden desired her for her family connections rather than because he was in love with her; all the evidence shows that he was more interested in money than sex. After a few dull years of married life, Alice met a tailor named Morsby and became his mistress. Her husband knew about it and didn't care; in fact, he even invited Morsby to come and stay in the house while he was away on business trips. Morsby was perfectly satisfied with this arrangement but Alice wasn't. She didn't want to be one man's wife and another man's mistress, so she persuaded Morsby, against his will, that her husband had to die. Morsby was not the aggressive type, so he approached a man named Greene, who had been defrauded of his land by Thomas Arden, and asked him to help. Greene, in turn, hired two assassins. As killers, the men were obvious and crude. They simply walked into Arden's house one evening while he was eating his supper, and stabbed and throttled him. Morsby then finished him off by hitting him with a flat iron. After that, they dragged the body to a nearby field. The killers had failed to notice it was snowing when they arrived to kill Arden. The next day, peace officers had no difficulty tracing the footprints and bloodstains across the field, back to Arden's house. Alice, her lover, one of the assassins, and two servants who had helped drag the body, were all arrested, and found guilty. Morsby's sister was also charged with complicity. Alice Arden was then burned alive at Canterbury on March 14, 1551; so was the maidservant, "crying out on hir mistresse that had brought hir to this ende". Morsby and his sister were hanged at Smithfield in London, a mansevant was hung in chains at Faversham, and the assassin who was caught was burned alive. (Crimes And Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia, Volume 13)

July 15, 2001
In France the epithet "Jacques Bonhomme" was an insulting name used by the nobility to refer to the peasant class, the jacquerie. Resentment against the aristocracy and the hardships of the Hundred Years War produced disastrous results in northern France when noblemen tried to impose a new tax on the jacquerie. Suddenly in May, 1358 the jacquerie rose in a bloody revolt. Armed with wooden staves and knives, mobs of peasants wantonly attacked noblemen and their families, vowing to exterminate the entire aristocracy. Rebels committed horrible atrocities: a knight was tied to a stake and forced to watch as his wife and daughter were raped repeatedly, then cruelly tortured and killed. Another knight was tied to a spit and roasted before the eyes of his wife and children, who were then offered the flesh to eat. Many of the noblemen fled to safety with their families, while rampaging peasants looted and burned castles and towns left behind. It was not long before the nobility responded with equally brutal atrocities. Rebel peasants were slaughtered and hung from trees, and lured into parleys with noblemen only to be captured and decapitated. In the town of Meaux, raiding peasants were trapped in the marketplace and slaughtered en masse by horsemen with lances, who then flung the bodies into the River Maine. It is said that seven thousand peasants died in that clash alone. The revolt ended in June, less than a month after it began. (The Pessimist's Guide To History)

July 17, 2001
Itís the ultimate in recycling. In Renaissance Europe, long before the concept of organ donation could have been envisioned, cadavers were given a new life as architectural ornaments, and skeletons were put to use as building materials. One of the largest Chapels of Bones is in the Portuguese city of Evora, at the Church of St. Francis. Built by Franciscan monks between 1460 and 1510, the chapel is constructed of the bones of some 5,000 people. Tourists to the site find the macabre mood is set immediately with the inscription above the entrance that carries a ghoulish message to visitors: "We bones that are here are waiting for yours." Inside the dimly lit chapel, it takes a moment to realize that the interior walls and the pillars supporting the arched ceiling are composed entirely of neatly stacked leg bones, arm bones, and skulls. Once the shock of this realization subsides, visitors begin to appreciate the almost comical sight of hundreds of skulls lined up, jaw-to-cranium, to make borders around the sections of vaulted ceiling. The artwork on the ceiling continues the combination of weirdness and whimsy: curly-haired cherubs hover above painted skulls-and-crossbones, and scythes are interspersed with elegant flowers. A statue of Jesus and an ornate, gilded altar are overshadowed by the chapelís most gruesome decoration: two desiccated corpses hanging on a side wall. The bodies of a man and a small child are now several hundred years old, but there are still skin and shreds of clothing clinging to their pathetic frames. According to a tour guide, the man was a wife abuser, and his little son was just as disrespectful to his mother. The man finally beat his wife to death, but before she succumbed, she put a curse on her husband and child. She declared that they would soon follow her in death, but, since they were so evil, even Hell would not accept them. As she predicted, the pair soon died. When they were to be buried, the ground mysteriously turned hard as a rock, and their graves could not be dug. So, the monks took their bodies and put them on permanent display in the chapel, as a warning to other wife abusers and bad children. Whether true or not, the legend shows the Franciscan monks to have been feminists before their time. In recognition of this, local women engaged to be married cut off their hair and place the braids at the chapel entrance, making a symbolic sacrifice of their girlhood in supplication for a happy marriage. This custom continues today, with several fresh braids on display. (Fate Magazine, donated by Ayisha)

July 18, 2001
A Japanese man has kept his father's body on ice for 13 years because he thought the cells could come back to life. The Yokohama man's scheme was only discovered when he did not pay his electric bill, the fridge broke down and the body began to rot. The smell alerted neighbours and police found the body. The man, in his 50s, had refused repeated requests to have his father cremated. After his father died in 1988 he bought an industrial refrigerator, lined it with dry ice and put the body there. He told police it was because: "The cells could come back to life." Police said he cannot be prosecuted and they are trying to convince his family to cremate the body. "There are no visible signs that damage has been caused to the body, so we cannot make an arrest for illegal disposal of a body," a spokesman for the Introit Police Station said. A Yokohama Municipal Government official said: "We asked the man many times to go through with a cremation, but he always refused, so there was nothing we could do." But three months ago the man disappeared. When the electricity was cut off a heatwave caused the body to deteriorate rapidly. (Ananova, Chris Kench)

July 24, 2001
Two workmen burnt to death after managers at a bakery sent them into a giant bread oven that had been given only two hours to cool down. They were trapped in temperatures of 100C after boarding a conveyor belt into the centre of the 75ft oven. David Mayes and Ian Erickson died after they were asked to carry out repairs at the Harvestime bakery in Leicester, England in May 1998. Management had decided to use their own staff to save £2,500 quoted by the manufacturers to carry out repairs. Leicester Crown Court was told yesterday that the oven should have been left for 12 hours to cool before work was undertaken. Mr Mayes and Mr Erickson tried to retrieve a broken part two hours after the oven had been baking bread at 260C. Anthony Barker, QC, for the prosecution, said that Harvestime had failed to ensure the menís safety and had not set up any contingency plans. "These men were allowed to work in circumstances where serious injury or death was almost inevitable," he said. "They were in the oven for at least 17 minutes until they came out at the other end ó the time for the conveyor to go from one end to the other. There was no system to reverse the conveyor. They died as a result of a complete failure to ensure their safety at every level of the company." Mr Barker said that Harvestime decided to carry out repairs "in house" because the ovenís makers estimated a proper job would take four men 12 hours. The company, which would have lost £1,120 for every hour the oven was shut down, prized productivity above safety, he told the court. Mr Barker said that fans at one end of the machine had cooled the temperature to 40C so the men were initially unaware of any danger. When Mr Erickson was pulled from the oven, he had reddened skin, skin loss and skin slippage. He had suffered circulatory collapse. When Mr Mayesís body was recovered by firefighters he had suffered 80 per cent burns, cuts and fractures to his arm, ankle, ribs and spine. He had told friends the night before: "I have a challenge in the morning. I am going for it ó the money is good." Mr Barker said: "It was the duty of the employers to ensure the job was safe." Coleman Treacy, QC, for the accused, said: "The company acknowledges it was at fault. It failed in its duty to both men, and that has caused untold heartache to the families. For this we publicly apologise." (The Times, Neil Langdon Inglis)

July 25, 2001
Early one morning in March 1995, a lion keeper at Washington DC's National Zoo discovered the horribly mauled body of a woman in his charge's enclosure. Her body was covered with fang and claw marks. Her face was unrecognizable; even her fingerprints were gone. Despite these obstacles, police quickly identified the dead woman from her bus pass as Margaret King, a paranoid schizophrenic from Little Rock, AR. Initially, they were puzzled as to how she'd gotten to the lions. In the wake of a previous mishap, the zoo had tightened things up considerably. Any would be feline frolicking companion would have to ignore three warning signs, climb a 3 1/2 foot fence, drop down 9 feet to a moat and swim 26 feet. The medical examiner ruled her death a suicide, although no note was found. However, King may have had higher motives. She was a woman of strong religious convictions. Several years earlier, she had been committed for thinking she was Jesus Christ, complete with nail holes in her palms. As she approached the lion grotto, an Amy Grant tape on her tape player, she may have been thinking, not of leaving this vale of tears, but of Christian martyrs thrown to the lions in the Roman Coliseum as an unthinking heathen crowd roared its approval. King's goal may have been sainthood, not suicide. (Murder Can Be Fun #16 by John Marr)

July 27, 2001
On an afternoon in May 1812, John Bellingham walked into the lobby of the House of Commons and shot dead the prime minister, Spencer Perceval. Bellingham had previously spent two years in a Russian jail and on his release and return to Britain he had demanded retribution from the government. Although it was obvious that Bellingham was insane, in a trial described by Lord Brougham as 'the greatest disgrace in English justice' the witless assassin was condemned to be hanged and dissected. Duly, one week later, Bellingham was hanged in front of the Debtors' Door of Newgate Prison. He uttered his last words with impressive dignity: 'I thank God for having enabled me to meet my fate with so much fortitude and resignation.' After an hour he was cut down and his body transported in a cart through town to the beadle of the Company of Surgeons in St. Bartholemew's Hospital. A description of the scene was left by Sir Richard Owen, himself a Bart's man: 'The college hired a house in Cock Lane, to which these bodies (Bellingham and one other) were brought to Newgate. Sir William Blizard, the President, was attired in court dress as the proper costume for the official act. They heard the shouts of the crowd and then the noise of the approaching cart. Then came the heavy steps of the executioner tramping up the stairs. He had the body of a man on his back, and entering the room, let it fall on the table. Sir William Blizard made a small cut with a scalpel over the breast bone and bowed to the executioner. This was the formal recognition of the purpose for which the body had been delivered." Bellingham's skull was lost for over 150 years until finally located in a box in the basement of the anatomy department of St Bartholomew's Medical School. There was no problem in identification, since someone had thoughtfully written 'Bellingham' in ink across the forehead. (Death: A History Of Man's Obsesssions And Fears)

July 30, 2001
A judge on Monday (July 2, 2001) handed down the maximum sentence of 120 years for a man convicted of the brutal 1997 attack on a 9-year-old girl that left her blind and nearly paralyzed after he poured roach killer down her throat. Unable to see or speak, the girl, now 14 and referred to as "Girl X," testified at trial by nodding her head and lifting her eyebrows in answer to questions. Beaten and nearly suffocated, she was left to die in a putrid stairwell at the infamous Cabrini-Green public housing project and spent a month in a coma, triggering a frustrating months-long search for her attacker. Patrick Sykes, who lived in a downstairs apartment from the girl and lured her in with an offer of a banana, was convicted of the attack, in which he scrawled gang signs with a pen on the girl's body in an attempt to fool investigators. In passing sentence, Cook County Judge Joseph Urso said he wished he could punish the 29-year-old Sykes more severely for the attempted murder, sexual assault and kidnapping of Girl X. In a statement from Girl X read by a prosecutor, she said: "I am glad he is going to jail because he was wrong for doing this to me." Before the attack, she enjoyed "dancing and playing around and seeing," the statement read. "I can't use my hands. I miss using my hands." At sentencing, Sykes repeated his plea of innocence. The case was marred by prosecutors' admission that police had accidentally destroyed key evidence, including a bloody paper bag found near the girl, which raised questions of competence on the part of the department. In addition, a woman who headed up a charitable fund organized to help with Girl X's care was found to have embezzled some of the money. (Reuters and generously donated by Neil Langdon Inglis)

July 31, 2001
A 6-year-old boy died after undergoing an MRI exam at a New York-area hospital when the machine's powerful magnetic field jerked a metal oxygen tank across the room, crushing the child's head. The force of the device's 10-ton magnet is about 30,000 times as powerful as Earth's magnetic field, and 200 times stronger than a common refrigerator magnet. The canister fractured the skull and injured the brain of the young patient, Michael Colombini, of Croton-On-Hudson, N.Y., during the procedure Friday (July 27, 2001). He died of the injuries on Sunday. The routine imaging procedure was performed after Colombini underwent surgery for a benign brain tumor last week. Westchester Medical Center officials said he was under sedation at the time of the deadly accident. Hospital Takes ĎFull Responsibilityí "The medical center assumes full responsibility for the accident. Our sorrow is immeasurable and our prayers and our thoughts are with the child's family," the hospital's president and CEO, Edward Stolzenberg, said in a statement. A medical center spokeswoman would not say who brought the canister into the room. "These tend to be extremely safe machines if used properly," said Dr. Emanuel Kanal, the director of magnetic resonance services in the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Department of Radiology, and a widely recognized expert on MRI safety. He estimates between 8 million and 10 million MRI procedures are performed in the United States each year, the vast majority without complications. Nevertheless, in the years since the device first went into widespread use, there have been "hundreds or thousands" of incidents where objects became magnetized and attracted to MRI machines, he notes. The items have included cigarette lighters, paper clips, clipboards, and similar objects. Last year, an MRI scan at a Rochester, N.Y., hospital pulled a gun out of a police officer's hand and discharged a shot. "But [such incidents] are still the extreme minority," and serious injury from items magnetized by MRIs is even rarer, he said. (
ABC News, donated by Tetsubo)