“The primary suspects in some of the most high profile criminal cases”
PRIME SUSPECTS CASEBOOK
In most criminal investigations police will eventually identify a prime suspect, that one person above all others who present detectives with the most plausible argument for being the perpetrator of the crime. In most cases, but not all, these men and women are for whatever reason, adept at staying one step head of the law, leaving investigators with few clues and ultimately unable to provide enough evidence in bringing them to justice. There are several reasons why these prime suspects are capable of evading arrest or subsequent prosecution. Either there is a lack of evidence that connects them as the perpetrator, no credible eye-witnesses who can place them at the scene of the crime, or they have a cast-iron alibi for their whereabouts that accounts for their actions during the timeframe of when the crime had been committed.
From July 1979 to May 1981, upwards of 28 children and young adults were victims of a killer who became known as the Atlanta Child Murderer. In the case of the last victim, an African American resident, 23-year-old Wayne Williams was arrested near the scene of the crime. Evidence found inside his station wagon on the night of the murder was never analysed by forensic officers, however fibres from inside his residence were matched to two of the victims, and he was charged with their deaths. Although additional evidence linked him to at least 12 other victims, such as witness statements and other forensic evidence, these were deemed inadmissible by the judge. In 1982, Williams was found guilty of two of the Atlanta murders and sentenced to life in prison. He has continued to profess his innocence, and because of a lack of evidence, the other murders remain unsolved.
In 1946, the Texarkana Moonlight Murders were committed in Texas, by the Phantom Killer, who shot and killed five and wounded three others during a ten week killing spree. Yeoull Swinney, a career criminal, was arrested for theft and readily gave incriminating statements about the crimes. The most crucial part of the case againt him was his wife Peggy’s confession that he was the Phantom, but when she refused to testify against him in court, police had only circumstantial evidence that tied him to the murders. His fingerprints did not match those from one of the crime scenes, there were no eye-witnesses because the killer wore a white mask, and his wife later recanted her confession. With no evidence, Swinney was jailed for minor auto-theft charges and his involvement in the murders eventually faded, leaving the exact circumstances of the murders a mystery.
During the Frankford Slasher investigation, a serial killer had claimed the lives of nine women from August 1985 to September 1990 in Frankford, Pennsylvania. It is unknown if all these crimes were committed by the same person, but in the case of one of the slain women detectives suspected Leonard Christopher, an employee at a nearby fish market, of being the killer. He was linked to one of the murders in 1990, tried and sentenced to life imprisonment, but there was very little evidence of his culpability and he did not match an eye-witness description of the Slasher. Christopher would have a pretty solid albi for the ninth and last murder, which happened during his incarceration, casting doubt on his guilt in the other crimes. It is likely the real killer managed to evade capture, and the Frankford crimes have continued to be officially listed an unsolved case.
Some criminals have proven too effective in concealing any and all involvement in their crimes, and have hidden their identity for decades. Advances in criminal profiling and forensic science has gone some way towards helping identify criminals, such as the case of the Golden State Killer. The prime suspect in that case, Joseph James DeAngelo was connected to the more than 100 burglaries, 50 rapes and 10 murders through the use of genetic genealogy at the end of a 40-year hunt. Before the advent of such progressive methods, criminals would have been apprehended through the use of good old fashioned police work and investigative techniques. Some have remained unidentified, such as the London serial killer Jack the Ripper who has never been identified, and despite hundreds of suspects, as well as three who are considered prime suspects, is unlikely to ever be unmasked.
The Mr. Kipper Suspect
A violent individual, John Cannan was responsible for several attacks against women during the mid-1980’s. He was convicted in April 1989 for the October 1987 murder of Shirley Banks, who had been kidnapped during a night out in Bristol. He was also involved in the rapes of several women, as well as the suspected involvement in the murder of Sandra Court in May 1986. A handsome ladies man, Cannan was known to be violent and abusive during his relationships with women, and conducted sickening attacks against an unknown number of victims. Sentenced to life imprisonment for his crimes, Cannan was questioned by detectives investigating the disappearance of estate agent Suzy Lamplugh in July 1986, and has consistently denied any involvement. He is strongly suspected of being Mr. Kipper, the mysterious prospective tenant Ms. Lamplugh met on the fateful day she vanished.
Montague John Druitt
The Jack the Ripper Suspect
One of the three main suspects mentioned in a memorandum by Ripper investigator Melvin Macnaughten, Montague John Druitt has remained a controversial figure in the Jack the Ripper case. It would be the timing of Druitt’s apparent suicide, shortly after the murders ended, that would irrevocably lead to his nomination as a leading suspect. A lawyer by profession, Druitt would work as an assistant schoolmaster at a prestigious boarding school, but was abruptly dismissed from his post in November 1888, when the murders apparently stopped. His body was found shortly afterwards floating in the Thames, and investigators were then given private information about him by a source close to the Druitt family. By the 1970’s, a new theory emerged that claimed Druitt committed the murders as part of the Royal conspiracy involving upper-class members of Victorian society.
The Glasgow Three Suspect
One of Scotland’s most prolific serial killers, Angus Sinclair was first imprisoned for the murder of a seven-year-old girl in 1961. Seven years later he was freed, and although he soon married, he had numerous affairs with other women. Sinclair began committing petty crimes and robberies with his brother-in-law, and in October 1977, they murdered two young friends in what became known as the World’s End Murders. He would be suspected of more murders, and during the 1980’s, began perpetrating a series of rapes and sex attacks against young girls across Glasgow. Jailed for life for these crimes, he would come under suspicion by investigators who were attempting to solve the deaths of three women found raped and murdered between August and December 1977. These crimes bore a strong similarity to those of Sinclair, but he would protest his innocence right up until his own death.
The Monster of Florence Suspect
The investigation into the series of ritualistic murders in Florence, Italy, has been long and complex. The killer targeted courting couples in secluded areas, shooting both the men and women to death and then, in most cases, performed grotesque mutilations on the female victim. There have been numerous suspects, but most were eliminated from police enquiries. Almost a decade after the last murders, 68-year-old semi-literate farmer Pietro Pacciani went on trial charged with being the Monster. It was the theory of chief inspector Michele Giuttari that Pacciani and two other men had participated in black masses and committed the murders together with a cabal of wealthy elites, using the female body parts in Satanic rituals. His conviction later overturned, and a free man, Pacciani eventually died from a suspected heart-attack, however some suspect he was murdered in order to silence him.
Arthur Leigh Allen
The Zodiac Killer Suspect
The favourite suspect of many lead investigators, Arthur Leigh Allen was considered a strong contender for the serial killer known as the Zodiac, who murdered couples and sent letters to the press. Interviewed during the early days of the investigation and the subject of several search warrants, Allen played a cat and mouse game with detectives. A friend of Allen’s initially reported him to police, providing damning statements made by him of his desire to kill people and call himself Zodiac. An intimidating individual and known child sex offender with a hatred of women, Allen fit the known traits of the killer, but would eventually be ruled out by DNA and handwriting analysis. Despite this, he has remained a prime suspect in the unsolved serial murders, and is even suspected of committing a series of murders against young girls in what was known as the Santa Rosa Hitchhiker murders.
The Jack the Stripper Suspect
The Welsh killer was convicted in 1921 of the murder of an 11-year-old neighbour and the prior murder of an 8-year-old girl, for which he had been acquitted. The double murderer was only 15-years-old at the time of these crimes, so was not eligible for the death penalty and would spend the next twenty years of a life sentence behind bars. Upon his release, Jones briefly returned to Abertillery to visit the graves of his victims before moving of London. During the 1960’s, a savage killer began preying on prostitutes in London’s Hammersmith, in much the same way Jack the Ripper had done. The naked bodies of the victims were found strangled, and the press nicknamed the killer Jack the Stripper. Never considered a suspect at the time, Jones was living in the area during the murders, and the method in which victims died was similar to his previous child victims.
The Cleveland Torso Murder Suspect
The dismembered bodies of men and women began turning up on the streets of Cleveland, Ohio, in September 1935. Few of the victims were ever positively identified, and by August 1938, twelve people had been brutally murdered by a maniac the press had sensationalized as the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run. The murders were similar to a series of slayings that had taken place in Pennsylvania from 1923 until 1925. These murders would continue during and after the Cleveland killer had stopped his murder spree, but were never formally connected. Several suspects were identified and later cleared, however one man has remained the prime suspect of lead investigator Eliot Ness. Dr. Francis Sweeney was personally interviewed by Ness, and failed two early polygraph tests, convincing Ness he was the killer. The murders later stopped only when Sweeney committed himself to a hospital.
The Maddie McCann Murder Suspect
Some 13 years after 5-year-old Madeleine McCann disappeared from the family’s holiday apartment at the Praia de Luz resort in Protugal, a new suspect in the case was announced by German police. Known as Christian B. in the German press, Brueckner is a convicted child molester and rapist who is currently serving a prison sentence in Germany on drugs charges. Investigators have claimed he was in Praia de Luz during the same time Maddie McCann went missing, and left Portugal for Germany not long afterwards. His name eventually came to police attention in 2019, when an associate came forward with information that Brueckner had suggested he knew what happened to Madeleine. With a history of violence towards women, and convictions for child sexual abuse, Brueckner is now the prime suspect in the long, complex and costly investigation.
The Zodiac Killer Suspect
With a long criminal record that stretches back to September 1947, Larry Kane was no stranger to being on the wrong side of the law. From 1968 until 1979, it appeared he had turned his life around, and was not arrested for any crimes during that period… when the Zodiac killer emerged. Kane matched the witness description of the Zodiac and was proficient in coding messages, similar to the Zodiac ciphers sent to the press. It has been suggested that Kane’s name is present in one of the Zodiac’s letters. Although there is no hard evidence linking him to the San Francisco murders, there is a wealth of circumstantial evidence that points towards Kane having committed the murder of Donna Lass, long thought to be a victim of the Bay Area serial killer. Kane is also suspected of the murder of Dana Lull, who was kidnapped at gunpoint at the the Red Rock Canyon area of Las Vegas.
The Ivan the Terrible Suspect
At the Treblinka death camp in Poland, inmates described a Ukrainian Nazi guard who was the most cruel and murderous, they called him ‘Ivan the Terrible’. At the end of World War II, the Allied and Soviet Governments began investigating Nazi suspects, and numerous trials were conducted to punish those who committed some of the worst crimes in history. Ivan the Terrible managed to escape justice and disappeared at the end of the conflict. In August 1977, an American émigré named John Demjanjuk came to world wide attention when he was accused of being the infamous Nazi camp guard. Extradited to Israel in 1986, Demjanjuk was put on trial in what would be a global media event. Although he maintained his innocence, he was found guilty and sentenced to death. This was later overturned, and he was freed. But doubt still remains about what if any role Demjanjuk had played during the Holocaust.
The Bible John Suspect
Between 1968 and 1969, three young women were murdered by a man they met at the Barrowland Ballroom, a dance a music hall in the city of Glasgow. The perpetrator, who often quoted the Old Testament, was never identified and would become known as Bible John. In May 2007, Peter Tobin was convicted for the brutal murder of a Polish student. A search of his Margate garden unearthed the remains of two teenaged girls who had been murdered in 1991. After these convictions Tobin was suspected of being Bible John. During the 1960’s, Tobin had met his first wife at the Barrowland Ballroom, the same year that the murders ended. All three of Tobin’s former wives have given police harrowing accounts of the abuse they suffered during their marriages, and he is known to be a staunch Roman Catholic and bears a strong resemblance to the composite drawing of Bible John.
The Jack the Ripper Suspect
Among the many Jack the Ripper suspects, Leather Apron is perhaps the most elusive and intriguing. On the streets of Victorian London, prostitutes feared the name associated with a knife wielding extortionist who attempted to rob them of their earnings. Soon enough it was whispered this man was the Ripper, and police were forced to act. Anyone known by the name Leather Apron was taking in for questioning, and the nickname soon became synonymous with the murderer. A bloodied leather apron was left at the scene of one of the murders, and the Ripper made mention of leather apron in the Dear Boss letter, finding the association humorous. One of the prime suspects in the case was a Jewish man known as Kosminski, who some investigators believed was Leather Apron. There is much debate about his true identity, and if he was in fact the killer known as Jack the Ripper.
The Zodiac Killer Suspect
When Robert Graysmith released his book Zodiac in 1986, one of the main suspects put forward was a man named Donald Jeff Andrews, who would later be revealed to be Rick Marshall. An avid cinema enthusiast, Marshall worked as a projectionist at a movie theatre during 1974, at same time the Zodiac is suspected of sending a letter signed ‘the Red Phantom’, the character of one of Marshall’s favourite silent movies. Several clues in the Zodiac investigation point towards the killer having an interest in cinematography, and the moniker Dr. Zodiac was used by the villain of a 1933 film, and a movie poster written in his handwriting bears a striking resemblance to the handwriting on a suspected Zodiac letter. Although there is very little credible evidence that suggests Marshall was the Zodiac, he never fully discounted and has continued to remain a suspect.
The BTK Strangler Suspect
The terrifying individual known by the initials TK was put forward as a suspect in March 2004, just after the BTK killer had resurfaced. A poster on the Crime & Justice message board claimed that her ex-brother-in-law was the BTK Strangler, a serial killer who had terrorized Wichita, Kansas beginning in 1974, but who had not communicated with authorities since 1979. In great detail, the poster presented a convincing argument for why she suspected TK, who she said had been abusing her children and herself for many years. She described how he had a fascination for numbers and was a Satanist who had committed not only the crimes attributed to BTK, but also others that investigators had never connected. With the February 2005 arrest of Dennis Rader, TK evidently was not BTK, however he was still a dangerous individual who had potentially committed numerous horrific crimes.
The Black Dahlia Murder Suspect
When Elizabeth Short, known after her death as the Black Dahlia, was gruesomely murdered in Los Angeles in January 1947, there was a long list of suspects. One such suspect was Dr. George Hodel, who mingled with some well-known Hollywood celebrities and developed an interest in the Surrealist art scene and a fascination for sadomasochism. The doctor is suspected of involvement in the May 1945 death of his secretary, and would go on trial in December 1949 charged with molesting and impregnating his own daughter. Other unsolved deaths followed his acquittal, and he soon came to the attention of the LAPD detectives investigating the Short murder. Hodel’s Franklin Avenue residence was wire-tapped, and bizarre conversations were recorded between Hodel and a mysterious man known as the Baron. When police were ready to make an arrest, Hodel suddenly left the country for Hawaii.
The Boston Strangler Suspect
During the early 1960’s a savage series of murders that also became known as the Silk Stocking Murders were committed by a killer in Boston, Massachusetts. The victim ranged in age from 19 to 85, and were all sexually assaulted and strangled in their apartments, with the last murder occurring in January 1964. An arrest was made in the case in October 1964, when Albert DeSalvo was apprehended after attacking a woman in her home. He would be identified as the perpetrator of numerous robberies and sexual assaults that had been undertaken by a suspect known as ‘the Green Man’. DeSalvo eventually confessed to the Boston Strangler crimes, but without any evidence linking him, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for the sex crimes. DNA evidence linked DeSalvo to the last murder, however it is the prevailing theory that there was more than one Boston Strangler.
The Jack the Ripper Suspect
In May 1889, Liverpool cotton merchant James Maybrick was poisoned by his wife, for which she was tried and convicted during a sensational trial. More than century after his death, he was accused of being the unidentified serial killer Jack the Ripper, who murdered prostitutes in London’s East End. In 1992, a document would surface that has come to divide experts on both its authorship and authenticity. Known as the Diary of Jack the Ripper, the notebook details the crimes of the killer and without providing any names, makes numerous references to Maybrick, identifying him as the author of the diary. Tests carried out on the document have proved inconclusive, and the owner has made claims of carrying out a hoax, then later retracting this and reaffirming it as genuine. The appearance of a pocket watch inscribed with the words ‘I am Jack’ has also been attributed to Maybrick.
Bevan Spencer von Einem
The Family Murders Suspect
In July 1983, the body of teenager Richard Kelvin was found in the Adelaide Hills. He had been drugged, raped and murdered. His death was one of many young men and boys who were found murdered from 1979 until November 1983, when a suspect was arrested. The accountant, Bevan Spencer von Einem, was accused of kidnapping and murdering Kelvin, and a search of his home uncovered the exact same drugs found in the victims body. At his trial, an anonymous witness came forward to reveal shocking details that von Einem was part of a much later group of homosexual paedophiles and rapists who had been active for many years. Found guilty of Kelvin’s murder in November 1984, he was sentenced to life imprisonment, but von Einem was never charged with the other unsolved crimes, known as the ‘Family Murders’, and his suspected associates have never been brought to justice.