During 1968 and 1969, the notorious Zodiac Killer murdered five people. Several witnesses saw one of the murders take place and described the killer as being a white male between 25 and 30 years old, with a crew cut and wearing glasses. Unfortunately, a dispatcher mistakenly told police that the suspect was a black male, leading to the man rounded up for questioning being released.
The Zodiac Killer taunted police by phone and contacted newspapers via a series of letters. In addition to this the murderer included puzzling codes in some of the letters he sent.
51 years later, the mystery of the Zodiac Killer’s identity remains, but one of his ciphers containing 340 characters was finally solved by a team of amateur codebreakers in December 2020. This breakthrough has raised hopes that more mysteries might be solved in 2021, including the truth behind the MH370 crash and the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.
10 Brayman Road attacker
On 22 August 1988, social worker “Carol” was on her way to work at the local psychiatric hospital in Putnam, Connecticut. As she drove along Brayman Hollow Road, the driver of a black pickup truck in front of her started behaving erratically. He would abruptly brake after speeding up and cross the centre line, almost scraping the sides of oncoming cars. Carol stayed behind the truck, at a safe distance, but no one could have predicted the horror that would follow.
The driver of the pickup suddenly stopped in the middle of the road, pulled out a gun and walked towards Carol’s vehicle that had come to a stop as well. The man halted 10 feet from Carol and then shot her in the face. He jumped back into his truck and sped off, leaving Carol semi-conscious and partially paralyzed. A few minutes passed without anyone noticing Carol slumped behind her steering wheel. A utility truck passed by and its driver saw the strange angle at which Carol was positioned in her car, after which he immediately called the police and paramedics.
Doctors fought to save Carol after she arrived at the hospital. Her carotid artery was severed, and her face torn apart. Miraculously, Carol survived, and she physically recovered well from the trauma.
Her attacker was never found however, even after more reports emerged of a driver in a black pickup, taunting motorists on the Brayman Hollow Road. Witnesses reported that the driver was a white male, with curly brown hair, average build and would be middle-aged today. The pickup was a step-side with flared fenders.
9 Disappearance of Alessia and Livia Schepp
On Friday, 28 January 2011, six-year-old twins Alessia and Livia Schepp were taken from their home in St. Sulpice, Switzerland by their father, Mathias. The following day he sent a message to his ex-wife and the twins’ mother, Irina, saying that he would bring them home Monday, 31 January. Instead, he took the twins and they crossed the border into France after which Mathias sent Irina, a postcard. Mathias was seen by several people and captured by cameras up until 3 February 2011 after which he threw himself under a train in Italy. The last time anyone saw the twins, however, was on 31 January when Mathias took them on a ferry that transported them from mainland France to Corsica.
A letter written by Mathias, dated 3 February 2011, stated that he had killed Alessia and Livia and that ‘they did not suffer.’ Police established that Mathias had researched suicide, poison and guns before taking the ferry trip, and feared that the twins were indeed dead.
However, no remains have never been found and the little girls’ ultimate fate is still a mystery.
8 Where is Susan Powell?
Everything that happened after a neighbor left Susan Powell’s home on the afternoon of December 6, 2009, was strange and ultimately tragic. The whole Powell family was reported missing on December 7 by their relatives after Susan’s mother-in-law and sister-in-law didn’t find anyone when they arrived at the Powell home. Susan’s husband, Joshua, arrived home in the late afternoon with their sons, Charles and Braden, in tow claiming the three of them had been camping in Simpson Springs.
On December 9 police found small traces of Susan’s blood in the Powell family home, as well as a letter written by Susan in which she expressed that she was afraid for her life. Braden in the meantime had drawn a picture of a van with three people inside while at daycare, and told a teacher that his “mommy was in the trunk.” Charlie on the other hand told police that he and his brother went camping with both his mother and father, but that his mother didn’t return with them.
By December 10, police had searched for and failed to find the camp site Joshua spoke of. During the investigation, a secret will, and a very disturbing video made by Susan was discovered. It was also discovered that Joshua’s father, Steven, had been obsessed with Susan and took pictures of her without her knowing.
Police were soon convinced that Joshua killed Susan and roped in his brother, Michael, to help him get rid of Susan’s body. There wasn’t enough evidence to charge them however, and now police will never get the chance to. On February 5, 2012 Joshua Powell attacked his two sons with a hatchet and then set off a gas leak explosion killing them all. A year later, Michael Powell, jumped off a parking structure in Minneapolis and died on impact.
The investigation in Susan Powell’s disappearance has been closed without her body being found. Her family hasn’t given up hope and continues to search, in the hope of gaining some small form of closure.
7 Virginia murders
In October 2009, 20-year-old Morgan Dana Harrington disappeared without a trace after being denied entry back into a Metallica concert in Charlottesville. She was seen alive for the last time, trying to hitch a lift back home. Her remains were found in a field three months later on January 26, 2010. She had been raped and brutally murdered. Six years later a 33-year-old suspect, Jesse Matthew, was apprehended. At the time he was facing a capital murder charge of another young woman, 18-year-old Hannah Graham, who disappeared in Charlottesville in September 2014. Hannah’s remains were found five years after Morgan was killed.
Three other young women also disappeared in and around Charlottesville. 17-year-old Alexis Murphy disappeared from a Lovingston gas station in August 2013. Her remains were never found but evidence recovered from a trailer led to the murder conviction of 48-year-old Randy Taylor.
19-year-old Samantha Ann Clarke left her home in September 2010, taking only her keys with her, and was never seen again. 19-year-old Dashad ‘Sage’ Smith disappeared after leaving her home in November 2012, telling her friend she would be back soon. In the case of these two women, there is no closure and their families still live with the uncertainty over their fate every day. The suspect in Sage’s case, Erik McFadden, disappeared shortly after Sage and his mother reported him missing in 2019. Sage’s whereabouts is still unknown. Randy Taylor is considered a suspect in disappearance of Samantha but hasn’t been charged since there is no evidence of foul play. Samantha’s fate, too, is unknown.
6 The case of the tortured teenager
In February 1979, Bob Livesey left to start a night shift at Leyland Motors, while unbeknownst to him, his wife Margaret was meeting up with her lover at a pub in Bamber Bridge, Lancashire. The man dropped Margaret at home later where her 14-year-old son Alan was in his room, grounded after taking a car and causing an accident. Margaret then went to her neighbors’ house after which the neighbor’s son set off for the Livesey home and found Alan lying face down on the ground in front of a gas fire. He had knife marks on his face and eyelid, several stab wounds to his body and had been tied up.
Within five days, Margaret Livesey had confessed to stabbing her son with a kitchen knife, saying that she had completely lost control of herself after an argument with Alan. Three days later, she retracted the confession, claiming that police had coerced her into saying she was guilty of murder. Two trials later, Margaret was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. She was freed on parole in 1989 and maintained her innocence until she died of cancer in 2000.
Supporters of Margaret insist that she couldn’t possibly have had enough time to get home, kill Alan and visit the neighbors in the 30-minute window experts believe Alan had been murdered in. Some theories claim that a mystery figure had been spotted in the Livesey back yard the night of the murder, before Margaret had come home. Margaret’s family stood with her, also protesting her innocence.
Was Margaret truly innocent? Did a random stranger kill Alan Livesey? In 2016 a new inquiry was opened into the case, with detectives reviewing evidence after a long campaign by the Livesey family. The outcome is unknown.
5 What happened to Diane Dye?
Her parents’ divorce made 13-year-old Diane Genice Dye very unhappy. It was 1979 and her father had moved out of their family home in San Jose, her mother was working long hours and times were just tough. Diane had a best friend, Natja, who was like a brother to her and he could see that the divorce was taking a toll on her. She started smoking marijuana and skipping school. On July 30, 1979, Diane told Natja that she wanted to run away. Natja spoke to her for an hour, consoling her and trying to talk her out of it. Diane then thanked him, but asked him to leave her alone.
Three days later, Natja pitched up at Diane’s house only to find her mother in a state. She told him that Diane had been missing for three days. 41 years later, there have been claims of sightings of Diane all over America, but none panned out. It is as if the girl disappeared off the face of the earth. A friend alleged that she saw Diane at a mall in December 1981 and that Diane told her she wasn’t planning on going back home.
Authorities have questioned an inmate, Doug Young, on death row many times but he has consistently denied having anything to do with Diane’s disappearance even though he was seen talking to her before she went missing.
To date, there have been no new leads and Diane’s disappearance remains a mystery.
4 Who shot Cherice Lynnae Jacobsen?
On March 8, 1990 16-year-old Cherice Lynnae Jacobsen attended an all-night prayer vigil at the Christian Life Centre in Stockton, California. She was serious about her faith and wanted to graduate in June so that she could attend the Christian Life College. At one point she left the prayer vigil and returned at 12am. At 1:30am she stepped out and headed for the church’s parking lot to retrieve a bottle of lotion from a car. She walked back to the church building at 1:40am. The pastor’s son, Nathaniel, heard something that sounded like a ‘pop.’ He was standing near the front door at the time, and he saw Cherice pause, look over her shoulder and then drop to the ground.
He ran to her and saw that she had been shot in the head above her left ear. Cherice was rushed to the hospital, but she died two hours later.
A few weeks before she died, Cherice told several family members and friends of a strange dream she’d had. In her dream she stood before an executioner while the Lord spoke to her. The Lord told her “There will be many youths brought into the Kingdom of God because of your death.” The executioner wanted Cherice to deny God, but she refused. Cherice’s best friend, Cindy Garcia, told reporters after her death that Cherice knew she was going to die and that she wanted Nathaniel to officiate her funeral.
In 2021, the case is still officially cold with no one ever being charged for Cherice’s murder.
3 The Beaumont children
On January 26, 1966, the Beaumont siblings, 9-year-old Jane, 7-year-old Arnna, and 4-year-old Grant set off for a beach that was located just a few minutes from their home in Somerton Park, Adelaide. It was a hot day, and their mother Nancy didn’t hesitate to give them permission to spend the day at the sea. The elated kids boarded a bus at around 10:10 that morning, Jane holding a copy of Little Women in her hand.
They had a ball on the beach, and as an elderly woman watched them frolicking about, she saw a tall, blond man in blue swim trunks watch them too. Then he approached them. The woman saw the children leave with him. Other witnesses saw the children at a cake shop and apparently, they bought a meat pie along with other treats, paying for their goods with a one-pound note. Yet more witnesses saw the man in the blue trunks helping the kids get dressed after they were done playing around in the sprinklers at Colley Reserve. That was the last confirmed time the Beaumont children were seen. They never returned home.
Police followed every available lead from the start, but Nancy Beaumont passed away in 2019 at the age of 92 without ever knowing what happened to her three children. The authorities never gave up and dug up an Adelaide factory site as recently as 2018 in the hopes of finding answers. They didn’t find any new clues.
The man in the blue trunks was never identified.
2 The imposter
13-year-old Nicholas Barclay was a troubled teenager and was scheduled for a court hearing on 14 June 1994 that would have determined whether his future included a home for juvenile delinquents. When he disappeared on 13 June 1994, his family immediately assumed he had run away to avoid the court hearing.
Three years later, police from Spain contacted San Antonio authorities to let them know they had found Nicholas after he escaped from a military child sex trafficking ring. Nicholas’ sister, Carey, set off for Spain and positively identified him even though the person claiming to her brother had brown hair and eyes compared to Nicholas’s blond hair and blue eyes. Also, he had a strong French accent which could not be said of Nicholas Barclay. Nevertheless, the Barclay family accepted the young man and all his explanations for his physical differences. They even told the local police to close the case.
Detective Charlie Parker wasn’t convinced, and he eventually got the imposter to admit that his real name was Frédéric Bourdin and that he was a fugitive on the run from Interpol. This was after Bourdin had invaded the Barclay family home for 5 months. Bourdin was sent to prison for 6 years.
Nicholas Barclay was never found, and it remains unclear whether he is still alive.
1 The missing girls
13-year-old Joan Horn, 11-year-old Odette Boucher, 12-year-old Anne-Marie Wapenaar, 12-year-old Yolande Wessels, 12-year-old Fiona Harvey and 14-year-old Tracey-Lee Scott Crossley were kidnapped by paedophile Gert van Rooyen and his lover, Joey Haarhoff in South Africa between 1988 and 1990. Another victim, 16-year-old Joan Booysen, managed to escape Van Rooyen’s Pretoria house and alerted the police. When Van Rooyen realized his time was up, he shot and killed Haarhoff before turning the gun on himself.
As the years passed, police did everything they possible could to try and locate the kidnapped girls. Their efforts involved the demolishing of Van Rooyen’s home to search for clues, and the excavating of his garden and swimming pool. They investigated the possibility that the girls’ bodies were buried near a cemetery in northwest Pretoria and they excavated numerous sites around Blythedale Beach in Durban, KwaZulu Natal after it was established that Van Rooyen had holidayed in the area shortly before his death.
No trace of the girls has ever been found.