Wednesday, June 11, 2008

FRITZ HAARMANN - -The Butcher of Hannover

The Butcher of Hannover

After the relative crime watershed of World War I, the 20th Century entered the "age of sex crime." Perhaps predictably, the country where this first became apparent was Germany , where the miseries and deprivation of hyperinflation and food shortage made their maximum impact. Hannover, an elegant municipality in the center of lower Saxony , was one of the cities most affected and it was in this sleepy hollow that Fritz Haarmann committed one of the most extraordinary series of crimes in modern times.

On 17th May 1924, some children playing at the edge of a river near the Herrenhausen Castle found a human skull and, on May 29th, another washed up on the riverbank. The town was sent in to frenzy on the 13th June when two more skulls were found included in the river's sediment. An autopsy proved the first two crania to be that of young people aged between 18 and 20 and the last skull found from a boy of approximately 12. In all cases, a sharp instrument had been used to separate the skulls from the torso and the flesh had been entirely removed.

It was initially thought that the human remains originated from the anatomical institute in Gottingen or that they had been flung into the river by grave-robbers fleeing from capture. Yet these theories remained unproven and the mystery gained further publicity when boys playing on a marshland unearthed a sack containing human bones. It had become impossible for the authorities to keep these grisly finds a secret and, whilst young boys continued to be reported missing (the number in 1923 grew to almost 600), the Hannoverian population was gripped by terror. The investigation highlighted that those missing were mostly aged between 14 and 18 and rumors were circulating that human flesh had been on sale at the public market.

On Whit Sunday in 1924, hundreds of people left Hannover and descended on the small paths and bridges of the Old Town, where they started searching for human remains. The vastness of this expedition was unprecedented in German criminal history and was spurred on primarily by the talk of a "werewolf" or "man-eater" at large. After a multitude of bones had been discovered, the city's central River Leine was dammed and inspected by policemen and municipal workers. The finds were horrific. More than 500 parts of corpses were detected, proved later to be the remains of at least 22 people, a third aged between 15 and 20. Approximately one half had been in the water for some time and the joints of many of the fresh bones had smoothly cut surfaces.

Every thief and sexual deviant in Hannover was questioned and, through dogged detective work and a series of strange coincidences, a suspect by the name of Friedrich (known as Fritz) Haarmann was taken to the court prison. The man was already known to the police as both a 'dealer' in clothing and meat and to the criminal investigation department due to his publicly homosexual status. His appearance and mannerisms in the ultra-reserved days of inter-war Germany redefined the conventional impression of murder and murderers.

Haarmann was certainly sympathetic in appearance, a simple man with a friendly, open expression and a courteous nature. Of average height, broad and well built, he had a rough 'full-moon' face and neat, cheerful eyes. His features were generally small and as unprepossessing as the rest of his appearance, the only notability a well-groomed, light brown moustache. Fritz's expression closed up completely as soon as the atmosphere became embarrassing and investigating officers soon realized that their suspect was a man of deep contrast. At times cagey and calculating, yet also talkative and hyperactive, desperately seeking sympathy and attention. His soft, white hands moved nervously, plucking and pulling constantly at his long fingers.

Whilst Haarmann's body was strong and coarse, it was also slightly feminine and his speech "was like the querulous voice of an old woman." The killer's almost constant defensiveness and embarrassment was reflected in his automatisms and stereotypes: the wiggling of his behind, the licking of his lips - even the constant blinking of his eyes. Haarmann loved 'feminine' pastimes, such as baking and cooking, but would smoke strong cigars at the same time. Although his appearance was, as the Hannover police stated, "far from evil", Fritz Haarmann entered the record books as Germany 's most prolific killer.

Deadly Combination

Haarmann had begun his crime rampage in September 1918, a time in which Germany was suffering economic depravation and severe food shortages. A young runaway by the name of Friedel Roth disappeared from home on the 25th, writing to his mother only to say that he would not return home until "she was nice again." Various friends of the boy were forthcoming with information and eventually led the police to no.27 Cellerstrasse, the home of a man they claimed had seduced Friedel. A detective surprised one Fritz Haarmann in bed with a young boy and he was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment for seducing the juvenile. Unbelievably, the rooms were not searched and, upon interrogation five years later, Haarmann confessed that the "murdered boy's head was stuffed behind the stove wrapped in newspaper."

The murderer's story was to take a dramatic turn in late 1919 when he met young Hans Grans at the Hannover railway station. A petty thief, Hans had run away from home and now earned his living selling old clothes at the station. The young boy approached the openly homosexual Haarmann with the purpose of prostituting himself for money. Remarkably, a friendship soon developed and Grans began living with the old man, where a bond of "madness and spiritual parasitism developed." The relationship was more than sexual and the insane ideas that surfaced in Haarmann's conscience always involved his young housemate.

Having carefully avoided his jail sentence throughout 1919, Haarmann served his penance from March until December 1920. Grans thieved his way around Germany during this time and, upon reunion at Christmas 1920, there followed a period of uninterrupted bliss until August 1921. The two thieves appeared as well-dressed, decent gentlemen and earned respect amongst the local people. Needless to say, however, the two men had more illicit intentions and plied their trade by begging or stealing laundry and selling it to the public.

In early 1922 the two men moved to no.8 Neuestrasse in the heart of the so-called 'haunted area". Haarmann was earning a good income; the thieving was accompanied by social security payments (he had been declared an invalid and therefore unable to work) and also his newfound role as a police informer. Haarmann double-crossed everybody and became a "custodian of the law and an information office for all criminal matters." Amazingly, the clothes that Haarmann passed around Hannover earned him the reputation as a benefactor of the homeless. His obvious homosexuality further hushed up any theories people may have had as to the origin of the garments. This was just as well as, in February 1923, Haarmann returned to his murderous past.

The killer detained two youths at Hannover station on the pretence that he was an officer inspecting the waiting rooms. The less attractive lad was sent away and Fritz Franke accompanied the phony officer home. Haarmann later claimed that Grans had turned up unexpectedly whilst the corpse of Franke was still in the room. Shocked, he simply stared at Haarmann and said, "When shall I come back again?"

Fritz Haarman's Reign of Terror

The murders now gained pace and in the following nine months 12 more young men's lives were taken. In almost every scenario, the victim was met at the train station and offered accommodation or work; or apprehended on the pretence that his abductor was a police officer. This guise was used so often that on one occasion, after a youth welfare worker had asked the guard as to whether Haarmann was employed in the same capacity, the station official replied, "No, he's a detective." Once in the Neuestrasse room the boy would be killed, according to Haarmann, by biting through his windpipe. Always with a view to his commercial instincts, the body would then be dismembered and the clothes and meat sold through the usual channels for smuggled goods. The useless portions were thrown into the River Leine.

One year later, when the items confiscated from the killer were on public display, victim's families discovered a wealth of personal artifacts, many kept as souvenirs and the remainder sold on through Haarmann's impressive distribution network. On each occasion there was normally an array of witnesses who had seen the recognizable Haarmann (and often Grans) approach and leave with the stranger. Such was the respect that the two men had now earned for themselves, however, that no incident was ever reported. On one such circumstance Haarmann even had the audacity to reply to an announcement in the paper offering a reward for information. He appeared at the family door under the guise of a criminologist, yet was said to have spent most of his time "laughing hysterically."

The murders continued unabated throughout early1924, Haarmann honing his remarkable knack of spotting disillusioned young tearaways at the station and then removing them casually into the night. Due to the nature of the victims, angry or estranged parents and friends often took a while to even report the disappearance. By then, the clothing and meat of the victims had been speedily distributed around Hannover and were practically untraceable. Without that sort of hard evidence, the police were at a virtual dead-end, although there were some particularly close calls. On one such occasion, a portion of the trader's meat was taken to the police because the buyer thought it was human flesh. The police analyst unequivocally pronounced it pork!

The disappearance of Erich de Vries on 14th June 1924 signaled the end of the killer's reign. In classic fashion, it was an offer of cigarettes at Hannover station that tempted the young lad to join the friendly stranger in his room. It was estimated at this time that the fugitive had murdered around 27 boys in less than 16 months: an average of almost two a month.

Despite the enormous manhunt now in operation, the killer had still not been apprehended and Hannover was at the point of public outcry. By late June of 1924 sheer terror had gripped the city and the "Werewolf" was still on the loose.

Incarceration of Fritz Haarmann

Throughout the panic that engulfed Hannover in 1924, Fritz Haarmann remained a definite suspect. Along with every other local sex offender, he was investigated repeatedly during May and June, yet no conclusive evidence could be found. Meanwhile, press announcements appeared giving details of the skulls in the hope of obtaining clues from the general public. The quantity of skulls and corpses still being discovered was generating a nationwide furor and a general lack of confidence in the German police force.

With the pressure mounting, the following course of action was agreed upon: as Haarmann already knew the town officials, two young policemen would arrive from Berlin at Hannover train station, pretending to be homeless and looking for a place to stay. They would then focus on the suspect's activities and hope to catch him in the act. Once again, however, the killer's incredible luck conspired against them as Fritz was found arguing with 15-year-old Karl Fromm, a boy who had spent several days at Haarmann's apartment. Fromm was being particularly "cheeky and supercilious" on this evening and, amazingly, Haarmann had the audacity to report him to the railway police, claiming that he was traveling on false papers. Once at the police station, though, Fromm turned the tables on the older man by accusing him of sexual harassment during his stay. Coincidentally, a member of the vice squad was at the station at this time and, in the knowledge that the police were hoping to arrest Haarmann, the officer decided to apprehend the suspect immediately. Before any unnecessary suspicions could be aroused, Haarmann was taken to prison on the morning of 23rd June.

The killer later claimed that he had only arranged to have Fromm taken into custody because he knew he was going to murder the boy and was afraid he would not be able to resist the urge for much longer. If this statement is to be believed, here was the first time that Haarmann's actions were motivated by any moral scruples and these alleged feelings of guilt were to prove his downfall.

Yet the case was not nearly as clear-cut as the substantial evidence would imply. Several hundred items of clothing found in Haarmann's room or confiscated from his acquaintances were collected and identified as the property of the missing children, but there was no evidence to declare he had been responsible for even one of the deaths. Haarmann inevitably claimed that the property in his possession was due to his business of trading and dealing in used clothes. He admitted having sexual relations with some of the children, yet denied any knowledge of the victims' current whereabouts and gave plausible explanations for the traces of blood present in the garments.

The suspect once again displayed considerable skill at avoiding taxing questions and prolonging the inquisition. Haarmann was an astute man and, understanding the rather secretive nature of homosexuality at the time, subsequently knew it would be difficult for the police to obtain incriminating evidence from his victims and their families.

Discovery and Confession

One of these victims was a boy named Robert Witzel, whose parents had continually besieged the police since their son's disappearance on April 26th 1924. When the first skulls were found later that year, Herr Witzel was persuaded to examine the evidence in order to confirm that his son's irregular jawbone was one of the discovered crania. All that was known at this time was that Robert had visited the local circus on the night of his disappearance with his best friend, the "sly and girlish Fritz Kahlmeyer." Fritz, silent throughout the entire ordeal, would only say that the boys had traveled to the circus with a "police official from the railway station." The reason for the boy's secretive nature was understandable; he too had been approached and sexually abused by Haarmann, who subsequently procured him for homosexual "society gentlemen." Items of Witzel's clothing were found in the killer's apartment, yet Haarmann would still not confess.

The breakthrough came when a couple walked into the police station and passed the Witzel family who sat outside the Chief Commissioner's office. Frau Witzel immediately recognized the man's jacket and asked as to where he had obtained the garment. The man admitted that he had acquired the coat from Haarmann and even provided an identification card in the trousers bearing the name 'Witzel'. The lady accompanying him was Frau Engel, Haarmann's landlady, who happened to be in the police station making enquiries concerning her tenant's military pension. An enormous stroke of luck in addition to the fabric evidence and, more importantly, one which finally convinced Haarmann to concede defeat.

The prisoner was consequently subjected to incessant and severe questioning, before being given relief and encouragement commensurate with the "unburdening of the conscience." After seven days of maniacal and emotional rages Haarmann broke down and asked for the superintendent and examining magistrate, to whom he would make a full confession.

The killer then took the court officials on a murder tour of Hannover. They were shown parts of corpses hidden in bushes, bones dredged from a lake and skeletons concealed around the city. Inevitably, more and more people stepped forward who had obtained clothing or meat from either Haarmann or Grans and the evidence snowballed.

Haarmann's character also changed during this period. He now opened up to the investigating authorities and displayed the helpful, childish and often sarcastic side to his nature. Only if confronted by the parents of his victims or if discussing the act of decapitation would the killer withdraw himself again. The general impression was that he felt relieved of a terrible burden by being able to discuss the darkness and fear of his abnormal sex-life. There was also a distinct degree of pride in having duped mankind, of whom Haarmann always spoke badly.

As a result of the information secured, Hans Grans was arrested on 8th July and the two men met on several occasions before their trials began. At these times, Haarmann was always troubled, where as Grans appeared indifferent to the entire affair. Haarmann remained in the prison until 16th August, before being sent to nearby Gottingen for psychiatric examination. The trial, unprecedented in German judicial history, contained 60 volumes of files and opened on 4th December 1924.

The Trial of Fritz Haarmann

The trial was conducted at the Hannover Assizes and lasted through 14 days and almost 200 witnesses. The much-publicized opening decree stated that Fritz Haarmann was "accused of killing 27 persons intentionally and deliberately" from September 1918 to June 1924.

Haarmann insisted on conducting his own defense and remained entirely nonchalant throughout the trial, at one point complaining that there were too many women in the courtroom. He was allowed remarkable freedom and was notably immature and irresponsible, frequently interrupting the proceedings. At one stage he demanded indignantly why there were so many women in the court; the judge answered apologetically that he had no power to keep them out. On another occasion, when a mother became too distraught to give evidence about her son with clarity, Haarmann got bored and asked to be allowed to smoke a cigar. Permission was immediately granted.

Nonetheless, the murderer's naive combination of fiction and fact was generally agreed as refreshing in contrast to the legal speak of the jurists and the confused hypocrisy of the authorities. To the journalists he once said reproachfully, "You are not to lie; we know you are all liars," and to the jury, "Keep it short. I want to spend Christmas in heaven with Mother." Haarmann was constantly amused by the proceedings and, remarkably, even brought a smile from the public on more than one occasion.

In contrast, Hans Grans, accused in two cases of instigating murder, appeared as a tough and unbreakable character. The jury subsequently branded him as the more dangerous (yet the more innocent) of the two. Grans was entirely focused on self-preservation, an attitude that was to prove his downfall as Haarmann became concentrated on his devilish desire for revenge; to take the one he loved the most with him to the dark land. Hence, Fritz formed incredible and completely inaccurate accusations of murder against his partner that the court whole-heartedly believed. Once he had achieved his aim of not going to death alone, Haarmann quieted down and let Grans do the talking.

Inevitably, though, the most chilling tale of all came when Haarmann took the stand to explain his murder method in the most graphic of detail.

"I never intended to hurt those youngsters, but I knew that if I got going something would happen and that made me cry ... I would throw myself on top of those boys and bite through the Adam's apple, throttling them at the same time."

Haarmann explained the guilt he often felt at this point, regularly collapsing on the dead body and covering the face with a cloth so "it wouldn't be looking at me."

"I'd make two cuts in the abdomen and put the intestines in a bucket, then soak up the blood and crush the bones until the shoulders broke. Now I could get the heart, lungs and kidneys and chop them up and put them in my bucket. I'd take the flesh off the bones and put it in my waxcloth bag. It would take me five or six trips to take everything and throw it down the toilet or into the river. I always hated doing this, but I couldn't help it - my passion was so much stronger than the horror of the cutting and chopping."

The skulls were smashed to pieces and thrown in the river or marsh, the clothes given away or sold. The more often this process occurred, the more efficient it became and, whilst the city of Hannover utilized the meat and clothing of its victims, Fritz Haarmann remained out of the authorities' reach.

Some boys he denied killing - for example a boy named Hermann Wolf, whose photograph showed an ugly and ill-dressed youth, Haarmann declared that the boy was far too ugly to have interested him.

The killer repeatedly claimed that he was driven by beauty and sensuality, not the cynical interpretation of sex or profit. In his eyes, it was easier to kill someone you loved - that way you brought them peace.

"Often, after I had killed, I pleaded to be put away in a military asylum, but not a madhouse. If Grans had really loved me he would have been able to save me. Believe me, I'm not ill - it's only that I occasionally have funny turns. I want to be beheaded. It'll only take a moment, then I'll be at peace."

The End?

The experts then submitted their reports to the effect that, although the killer had a "pathological personality", he had not been devoid of free will and responsibility and therefore bore no manic depressive insanity. Grans and Haarmann continued their petty squabbles throughout the summing up, their behavior towards each other remaining the same until the bitter end.

At 10am on 19th December 1924, Haarmann received 24 death sentences in 24 cases and Grans one death sentence for his supposed incitement to murder in the Hannappel case. Upon announcement of the verdict, Haarmann proclaimed,

"I want to be executed on the marketplace. On the tombstone must be put this inscription: 'Here Lies Mass-Murderer Haarmann'." The court acceded to neither request and Haarmann was duly decapitated within the walls of Hannover Prison. Grans's appeal was rejected and the death sentence pronounced correct and final.

Yet this story contains one final twist. A Hannover messenger named Lueters found a letter addressed to Albert Grans, father of the man under sentence of death, lying on the street. He made sure the letter was passed on to the addressee, who in turn passed it on to the court. The note was a four-page confession from Fritz Haarmann, written whilst being taken by car to the police station.

The letter summarized the relationship of Grans and himself and, most importantly, professed the innocence of the younger man.

"Hans Grans has been sentenced unjustly and that's the fault of the police and also because I wanted revenge ... Put yourself in Grans's position: he will question the existence of the Lord and justice just because of me ... May Hans Grans forgive me for my revenge and humanity."

The exact intention of this letter has never fully been understood. Was Haarmann truly troubled by his conscience, or was this simply a devious attempt to delay his own execution? It is now the common view of experts that the verdict of the Hannover court is an unsatisfactory one in the sense that Haarmann was undoubtedly put under pressure by certain authorities throughout the trial. It is most probably the case that a neglected and innocent young man has been sentenced to death solely as a result of statements made by a man pronounced mentally ill by five different psychiatrists. In this sense, as said by Theodor Lessing, a commentator on the Haarmann affair, "a judicial murder was committed." Like his other victims, Fritz Haarmann killed the one he loved, this time by using the German legal system as his weapon.

After the two men's deaths, another letter from Haarmann was found, this one explaining his actions purely as an attempt to take revenge against the police. The statement concludes,

"You won't kill me; I'll be back - yes, I shall be amongst you for all eternity. And now you yourselves have also killed. You should know it: Hans Grans was innocent! Well? How's your conscience now?"

Early Life of Friedrich Haarmann

Friedrich Heinrich Karl Haarmann was born the youngest of six children on October 25th 1879. His mother, 41 at the time of his birth, spoiled and pampered him as a child and encouraged young Fritz to play with dolls instead of more masculine games. Most crucial to the interests of a psychologist, Fritz disliked his father from an early age and was to continue this loathing throughout his life.

The parents were indeed an ill-assorted couple. 'Old Haarmann' was a morose and cantankerous locomotive stoker who was to be found at night rampaging his way around the seedy bars of the Old Town . His wife, Johanna Claudius, was seven years his senior and provided him with a dowry of several houses and a small fortune, making him a wealthy citizen in this time of rapid economic expansion. Johanna was a simple-minded, slightly stupid woman and managed to ignore her husband's continuous drunkenness and womanizing. The birth of her sixth child left her sick and she spent much of her remaining twelve years in bed.

As for Haarmann's siblings, the eldest son, Alfred, became a lower-middle class factory foreman with upright Philistine and family values. The second son, Wilhelm, was sentenced at an early age for a sexual offence and the three sisters, all of whom divorced their husbands early in married life, proved to be particularly obsessive and compulsive characters. Frau Rudiger was to meet a premature death in the Great War and Haarmann never got on with the fourth child, Frau Erfurdt. It was therefore left to the youngest sister, Emma, to provide Fritz's sole family connection.

From a young age Haarmann and his father argued and constantly threatened each other, the father to have his son put in an asylum and Fritz to have his father thrown in jail for the supposed murder of a train driver. The only occasions of unity were exhibited when the men would combine to either carry out a swindle or to appear in court to exonerate the other. In contrast, Haarmann always felt a deep bond with his mother and she remained the only person he spoke of with warmth and sentimentality.

The anecdotes relating to Haarmann's childhood show two distinct traits. The first is the notable feminine (possibly transvestite) tendencies that were exhibited throughout his school life. The second is the pleasure in causing fear and horror. Haarmann enjoyed tying up his sisters and regularly tapped on windows in the dead of night, awakening a dormant fear of ghosts and werewolves. The child was spoilt and easily led, yet lively and popular amongst his peers.

The boy failed his locksmith apprenticeship and so was sent to the training school for non-commissioned officers at Neu-Breisach in April 1895. Fritz was a good gymnast and an obedient soldier, but soon began suffering from periodic lapses in consciousness and epileptic fits. This was blamed on a concussion contracted whilst performing bar exercises or sunstroke suffered during the exercise. Haarmann dismissed himself from the sick bay in November 1895, saying that he "didn't like it there any more" and soon began working for his father.

Young Adulthood

Whilst Haarmann's laziness and inefficiency continued, his sexual development was progressing rapidly. Sexual offences against children occurred almost every day and it was not long before the molestation accusations began mounting. Eventually and inevitably, the pervert was deemed incurably deranged by the town doctor and was sent to an asylum shortly after his 18th birthday. It was here that the young man suffered some form of trauma that was to affect him for the rest of his life and his intense fear of the asylum caused him later to say, "Hang me, do anything you like to me, but don't take me back to the loony bin." Lackluster security soon allowed the patient to escape, however, and Haarmann fled to Switzerland .

At the age of just 20 he returned to Hannover and around 1900 achieved a sexually normal period when he seduced and married a large, pretty girl by the name of Erna Loewert. The engagement had the blessings of both sets of parents, who fervently hoped that the union would put an end to the young delinquent's reckless abandon. This was not to be the case, though, as Haarmann soon deserted the girl and their unborn child for military service.

He settled well into army life and, like the killer William Burke before him, became an excellent soldier; "full of obedience and esprit de corps." Haarmann was later to refer to this time as "the happiest of his life." A year went past with no incident until, in October 1901, Haarmann collapsed during a company exercise and was admitted to the military hospital for four months. It was diagnosed that the soldier had a mental deficiency and was deemed "unsuitable for use in community service."

Once again, Fritz was sent back to his quarrelsome family and resumed his life-long battle with his father. 'Old Haarmann' attempted to have him committed to an asylum, but the town doctor regarded him as merely "morally inferior" and, at the ripe old age of 24, Fritz Haarmann was released into society.

Numerous burglaries and confidence scams soon became a feature of Haarmann's life and, after 1904, he spent one third of the following 20 years either in custody or in prison. In 1914 he was sentenced to five years in jail for theft from a warehouse. Released in 1918, he joined a smuggling ring and conducted a prosperous business as a smuggler, thief and police spy (the latter activity guaranteed that his activities were not too closely scrutinized.) For a man supposedly struggling with sanity, Haarmann showed impressive signs of preparation and calculation in his crimes. The sexual offences also continued, although he was rarely convicted of such misdemeanors as the partners were too ashamed to report him to the police.

Upon release from prison in April 1918 Haarmann surfaced briefly in Berlin and then again in Hannover . The murders soon began.

Inside the Mind of Fritz Haarmann.

Having analyzed the life of one of Germany 's most depraved sons, it is now perhaps appropriate to ask ourselves what we have learned about the inner dimensions of a sex-killer's mind. Even though it has long since been accepted that there is no single reason for serial crime, the same contributing factors rear their evil head in the case of nearly all killers of this type. Fritz Haarmann is no exception and exhibits the same ugly traits as so many before and since.

Little was known of the workings of a psychopath at the time of Haarmann's murders, but the awareness and understanding of such crimes has now come a long way. Yet sex-killers cannot be detected by their appearance, domestic situations or day-to-day behavior. The sexual impulse is primarily a mental process and germinates within a secret, interior universe. Whilst the profilers are learning, as yet it is only through bloody hindsight.

Generally, serial sex murderers are classified in three broad types: the biological killer, whose crimes are triggered by a physical defect or injury of some sort; the psychologically predisposed killer (usually stemming from an all-female or particularly traumatic childhood); and the sociological or 'made' killers. The traits of young Haarmann noted in the previous chapter bring us to the frightening conclusion that Fritz is a strong candidate for all three of the above categories.

The biological influence is evident if we consider Haarmann's repeated head injuries and epileptic fits in his early adulthood. Indeed, a surprisingly large number of killers have a history of head injuries in their youth. Whether the troublesome youngster was truly turning the corner at the training school we shall never know, yet it does remain a tragedy that an ordinary accident seemed to put an end to an honorable attempt at obedience.

As to the second category, the child was pampered and mollycoddled from a young age and his features of feminism and sadistic pleasure are consistently repeated factors in the analysis of serial killers' childhoods. Haarmann was inherently incapable of holding on to abstract ideas; any impressions he received had to become reality immediately. When talking about sexual matters he would reach automatically for his genital area, even when being questioned in the courtroom. His upbringing developed a "raw creature, without logic and morals; yet also without logical and moral hypocrisy."

The so-called "made" killers are those who feel that life has cheated them and owes them more. In his early years Haarmann welcomed prison as confinement imposes structure on life and provides a meaning and order to existence. A crucial sociological feature of the case and one that is typical of the 20th Century penal system is that whenever Haarmann was released from jail both his craftiness and his crimes increased. Until the bitter end Haarmann pursued his 'rage against the machine'. It was later admitted that he was beaten whilst under police interrogation and his payback to Hans Grans was a perfectly executed attempt at embarrassing the authorities he so loathed. The court eventually had to change Grans's sentence to 12 years' imprisonment, yet only in Hannover would Grans have received any initial punishment.

Vengeance and Atonement

This idea of vengeance and atonement is, in Haarmann's case, rooted in sadism and is a mask for the sexual feeling. His actions towards his supposed friend, Hans Grans, were an act of revenge using the last remnants of power that the accused could exercise.

Indeed, the relationship between Grans and his mentor is certainly one of the most fascinating aspects of the case. Grans understood the older man's "wild, sick urges" and realized that he could thereby ensure his own power and control over Haarmann. Yet there was also a distinct gratitude and sympathy between the two, "I had to have someone I meant everything to. Hans often laughed at me. Then I got mad and threw him out. But I always ran after and fetched him back. I couldn't help it; I was crazy about the boy."

Haarmann did love Grans and Grans took advantage of it. He was the cleverer of the two and thus continually toyed and jested with his companion. As irony would have it, he was to receive the harshest possible payback for his efforts at manipulating Haarmann. Those who toy with the devil, are sure to be burned!

As a further scope for evaluation, the question of Haarmann's sanity is one that has never fully been resolved. Expert evaluation is entirely contrasting, although it is agreed that he was not ruled by the urge to torment others, but by the urge to kill at the height of his sexual desire.

Psychoanalysts declare that the criminal differs from the man who adjusts himself to society in that he fails to sublimate the aggressive primitive urges. The wounds inflicted upon him by injustice motivate these actions. There can be no doubt that Haarmann suffered harshly in his early life and in this way he obtained the subject matter for an easy later rationalization.

Haarmann's psychological examiners at the time believed that he saw his execution as one final, intense orgasm and the excitement of this possibility exceeded anything he had experienced in his day-to-day life. He rejected the inhibitions that society attempts to place upon us and manipulated love and crime into a sexual game and "comfortable semi-luxury." Haarmann murdered for profit, both sexual and financial - and yet, whilst often racked with remorse, he never at any time in his life felt the burden of fear upon him. Fritz Haarmann lived his entire life with a desire for his own destruction.

All text that appears in this section was provided by (the very best source for serial killer information on the internet). thanks the crime library for their tireless efforts in recording our dark past commends them on the amazing job they have done thus far)


The Story of Aileen Wuornos

The Story of Aileen Wuornos

Aileen "Lee" Wuornos is on Death Row in Broward County, convicted of the murder of six men. Lee says all of the men raped or attempted to rape her.

We Believe Aileen Acted in Self-Defense

At the time of the killings, Lee was working as a highway prostitute. All of the men she killed were men who picked her up and who, she says, violently attacked her.

Lee was picked up by many other men during this period and she did not harm them. Several men have testified that they spent days or weeks with her and she never threatened them. They did say that she was worried that they would attack her.

Prostitutes are much more likely to be raped than women in other jobs. One study of a group of prostitutes said that they had been raped an average of 33 times a year.

In the Seattle area, at least 65 prostitutes and strippers have been killed by the "Green River Murderer" who has never been caught. New York police recently arrested Joel Rifkin, who confessed to the murders of 17 prostitutes. When they stopped Rifkin by chance, the cops were not even investigating the disappearances of these women. Very few murders of prostitutes are ever investigated or solved.

We Believe Lee Did Not Receive a Fair Trial

Lee has been tried only once--for the killing of Richard Mallory--but has been convicted of six murders.

In her videotaped confession, which was the key evidence used by the prosecution in her trial, Lee said more than 60 times that she acted in self-defense. None of these references was included in the version of that tape which was shown to the jury.

The prosecution claimed that Mallory had no history of sexual violence. It was later revealed that Mallory had been convicted of attempted rape in Maryland, and had threatened to harm other women. Evidence of these prior attacks was not presented at her trial.

The jury was allowed to hear evidence of crimes Lee had not been convicted of.

We Believe Lee Was Inadequately Represented By Counsel

Her trial attorneys first failed to interview, and later failed to call, several witnesses who had volunteered information which corroborated Lee's testimony.

Her trial attorneys delayed in researching evidence of Mallory's history of violence against women. The judge then ruled it inadmissible because it was introduced too late.

Private attorney Steven Glaser encouraged her to plead no contest to five murder charges, without securing a sentencing offer or informing her of all her options.

We Believe Officers Involved In Investigating The Case Behaved Unethically

There is evidence that Volusia County sheriff deputies negotiated contracts for book and movie deals about Lee's case before she was even arrested.

Deputies arranged with Tyria Moore, Lee's former girlfriend, to set Lee up. Though Tyria was implicated in several of the killings, she was never charged.

Officer Brian Jarvis, initially the chief investigator on the case, was removed from the case when he questioned the conduct of his colleagues on the case. He later reported vandalism to his house, theft of his records on the case and threats against him and his family. We Believe Lee Is Not a Serial Killer.

According to the prosecution, portraying Lee as a "serial killer" won them the death penalty. Lee does not fit the profile of a serial killer.

No serial killer has ever claimed they killed in self-defense.

Serial killers stalk their victims; they do not kill in moments of fear or passion.

We Believe Sexism, Anti-Lesbian and Anti-Prostitute Prejudice Were Used To Condemn Lee To Death

Prosecutors made repeated references to Lee's romantic relationships with women. 80% of women on death row in Florida are lesbians. Though Lee does not consider herself a lesbian, society's fear and hatred of lesbians was used against her.

People have trouble believing that a prostitute would need to kill six times in self-defense. Yet recently, a Los Angeles store owner killed five men in four different armed robbery attempts. This man was never charged with any crime.

Tens of thousands of women are in prison in the U.S. for killing men who abused them. A study by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence found that men who kill their wives or girlfriends serve an average of 2-6 years, while women who kill their male partners serve an average of 15 years.

Ted Bundy, who killed more than 30 women in Florida, had offers from several well-known private criminal attorneys to defend him pro bono. At one time his defense team included five public defenders and a volunteer consultant on jury selection. Lee's supporters have been unable to find any such assistance for her; she has had to rely on overworked public defenders.

Demand Equal Justice for Aileen Wuornos

Write the Florida Supreme Court, 5th Judicial Circuit, 300 South Beach Street, Daytona Beach, FL 32114, and urge them to grant Aileen Wuornos a new trial.

Write letters of support to Aileen Wuornos, A#150924 DR1, Broward County Correctional Institution, P.O. Box 8540, Pembroke Pines, FL 33024.

Volunteer at or contribute to battered women's services or men's anti- violence programs in your community.

Contact the Aileen Wuornos Defense Committee, (415) 995-2392, 3543 - 18th Street #30, San Francisco, CA 94110 to find out how else you can help.



The Tragic Life & Death of Elizabeth Short

On January 15, 1947 a housewife named Betty Bersinger left her home on Norton Avenue in the Leimert Park section of Los Angeles, bound for a shoe repair shop. She took her three-year-old daughter with her and as they walked along the street, coming up on the corner of Norton and 39th, they passed by several vacant lots that were overgrown with weeds. She couldn’t help but feel a little depressed as she looked out over the deserted area. Development had been halted here, thanks to the war, and the open lots had been left looking abandoned and eerie. Betty felt slightly disconcerted and then shrugged it off, blaming her emotional state on the gray skies and the cold, dreary morning.

As she walked a little further along, she caught a glimpse of something white over in the weeds. She was not surprised. It wasn’t uncommon for people to toss their garbage out into the vacant lot and this time, it looked as though someone had left a broken department store mannequin here. The dummy had been shattered and the two halves lay separated from one another, with the bottom half lying twisted into what was admittedly a macabre pose. Who would throw such a thing into an empty lot? Betty shook her head and walked on, but then found her glance pulled back to the ghostly, white mannequin. She looked again and then realize that this was no department store dummy at all -- it was the severed body of a woman! With a sharp intake of breath and a stifled scream, she took her daughter away from the gruesome site and ran to a nearby house. From here, she telephoned the police.

The call was answered by Officers Frank Perkins and Will Fitzgerald, who arrived within minutes. When they found the naked body of a woman who had been cut in half, they immediately called for assistance.

The dead woman, it was noted, seemed to have been posed. She was lying on her back with her arms raised over her shoulders and her legs spread in an obscene imitation of seductiveness. Cuts and abrasions covered her body and her mouth had been slashed so that her smile extended from ear to ear. There were rope marks on her wrists, ankles and neck and investigators later surmised that she had been tied down and tortured for several days. Worst of all was the fact that she had been sliced cleanly in two, just above the waist.

It was clear that she had been killed somewhere else and then dumped in the vacant lot overnight. There was no blood on her body and none of the ground where she had been left. The killer had washed her off before bringing her to the dump site.

The horrible nature of the case made it a top priority for the LAPD. Captain John Donahoe assigned his senior detectives to the case, Detective Sergeant Harry Hansen and his partner, Finis Brown.

The body was soon covered from the stares of onlookers but by this time, reporters and police officers had trampled the scene.

By the time the detectives were contacted and could get to the scene, it was swarming with reporters, photographers and a crowd of curiosity seekers. Hansen was furious that bystanders and even careless police personnel were trampling the crime scene. Evidence was being destroyed, he knew, and he immediately cleared the area. Then, while he and his partner examined the scene, the body of the woman was taken to the Los Angeles County Morgue. Her fingerprints were lifted and with the help of the assistant managing editor of the Los Angeles "Examiner" (in exchange for information), the prints were sent to the FBI in Washington using the newspaper’s "Soundphoto" equipment.

Meanwhile, an examination of the body was started by the coroner’s office. It began to detail an incredible and horrifying variety of wounds to the young woman’s body, although the official cause of death was "hemorrhage and shock due to concussion of the brain and lacerations of the face."

An autopsy revealed multiple lacerations to the face and head, along with the severing of the victim’s body. It also appeared that the woman had been sodomized and her sexual organs abused but not penetrated. There was no sperm present on the body and most of the damage appeared to have been done after she was dead. The coroner also noted that her stomach contents contained human feces. Even the hardened doctors and detectives were shocked at the state of the girl’s corpse.

Shortly after receiving the fingerprints, the FBI had a match for the L.A. detectives. The victim of the brutal murder was Elizabeth Short, a 22 year-old woman who originally came from Massachusetts. During World War II, she had been a clerk at Camp Cooke in California, which explained why her fingerprints were on file.

Once the detectives had this information, they went to work finding out who knew Elizabeth Short, believing that this would lead them to her killer. What they discovered was a complex maze that led them into the shadowy side of the city.... in search of a woman called the "Black Dahlia".

Not a "mug shot" as some have identified it, but rather the photos taken for Beth's civilian ID at Camp Cooke.
(Wide World Photos)

Elizabeth Short was an aspiring actress who usually dressed entirely in black. Thanks to her nice figure and attractive face, men easily noticed her. Her hair was black and her skin pale, providing a striking contrast and a look that got her noticed, even in Hollywood, where good-looking dames were a dime a dozen.

Like all of the other pretty girls before and since, Elizabeth (who preferred the name Beth) came to Hollywood hoping to make it big in the movie business. She was smart enough to know that looks weren’t everything and that to break into films, she had to know the right people. So, she spent most her time trying to make new acquaintances that she could use to her advantage and to make sure that she was in the right nightspots and clubs. Here, she was convinced, she would come to the attention of the important people in the business. Beth’s pretty face got her noticed. She had done some modeling before coming to Hollywood and men couldn’t keep their eyes off of her.

In Hollywood, Beth roomed with a hopeful dancer who introduced her to Barbara Lee, a well-connected actress for Paramount. She took Beth to all of the right places, including the famous Hollywood Canteen, where she met a wealthy socialite her own age named Georgette Bauerdorf. Beth loved to socialize, loved the Hollywood nightlife and loved to meet men. Despite the rumors, Beth was never promiscuous and she did not work as a prostitute. Considering the findings of the coroner, it isn’t likely that sex with men involved normal penetration. Beautiful, lively and seductive, Beth was sometimes referred to as a "tease" as her boyfriends never had any idea that romance could only go so far.

One of the men who befriended Beth was Mark Hansen, a nightclub and theater owner who knew many important show business people. He eventually moved her into his house, along with a number of other young actresses who roomed there and who entertained guests at Hansen’s clubs. On any given day, a visitor to Hansen’s house could find a number of beautiful actresses and models sunning themselves by the swimming pool.

Beth soon became a part of this group, although her prospects for film work remained non-existent. She didn’t have much of an income and only seemed to eat and drink when others, usually her dates, were buying. She shared rooms with other people and borrowed money from her friends constantly, never paying it back. She never seemed to appreciate the hospitality given to her by others either, rarely contributing anything to where she was living and staying out most of the night and sleeping all day. She became known as a beautiful freeloader.

Around this same time, the film THE BLUE DAHLIA, starring Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd was released. Some friends of Beth’s started calling her the "Black Dahlia", thanks to her dark hair and back lacy clothing. The name stuck and Beth began to immerse herself into the glamorous persona that she had created -- and that may have led to her death!

Although she is remembered today as the "Black Dahlia", Elizabeth Short did not start out as a sexy vamp that "haunted" the nightclubs of Hollywood. She was born on July 29, 1924 in Hyde Park, Massachusetts. Her parents, Cleo and Phoebe Short, moved the family to Medford, a few miles outside of Boston, shortly after Elizabeth was born. Cleo Short was a man ahead of his time, making a prosperous living designing and building miniature golf courses. Unfortunately though, the Depression caught up with him in 1929 and he fell on hard times. Without a second thought, he abandoned his wife and five daughters and faked his suicide. His empty car was discovered near a bridge and the authorities believed that he had jumped into the river below.

Phoebe was left to deal with the bankruptcy and to raise the girls by herself. She worked several jobs, including as a bookkeeper and a clerk in a bakery shop, but most of the money came from public assistance. One day, she received a letter from Cleo, who was now living in California. He apologized for running out on his family and asked to come home. Phoebe refused his apology and would not allow him to come back.

Beth (known as Betty to her family and friends) grew up to be a very pretty girl, always looking older and acting more sophisticated then she really was. Everyone who knew her liked her and although she had serious problems with asthma, she was considered very bright and lively. She was also fascinated by the movies, which was her family’s main source of affordable entertainment. She found an escape at the theater that she couldn’t find in the day to day drudgery of ordinary life.

While she was growing up, Betty remained in touch with her father (once she knew that he was actually alive). They wrote letters back and forth and when she was older, he offered to have her come out to California and stay with him until she was able to find a job. Betty had worked in restaurants and movie houses in the past but she knew that if she went to California, she wanted to be a star. She packed up and headed out west to her father. At that time, Cleo was living in Vallejo and working at the Mare Island Naval Base. Betty hadn’t been in town for long before the relationship between she and her father became strained. He began to launch into tirades about her laziness, poor housekeeping and dating habits. Eventually, he threw her out and Betty (now Beth) was left to fend for herself.

Undaunted, she went to Camp Cooke and applied for a job as a cashier at the Post Exchange. It didn’t take long for the servicemen to notice the new cashier and she won the title of "Camp Cutie of Camp Cooke" in a beauty contest. They didn’t realize that the sweet romantic girl was emotionally vulnerable and was desperate to marry a handsome serviceman, preferably a pilot. She made no secret of wanting a permanent relationship with one of the men with whom she constantly flirted. The word soon got around that Beth was not an easy girl and pressure for more than just hand-holding kept Beth at home most nights. Several encounters made her uncomfortable at Camp Cooke and she left to stay with a girlfriend who lived near Santa Barbara.

During this time, Beth had her only run-in with the law. A group of friends that she was out with got rowdy in a restaurant and the owners called the police. Since Beth was underage, she was booked and fingerprinted, but never charged. A kind policewoman felt sorry for her and arranged for a trip back to Massachusetts. After spending some time at home, she came back to California, this time to Hollywood.

At the Hollywood Canteen, Beth met a pilot named Lieutenant Gordon Fickling and fell in love. He was exactly what she was looking for and she began making plans to ensnare him in matrimony. Unfortunately though, her plans were cut short when Fickling was shipped out to Europe.

Beth then took a few modeling jobs but discouraged, she went back east. She spent the holidays in Medford and then went to Miami, where she had relatives with whom she could live for awhile. Beth began dating servicemen, always with marriage as her goal, but fell in love again on New Year’s Eve 1945 with a pilot, Major Matt Gordon. A commitment was apparently made between them after he was sent to India.

Beth wrote to him constantly and Gordon remained in touch with her. As a pre-engagement gift, he gave Beth a gold wristwatch that was set with diamonds and he spoke about her (and their engagement) to family and friends. Best of all, as far as Beth was concerned, he respected her wishes about waiting until their honeymoon to consummate their love. They would get married and have a proper honeymoon, he promised her, after he returned from overseas. One has to wonder how Beth planned to deal with the physical problems they would encounter once the relationship turned sexual, but perhaps she was too caught up in the moment to worry about it at that time. Beth went back home to Massachusetts and got a job, dreaming of her October wedding. Her friends often commented on how happy she was and after the war ended in Europe, she became ecstatic about Gordon returning home. Then came the dreaded telegram from Gordon’s mother...

As soon as it arrived, Beth tore the message open, believing that it was about plans for the upcoming wedding. Instead, Mrs. Gordon had written: "Received word War Department. Matt killed in plane crash on way home from India. Our deepest sympathy is with you. Pray it isn't true."

Sadly, it was true and we are only left to imagine what Beth’s life might have been like if Matt Gordon had returned home alive. The so-called "Black Dahlia" would have never come to be....

Gordon’s death left Beth a little unbalanced. After a period of mourning in which she spent telling people that she and Matt had been married and that their baby had died in childbirth, she began to pick up the pieces of her old life and started contacting her Hollywood friends. One of those was former boyfriend Gordon Fickling, who Beth saw as a possible replacement for her dead fiancée. They began to write back and forth to one another and then got together briefly in Chicago when he was in town for a couple of days. Soon, Beth was in love with him again. She agreed to come to Long Beach and be with him, happy and excited once again. A short time later, Beth was back in California.

Her excitement over the new relationship didn’t last long. She had to stay in a hotel that was miles from the base where Fickling was stationed and he constantly pressured Beth for sex. She had no intention of giving herself to a man except in marriage, she told a friend, and Fickling had no intention of making such a commitment. She began dating other men and when Fickling found out, he ended their relationship.

In December 1946, Beth took up "temporary" residence in San Diego with a young woman named Dorothy French. She was a counter girl at the Aztec Theater, which stayed open all night, and after an evening show, she found Beth sleeping in one of the seats. Beth told her that she had left Hollywood because work was hard to find due to the actor’s strikes that were going on. Dorothy felt sorry for her and offered her a place to stay at her mother’s home. She meant that Beth could stay for a few days, but she ended up sleeping on the French’s couch for more than a month.

As usual, she did nothing to contribute to the household and she continued her late-night partying and dating. One of the men she dated was Robert "Red" Manley, a salesman from L.A. with a pregnant young wife at home. He admitted being attracted to Beth, but never claimed to have slept with her. They saw each other on an off for a few weeks and then Beth asked him for a ride back to Hollywood. He agreed and on January 8 picked her up from the French house and paid for a hotel room for her that night. They went out together to a couple of different nightspots and returned back to the motel. He slept on the bed, while Beth, complaining that she didn’t feel well, slept in a chair.

Red had a morning appointment but came back to pick her up around noon. She told him that she was going back home to Boston but first she was going to meet her married sister at the Biltmore Hotel in Hollywood. Manley drove her back to Los Angeles. He had an appointment at the home of his employer that evening at 6:30, so he didn’t wait around for Beth’s sister to arrive. She was making phone calls in the hotel lobby when he saw her last -- becoming, along with the hotel employees, the last person to see Beth Short alive.

As far as the police could discover, only the killer ever saw her after that. She vanished for six days from the Biltmore before her body was found in the empty lot.

The investigation into the Black Dahlia’s murder was the highest profile crime in Hollywood of the 1940’s. The police were constantly harassed by the newspapers and the public for results. Hundreds of suspects were questioned. Because it was considered a sex crime, the usual suspects and perverts were rounded up and interrogated. Beth’s friends and acquaintances were questioned as the detectives tried to reconstruct her final days and hours. Every lead that seemed hopeful ended up leading nowhere and the cops were further hampered by the lunatics and crazed confessions that were still pouring in.

As the investigators traced Beth’s activities, they discovered their strongest suspect, Red Manley. He became the chief target of the investigation. The LAPD put him through grueling interrogations and even administered two different polygraph tests, both of which he passed. He was released a couple of days later but the strain on him was so great that he later suffered a nervous breakdown.

While the police worked frantically, Beth’s mother made the trip to Los Angeles to claim her daughter’s body. Her father, who had not seen her since 1943, refused to identify her. Sadly, Phoebe Short had learned of her daughter’s death from a newspaper reporter who had called her, using the pretext that Beth had won a beauty contest and the paper wanted some background information about her. Once he had gleaned as much information as he could, he informed her that Beth had actually been murdered.

A few days after Beth’s body was found, a mysterious package appeared at the offices of the Los Angeles “Examiner”. A note that had been cut and pasted from newspaper lettering said "Here is the Dahlia’s Belongings.... Letter to Follow". Inside of the small package was Beth’s social security card, birth certificate, photographs with various servicemen, business cards and claim checks for suitcases she had left at the bus depot. Another item was an address book that belonged to club owner Mark Hansen. The address book had several pages torn out.

The police attempted to lift fingerprints off the items but found that all of it had been washed in gasoline to remove any trace of evidence. The detectives then began the overwhelming task of tracking down everyone in the address book and while Mark Hansen and a few others were singled out for interrogation, nothing ever came of it. In addition, the promised "letters to follow" arrived but contained no solid clues

The investigation stalled once again although Aggie Underwood, an aggressive crime reporter for the "Herald-Express", urged the detectives to follow-up on the murder of a young socialite named Georgette Bauerdorf, which had occurred a few years before. Aggie believed the murder was connected to that of Beth Short. The two women had known one another from the Hollywood Canteen and Georgette had been strangled and raped before being dumped into a bathtub face down. Investigators surmised that Beth had been killed and then washed and severed in half over a bathtub.

The Bauerdorf case had never been solved and was under the jurisdiction of the sheriff’s department. The investigation had died when deputies were unable to locate a "tall soldier" who had dated Georgette. She had reportedly been frightened by him and had stopped seeing him. Investigators suspected that he was involved in her death but the links were never made between her death and that of Beth Short. Jurisdictional problems kept the two departments from working together and Aggie Underwood was ordered off the story by William Randolph Hearst, the publisher of the newspaper. As a friend of the wealthy Bauerdorf family, he didn’t want the sordid details of the girl’s murder stirred up again. This may have been a tragic misstep, as Georgette's car had been found abandoned not far from where Beth's body was eventually discovered.

Not surprisingly, the leads in the Black Dahlia case came to dead ends and the investigation fizzled, then came to a halt. The Short murder and the murder of Georgette Bauerdorf remain unsolved today, although it’s possible that a suspect did finally emerge. The possible killer first came to the attention of John St. John, a respected investigator for the LAPD who eventually took over the Dahlia case. St. John had worked many of the city’s most notorious murders and was the basis of the book and television series "Jigsaw John". He had been in charge of the Dahlia case for about a year when a confidential informant came to him with a tape recording that implicated the suspect in the murder. The suspect had also shown the informant some photos and personal items that he claimed had belonged to the Black Dahlia.

The suspect turned out to be a tall, thin man with a pronounced limp who went by the name of Arnold Smith. On the recording, Smith claimed that a character named "Al Morrison" was the violent sexual deviant who had killed and mutilated Beth Short. St. John suspected that Arnold Smith and Al Morrison were actually the same person!

The tape was a chilling and detailed account of how Beth had come to Al Morrison’s Hollywood hotel room because she didn’t have anywhere else to stay. According to Smith, Beth refused both liquor and sex with Morrison and became upset when he drove her to a house on East 31st Street near San Pedro and Trinity Streets. Here, he assaulted her and prevented her from escaping by beating her into submission. Even though Beth fought back, he was able to overwhelm her with his strength. While she was on the floor, Morrison stated that he planned to sodomize her and Beth began struggling once again. This time, he hit her so hard that she passed out. The tape then went on the describe how Morrison had gotten a paring knife, a large butcher knife and some rope and had returned to the room to find Beth conscious again. She tried to scream, but he stuffed her underpants into her mouth and tied her up. While she was naked and bound, he began jabbing her over and over again with the knives, cutting and slashing her. One of the lacerations even extended both sides of her mouth and across her face. By this time, the girl was dead.

Morrison then laid boards across the bathtub and cut Beth in half with the butcher knife, letting the blood drain into the tub. He wrapped the two pieces of the body in a tablecloth and a shower curtain and put it into the trunk of his car. From there, he drove to the vacant lot and left the body to be found later that morning.

St. John discovered that this same suspect, Al Morrison, had also come to the attention of Detective Joel Lesnick of the Sheriff’s Department for the murder of Georgette Bauerdorf. He was thought to be the "tall soldier" that she had been dating. Lesnick had learned that both Al Morrison and Arnold Smith were aliases for a man named Jack Anderson Wilson, a tall and lanky alcoholic with a crippled leg and a record for sex offenses and robbery. Lesnick guessed that "as the years went on, Smith's ego drew him closer, not to confessing, but wanting to tell someone in a roundabout way what he got away with primarily through luck."

After hearing the record of events on the tape recordings, St. John became determined to track down "Arnold Smith". He checked into the story of "Al Morrison", the alleged violent pervert, and could find no proof that he existed, thus confirming the idea that Smith (Jack Wilson) was actually the killer. St. John began to leave no stone unturned in his pursuit to link Jack Wilson to Elizabeth Short.

In the midst of the investigation, word came that the press had gotten wind of the fact that a new suspect had emerged in the Dahlia case. Even after all of the years (at this point the mid-1980’s) that had passed, interest in the case was still strong. At this point, St. John realized that it was imperative that he move quickly before Wilson / Smith became spooked. The informant did not know where Smith lived, but left a message for him in a café. Several messages were left but Smith never returned them, possibly because he got wind of police surveillance of the restaurant. Finally, the informant received a reply and a meeting was set between he and Smith. It was set for a few days later and at that time, the police planned to pick Smith up for questioning.

Unfortunately, just before the meeting took place, Smith passed out while smoking in his bed at the Holland Hotel, where he was staying. He was burned to death in the flames, destroying the photos and belongings that supposedly belonged to Beth Short -- along with all hope that her murder would ever be solved.

A short time after Wilson’s body was released to the county for cremation, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office was presented with a file on the matter. The prosecutor’s office summed up the case by saying: "The case cannot be officially closed due to the death of the individual considered a suspect. While the documentation appears to link this individual with the homicide of Elizabeth Short, his death, however, precludes the opportunity of an interview to obtain from him the corroboration…Therefore, any conclusion as to his criminal involvement is circumstantial, and unfortunately, the suspect cannot be charged or tried, due to his demise. However, despite this inconclusiveness, the circumstantial evidence is of such a nature that were this suspect alive, an intensive inquiry would be recommended. And depending upon the outcome of such an inquiry.... it is conceivable that Jack Wilson might have been charged as a suspect in the murder of Elizabeth Short -- also known as the Black Dahlia."

Over the years, other suspects for the murder have surfaced as well, along with a number of false confessions and ridiculous stories and theories. Because of the lurid and mysterious nature of the crime, it seems to be one of those sorts of cases that everyone has an opinion about. In addition, the initial investigation of the case revealed a number of suspects that all eventually played out over time. Aside from the Wilson / Smith suspect, no other really strong suspects have emerged. There have been some interesting theories within the police department to the possibility that the killer was the same culprit in the Cleveland Torso Murders a few years before.

During the original investigation, investigators ran across a number of leads and questioned many suspects, including nightclub owner Mark Hansen and Red Manley, who were later cleared. Red simply had the bad luck to get involved with a woman who turned out to be as complex as Beth -- and who ended up dead. Manley was given the "third degree" at police headquarters and only released after a polygraph test. He was exonerated but the case never really ended for him. Suspicion and mental problems plagued him for the rest of his life and in 1954, his wife had him committed to the Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino. Reporter Will Fowler would later state that the case "destroyed their life."

There were also many anonymous calls that turned up, including one that stated that Beth's killers had been two police officers and many false confessions. In at least three cases, landlords reported "suspicious behavior" on the part of tenants they were trying to evict and a woman in Barstow, California gave false information in hopes of getting back at two old boyfriends who had jilted her. Other time-wasting confessions included a pharmacist who told police that he "knew how to cut a body in half". He initially claimed to have killed Beth but later admitted that he "was kidding". A woman also confessed that Beth had stolen her boyfriend, so she had killed her. When she was unable to pick her out of a photo array however, it was confirmed that she had made the whole thing up.

One, more promising, lead involved an Army corporal and combat veteran named Joseph Dumais. He was reported to the military police by another soldier, who had argued with Dumais over money. After a 42-day furlough, the corporal was found with blood all over his clothing and a stack of newspaper clippings about the murder. He had little memory of what he may have done during his furlough. He told investigators: "It is possible that I could have committed the murder. When I get drunk I get rough with women." Dumais was sent to a psychiatrist but was cleared of killing Beth.

Interest in the case continued for years and it has appeared in many books and periodicals over time. However, it was really not until 1987 (the 40th anniversary of the murder) and the release of James Ellroy's excellent novel about the murder, The Black Dahlia, that interest in the case was revived and the quest for the killer of Beth Short was renewed. Since that time, many theories have been created and new books have appeared on the market -- each, of course, claiming to have the case solved. Much of the research that has been done, notably by writers like John Gilmore and Larry Harnisch, has been thorough and compelling, but others fall far short in making a convincing case for a solution.

So, who killed the Black Dahlia? Author and former head of the FBI's behavioral sciences unit, John Douglas, had his own theories, based on his own past experiences profiling serial and dangerous killers. After reviewing the coroner's inquest, autopsy files and cases records, Douglas described Beth's killer as a white man, no younger than his late 20's and possibly older, with a high school education. He lived alone, worked with his hands and was comfortable with a knife and blood, like a butcher or slaughterhouse worker. He was also familiar with prostitutes and was compulsive, patient and deliberate. He was also a heavy drinker and under financial stress. He spent several days with the victim and, when drunk, let his personal stress and the alcohol combine into a murderous rage. He cut Beth's body in half to make transportation easier but also chose mutilation to make a personal statement about the rage that he felt towards her. Severing the body both dehumanized and defemininized her. Douglas also believed that the killer chose the dump site for a reason, as in a personal connection to the neighborhood, perhaps because of some financial setback caused by the fact that the construction in the area was halted because of the war.

Douglas believes that if the murder had been committed today, it would have been solved. He states that the killer would have given himself away by his behavior after the crime, when he sobered up. He also theorized that he might have become paranoid, fearing that he had left some clue behind, and would have become obsessed with the case, reading all of the newspaper coverage of it and collecting clippings. It's also likely that he would have kept some souvenir of the crime and when he became convinced that he would not be found out, he might taunt the police and newspapers with knowledge he had that no one else did. This might explain the letters and the items of Beth's that were mailed to the newspapers.

But why no other killings? Douglas believed that perhaps the killer was never under the same sort of stress again or perhaps he died. Most likely though, is that the murderer destroyed himself or was committed to a mental institution. Or perhaps simply faded into obscurity, sure that he would never be caught.

And while Douglas created a credible personality of the killer, there have been other claims made as well. The case was first analyzed by author Leslie Charteris, the creator of "The Saint", who wrote about the case just three weeks after it occurred -- but there have been many to follow. The story was written up by Jack Webb, creator of "Dragnet", in his book The Badge, in Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon series and in Will Fowler's The Reporters.

The story has also appeared in countless books on unsolved mysteries and true crimes and there are entire websites devoted to Beth and her murder, including Pamela Hazelton's documentation of the crime.

Two relatively recent entries to try and solve the Black Dahlia murder include Black Dahlia Avenger and Daddy was the Black Dahlia Killer, in which both writers blame their deceased fathers for the crime. The 1995 book by Janice Knowlton and respected crime author Michael Newton, Daddy was the Black Dahlia Killer, was written after repressed memories surfaced for Knowlton. As an alleged victim of incest and child abuse, he kept her memories of her life with father -- and the murder of "Aunt Betty" -- below the surface for years. The book presents several well-known facts about the case but there is nothing to substantiate the story that her father was the killer other than the author's claims. Black Dahlia Avenger is unfortunately just as flawed. This book had many excited when it learned that the author, Steve Hodel, was a veteran police detective but his initial evidence in the case turned out to be some photographs that he found in his late father's estate that he believed were of Elizabeth Short. I wish that I could say that I thought the photos were genuine but I can't. The book is a well-written and well-researched investigation into the past of Hodel's father -- and his likely crimes -- but I don't think it a presents a great case that his father killed Beth Short.

Two of the best bodies of research that I have found into the case have been done by authors John Gilmore and Larry Harnisch. Gilmore is the author of the bo0k Severed, which I have always found to be one of the best and most complete investigations of the murder. Gilmore was the first to write about several aspects of the case that have since been taken for granted, including that Beth's sexual organs were undeveloped and that the Wilson / Smith scenario was the most likely solution for the crime. And while this book remains very readable (and recommended) it has, since it's release, been criticized for many errors. To be honest, I haven't really found them but then I have never claimed to be an expert on the case, as so many others claim to be. To this date, I continue to find Severed to be the most comprehensive and credible book on the case so far.

As mentioned though, some pretty compelling research has also been done by reporter Larry Harnisch into this case. Using John Douglas' profile of the killer, Harnisch has managed to track down not only a suspect who fits it but a doctor who lived in the neighborhood where Beth's body was found but who also had a connection to Beth's sister and by extension, to Beth herself. To this date, Harnisch has not published a book on the case (although I hope that he does) but you can read more about his theories and information on his website.

But no matter the number of theories, books and documentaries on the case, to this date it remains unsolved. No matter who considers themselves an expert on the case and who does not, the truth is that no one was ever charged for the murder of Elizabeth Short and, as far as we know, her death has never been avenged. She remains an elusive mystery from the dark side of Hollywood -- and the even darker side of the American landscape.