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Crime Facts

"If once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he next comes to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination." - Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859)

David Hahn built a small nuclear reactor in a backyard shed in suburban Detroit in 1994. He had to shut it down after the authorities noticed. In 2007 he was caught stealing smoke detectors, possibly for the small amounts of radioactive substances contained within, and sentenced to 90 days in gaol. (source)

View more facts about: Technology and Inventions

In 1991, the Art Loss Register, a database of stolen works of art, was created. The database now contains over 300,000 works of art, including hundreds of pieces by Picasso. (source)

The last American pirate to be hanged was Nathaniel Gordon, who was hanged in "the Tombs" in New York City on February 21, 1862. Previously, while captain of the ship Erie, his ship was captured by the American ship Mohican. An inspection revealed 967 blacks aboard who were to be sold into slavery. Conditions were so bad aboard that 300 died before they could be returned to Africa. Gordon was charged with piracy and found guilty. In addition to being the last American pirate to be hanged, he was the first, and only, American slave trader to be executed for being engaged in the slave trade. (source)

View more facts about: American Civil War | Lasts

The oldest recorded death sentence is found in the Amherst papyri, a list of state trials of ancient Egypt, dating to 1500 B.C. A teenaged male, convicted of "magic", was sentenced to kill himself by either poison or stabbing. (source)

View more facts about: Ancient Egypt | Laws and Customs

On the morning of New Year's Day, 1963, Dr. Gilbert Stanley Bogle, one of Australia's top physicists, and his girlfriend Margaret Chandler were found dead in suburban Sidney, Australia, near Fuller's Bridge, on the Lane Cove River. The best efforts of the Sydney police, Interpol, and the FBI notwithstanding, no-one has been able to figure out who killed them, how they were killed, or why they were killed. This case is unique in that all three of these questions are unanswered. (source)

View more facts about: Strange But True

At a council in Constance between 1414 and 1417, the man who called himself Pope John XXIII and is now known as Antipope John XXIII (1410–1415; not to be confused with Pope John XXIII, pope from 1958–1963) was convicted of piracy, murder, rape, and incest, and received three years in prison. (source)

View more facts about: Popes

On August 8, 1969, novelist Jerzy Kosinski was flying to Los Angeles from Paris, with a short stopover in New York. At New York, all his luggage was accidentally unloaded, forcing him to get off the plane to go through customs, missing his connecting flight. This in turn caused him to miss his visit that night with actress Sharon Tate and other friends, and thus he was absent when Charles Manson and his disciples paid their murderous visit to the Tate house. Kosinski later wrote about this close call in the novel Blind Date. (source)

View more facts about: Flight | Books and Literature

Around one in three murder cases are never solved.

Around 40% of murders occur during arguments. (source)

View more facts about: Interesting Statistics

In 1971, in order to show how easy it is to pass so-called "special bills", representative Tom Moore, Jr. introduced a bill in the Texas (U.S.A.) House of Representatives, which was subsequently passed unanimously, commending Boston mass murderer Albert De Salvo, who was known as "the Boston Strangler". The bill stated that De Salvo's "dedication and devotion to his work has enabled the weak and lonely throughout the nation to achieve a new degree of concern for their future", and that he was "officially recognized by the state of Massachusetts for his noted activities and unconventional techniques involving population control and applied psychology". (source)

View more facts about: Laws and Customs

On May 13, 1983, workers digging in a peat bog in Macclesfield, located in Cheshire, England, discovered a woman's skull. Local police had long suspected that Peter Reyn-Bardt, then 57, had murdered his wife, Malika, who was last seen in 1960. Convinced that they now had Malika's remains, detectives confronted Reyn-Bardt, who confessed to the murder. One month before the trial, however, experts from Oxford learned that the skull belonged to a woman who died in the third century A.D. Despite this development, Reyn-Bardt was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. (source)

View more facts about: Ancient Britain and Ireland

In 1906, a victim of a murder 2,500 years previous was discovered in Great Britain, in Littondale Cave, near Arncliffe. The body was believed to be that of a woman around 40 years of age, who met her death from a blow by some sharp-pointed weapon, as there is a small irregularly shaped hole, penetrating the inner table of the skull. Probably the blow did not prove instantly fatal, and she crawled up the cave to its innermost recesses to die. (source)

View more facts about: Ancient Britain and Ireland

In 1877, during the height of violent labour unrest in the United States, three men were found guilty of the murder of a foreman of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company and sentenced to hang. Two of them went stoically to their deaths, but the third, Alexander Campbell, swore that he was innocent. As he was being dragged from his cell to the gallows, Campbell rubbed his left hand in dust from the floor and pressed his palm against the plaster wall, and shouted repeatedly, "This handprint will remain here for all time as proof of my innocence." And so it did. In 1931, Carbon County Sheriff Robert L. Bowman undertook a renovation of the cell, removing the section of plaster wall containing the handprint and replacing it with a new section of fresh plaster. Nonetheless, the handprint came back, and still exists today. (source)

View more facts about: Strange But True | Unusual Ways to Die

Over a period of 500 years, a secret religious sect in India called the Thugs ritually murdered about 12 million people. The term "thug" originally was Hindi for "swindler". Starting in the thirteenth century, the Thugs travelled about India in bands, preying on travellers, whom they would strangle and rob. The Thugs were fanatically devoted to Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction. They lasted until around the 1830s, when the occupying British destroyed the destructive sect. (source)

View more facts about: India

Hypatia (ca. 355 or ca. 370–415 A.D.) was a soaring figure of beauty, eloquence, and learning, and the last recorded member of the great Library of Alexandria and the only noted woman scholar of antiquity. She taught Neoplatonism (hence, she was a pagan) and helped to demonstrate Euclid's ideas. Although Christian bishops were among her pupils, she was the subject of violent antagonism on the part of zealots. She was murdered in 415 by rioting fanatic monks, under the leadership of bishop Cyril, who brutally sliced her body to pieces with oyster shells gathered from the Alexandrian harbour. (source)

On an application he filled out to join the police force, a Houston, Texas, resident was asked if he had ever had a police record. The applicant could not tell a lie. No, he answered, but he had once knocked over a liquor store, without being caught. Not only did he not get the job, but he was arrested and gaoled for armed robbery, and for illegal possession of a .32 calibre revolver which detectives found when they frisked him at the station house. (source)

For the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, the Roman Olympic Organisation Committee made a deal with the Association of Roman Thieves for the latter not to engage in street thefts during the Olympics. During the games, incidents of pickpocketing, purse snatching, and hold-ups were at a low. (source)

View more facts about: Sports and Games | The Olympic Games

In 1865, William E. Brockway printed a counterfeit $100 bill so perfect that the Treasury Department's only recourse was to withdraw all authentic $100 bills from circulation. (source)

View more facts about: Money

Although it has been illegal in India since 1961 to demand a dowry as a condition of marriage, in 1987 at least 1,786 Indian brides were killed by their husbands or their husbands' families because their dowries were too small. (source)

View more facts about: India

In ancient Babylonia, if a poorly-built home collapsed on the owner, killing him, the architect was executed. If the owner's son was killed in the house collapse, the architect's son was put to death. If the homeowner's wife or daughter was killed, the architect was merely fined. (source)

View more facts about: Laws and Customs

Edgar Allan Poe wrote a short story in 1838, "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket", in which three shipwreck survivors in an open boat kill and eat the fourth, a man named Richard Parker. In 1884, in the real world, three shipwreck survivors in an open boat killed and ate the fourth, whose name was Richard Parker. (source)

View more facts about: Coincidences | Books and Literature

Ben Jonson, the brilliant English dramatist and poet (1572–1637), was working as an actor and playwright in 1598 when he killed another actor in a duel. He was tried, and successfully defended himself by claiming the right of clergy, namely, that he could read the Bi­ble in Latin, and was punished only by branding and a short prison sentence. (source)

View more facts about: Laws and Customs

It has been noted that 6% of the males of a given age commit around 50% of all serious crimes committed by males of that age. This statistic is fairly consistent across many ages and many different locations. (source)

View more facts about: Interesting Statistics

Burglars who broke into a house in Essex in October 2000 found a pot containing white powder and labelled "Charlie". Presumably they thought it was an illicit drug, but it was actually the cremated ashes of the homeowner's deceased dog. Police, who found the ashes arranged in neat lines, did not know how much was ingested by the thieves before they left. (source)

On December 1, 1948, a man was found, dead, on Somerton Beach, Australia. Police were unable to identify the man, who carried no identification or passport, just cigarettes, tickets, gum, a comb, and, most interestingly, a scrap of paper with the words tamam shud, Persian for "it is finished," printed on it. It was determined that this was the final page of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Following a police appeal for the book, a man turned the book in, saying that he had found it on the front seat of his unlocked car around the time of the murder. On the inside back cover of the book were a jumble of letters; police assumed the writing to be some sort of code, but cryptologists were unable to break the code. Furthermore, a coroner's inquest was unable to determine a cause of death, although some sort of poison was suspected. To this day, the identity of the man, the cause of death, and the meaning of the code are all unknown.

View more facts about: Strange But True | Unusual Ways to Die

A study of all gunshot deaths in the Seattle area between 1978 and 1983—743 in all—concluded that the majority of these deaths occurred in the home where the gun was kept. In only two cases was a stranger killed; the rest were accidental deaths, suicides or homicides where the victim was a family member or a friend. (source)

View more facts about: Weapons and Battles

In the United States, only 13% of burglaries occur when the residents of the house are at home. However, in Canada and Great Britain, over 40% of burglaries occur when residents are home. It is believed that the difference is due to greater gun ownership among homeowners in the United States. (source)

View more facts about: Weapons and Battles
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