These cases are taken from across the world. There are some which seem to signal at conspiracies in high places, while others are probably cases of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Here is volume 1 of the cases which fascinate us and which we hope will be solved one day:
1. Mysterious Deaths of Indian Nuclear Scientists
In 2015, India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) stated that between 2009-2013, 11 nuclear scientists had died unnatural deaths. Eight of them died in a blast, by hanging or by drowning in the sea, while 2 committed suicide and 1 died in a road accident. In addition to these 11, there were 15 more mysterious deaths.
In 2009, there was L Mahalingam in Karnataka, who went for a walk and whose body was found decomposing in the Kali River. Then two young researchers died in a lab fire in 2009, but there was nothing flammable in the lab. Two more researchers, who were working on India’s first indigenous nuclear ballistic submarine, were poisoned and their bodies left on railway tracks.
Homie Jhangir Bhabha, considered the father of the Indian nuclear program, died in a controversial plane crash in the Swiss Alps in 1966. There was no debris found from the crash. Bhabha had died shortly after stating that in a short while, India would be able to produce a nuclear device. There have been many conspiracies around Bhabha’s death; the most popular one blames the American CIA.
But it isn’t merely Indian nuclear scientists who’re dying pretty quickly. In 15 years, ISRO lost 684 personnel; that’s 45 deaths per year. While these deaths are pretty shocking, what’s even more alarming is that neither the police nor the Indian government seems too concerned about it. Even the media has shown a superficial interest in the case. When Irani nuclear scientists started dying in succession, the Irani government provided them heavy security cover, but no such luck for our scientists.
2. Ottavio Bottecchia (1 August 1894 – 14 June 1947)
Italian cyclist and first Italian winner of the Tour de France, Bottecchia joined the Italian Army during WWI; he evaded capture many times, survived a gas attack, and also contracted malaria. Once he was captured but managed to escape and then went on to conduct 2 reconnaissance sorties. He was awarded a bronze medal. He moved to France after the war and worked as a builder, and continued to suffer from poverty. He returned to Italy and took up competitive cycling. His training partner, Alfonso Piccin then taught Bottecchia to read.
During the 1924 Tour, Bottecchia, who had been wearing yellow throughout the race, changed his jersey when he rode the path closest to Italy. One theory states that his anti-fascist stance was well known and he feared being attacked by a Mussolini’s Black Shirts. At some stages, his tyres had already been punctured.
On 23 May, 1927, his brother, Giovanni, was riding his bike when he was hit by a car and died. Ottavio returned to Italy. On 3 June, he was found on the roadside; his bones were broken and his skull was cracked. His bike was standing at a distance and wasn’t damaged at all. There were no skid marks on the road. He was taken to a hospital but died on 14 June without waking up. The official cause of death was, shockingly, claimed to be sunstroke; not only was Bottecchia used to the heat, he was found in the morning. Some theories suggest he was murdered because he often spoke out against Italian dictator Mussolini.
3. Elisa Lam (30 April 1991 – 31 January 2013)
Elisa Lam had been studying in Canada when she left for a trip to Southern California. She arrived in Los Angeles on 26 January, 2013 and checked into the Cecil Hotel, which had a pretty bad reputation even before the Lam case. The Cecil now stands in a decayed part of town. It was the last place Elizabeth Short had stopped before she was murdered (her murder remains unsolved to this day); another unsolved crime was the rape and murder of Goldie Osgood in her hotel room. Serial killers Jack Unterweger and Richard Ramirez had both stayed at the hotel during their killing sprees. There were also a number of suicides that took place at the Cecil.
Lam was suffering from Bipolar Disorder and depression and was on meds for the same. She was supposed to check out on 31 January and when her parents didn’t hear from her, they notified Los Angeles police. The police searched parts of the hotel (including the roof) with sniffer dogs but found nothing. Then on 14 February, LAPD released a video that showed Lam on and outside the hotel elevator. Her behavior was very strange – she looked scared, the elevator door refused to shut when she was in it, and it looked like she’s talking to someone off-camera. Then hotel guests complained about the water. On 19 February, the hotel staff found Lam’s naked body in a 1,000 gallon tank.
Though authorities labeled it an accidental drowning, there are a few things that stand out – it would have been hard for Lam to go to the roof with having someone from the staff with her; there was no way to climb up to the tanks; the tank lids are heavy and it would be hard to shut them from the inside; the police dogs who went there shortly after her disappearance didn’t pick up any scent; and there were no drugs in her body during the time of her death.
4. Lal Bahadur Shastri (2 October 1904 – 11 January 1966)
Shastri, a leader of the Indian National Congress party, was the Prime Minister of India. He led India during the Indo-Pak war of 1965 and his slogan ‘Jai jawan, jai kisan’ is still remembered today. Once, in October 1964, while returning from a Non Alliance Conference in Cairo, Shastri broke protocol and went to Pakistan at the request of Ayub Khan, then President of Pakistan, and had an informal meeting with him.
A ceasefire was declared with Pakistan in 1965, after which Shastri and Khan attended a summit in Tashkent (formerly in Russia, now in Uzbekistan), which had been organized by Alexei Kosygin. They signed the Tashkent Declaration on 10 January, 1966. According to this treaty, India would give away their conquered region in Pakistan occupied land as well as the ceasefire line in Kashmir. It gave both countries until 25 February to pull-back to pre-conflict positions and restored economic and diplomatic ties.
Shastri died in Tashkent on 11 January, of an apparent heart attack, after signing the treaty. His physician, RN Chugh, said he was in good health and had no heart problems before. An inquiry into his death by Raj Narain came up with no conclusion and no record of it exists today. The Russian butler who had assisted Shastri was arrested for a short while before being let go. Shastri’s son, Sunil Shastri, raised questions about dark blue spots and cut marks on his father’s body. Since a post-mortem had not been conducted, there was no reason for those cut marks to be there.
An RTI request asking to declassify a document related to the late PM’s death was refused citing that it could lead to harming of foreign relations, cause disruption within the country and breach parliamentary privileges. Meanwhile the Tashkent Declaration tarnished Khan’s image in Pakistan as people rioted and demonstrated against it. After shying away from the topic for a while, Khan finally addressed the people on 14 January.
5. Taman Shud (died 1 December 1948)
This case became famous as ‘Taman shud’ due to a piece of paper that was in the dead man’s pocket; it is also known as the Somerton Man Mystery. On the morning of 1 December, 1948, a man was found dead sitting on a beach in Australia. A half-smoked cigarette was resting on his coat collar, while an unlit one was tucked behind his ear. His pockets contained an unused train ticket, an unused bus ticket, a comb, a half-empty pack of Juicy Fruit gum, a cigarette packet with a different brand of cigarettes in them and a match-box.
There were no clear indications of the man’s identity. His suitcase had three items marked with different spellings of one name – Kean, Keane, and T. Keane. No one with that name was missing. In the fob of one pocket was found a piece of paper torn from the last page of ‘Rubaiyat’ by Omar Khayyam – Tamam shud (It is ended). A man came forward who said a copy of the book had been thrown into his car with the last page torn out. Sure enough, the torn bit matched the book.
In the book were found a number of a local nurse, who didn’t know the man, and some lines of a cipher-like writing, which has never been cracked. The autopsy stated that the man was athletic with legs of a ballet dancer or long distance runner, that he had a British appearance, and that he had most likely been poisoned somehow. However, neither the method of murder nor the man’s identity was ever established. Oddly, after his burial, flowers began to appear on his grave by some unknown mourner.
In 1945, 3 years before the Somerton Man case, a 34-year-old Singaporean Joseph Saul Hain Marshall was found dead in Sydney, Australia with a copy of ‘Rubaiyat’ on his chest. The ‘Rubaiyat’ was marked as a seventh edition by Methuen publishers, but only five editions of the books had ever been published by Methuen.
6. Gareth Williams (26 September 1978 – 16 August 2010)
Williams was a Welsh mathematician working in GCHQ, part of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS or MI6). Welsh began studying Maths part time in university when he was still in college and ended up graduating with a first class degree at the age of 17. Apart from an interest in Maths, Williams was known to be an enthusiastic cyclist and a very introverted man.
When Gareth Williams hadn’t contacted any friends for several days, the police were asked to perform a “welfare check” on him. His decomposing and naked body was found in his bathroom, stuffed in a locked bag; the key was under his body in the bag. There was apparently no evidence (DNA, fingerprints, footprints or any traces) in the bath; Williams’ family believes that critical evidence was wiped away by the police as part of a cover up.
It was estimated that Williams had been dead for about a week. Since Williams had worked in top-secret cases, it was decided that details of his work would be withheld. There were no struggle marks on his body nor any remains of alcohol or narcotics. His death was ruled “suspicious and unexplained”. There are people who believe Williams’ death was due to a bizarre sex fetish; there were several women’s outfits in his house and he was reported to have previously tied himself to his bed and been unable to free himself until his landlady untied him.
7. Jonathan Luna (21 October 1965 – 4 December 2003)
Jonathan P Luna was of half-Filipino and half-African American descent. He was raised in the rough-and-tumble projects of South Bronx USA. Unlike other kids of the neighborhood, Luna didn’t get into trouble; instead he worked hard and became an ace student who then went on to study law. The popular and good-looking student was elected president of his class in law school.
Luna got married to his girlfriend, Angela Hopkins, in 1993. He practiced law first in the private sector but then shifted to the public sector. He rose to the ranks of Assistant United States Attorney. As a lawyer, he prosecuted many criminals – from drug addicts to sexual molesters.
On December 4, 2003, Luna’s car was found with its front part submerged in a stream with blood on the rear seat floor. His body was found face down in the stream under the car’s engine. He had been stabbed 36 times with his own penknife (which was found in the crime scene by police 6 weeks later) but the death was ruled as drowning. His spectacles, which he needed to drive, were found in his office. Though local authorities tried to rule his death as a suicide, two coroners have ruled it a homicide. There have been no further developments in the case.
8. Fredrick Gomes (1 November 1965 – 7 March 1997)
La Martiniere Boys College in Lucknow, India is a 152-year old institution that is considered one of the best in the country. In 1997, however, its reputation was shaken as one of its teachers was gunned down in his residence on the campus. Fredrick Gomes was an Anglo-Indian and 31-year-old assistant warden and physical training instructor who had a pretty set routine; he’d wake up at 5:30, take his 2 Alsatians for a walk then go to his parents for breakfast.
On March 7, 1997, Gomes was shot dead by unknown assailants; he was shot at 18 times and had been hit 8 times – 4 in the chest, 2 in the back, one in the leg and a fatal one to his temple. The killers had chased him from the back of the house to the front and then the back again. Strangely, both his dogs as well as Gomes stayed quiet during the attack. Further investigations revealed that the guns used to kill Gomes were rare.
In February, Gomes and turned over some boys to the principal, Elton D’souza, for circulating a gun. The boys had been asked to only turn up in school to take their exams. The principal neglected to report the incident to the police until after the murder. On February 18, some goons came by Gomes residence and fired shots in the air threatening dire consequences, but the principal ignored this too.
There has been immense speculation over the death of the warden – from old rivalries from his days as a student in the same school, to a quarrel with someone when he was invigilating in a school for an ISC exam. Despite all the theories, no one has been convicted for the crime so far.
9. Ourang Medan
Sometime in June 1947, two American sea vessels in the Strait of Malacca picked up some distress messages from a Dutch ship Ourang Medan. The radio operator of the Medan had sent a message via Morse code: ‘S.O.S from Ourang Medan…we float. All officers including the Captain, dead in chartroom and on the bridge. Probably whole of crew dead…’ There were a few more confused dots and dashes before the final message came though: ‘I die’.
When the Ourang Medan was located, the ship was undamaged but was littered with the dead bodies of crew and even a dog. All the corpses were on their backs, with open mouths and eyes looking upwards. There were no visible signs of injuries on the bodies. While the boat was being examined, the no. 4 cargo hold of the Medan caught fire. Shortly after, the boat exploded and sank.
There have been many theories around the case. Some people have suggested that the Medan was carrying hazardous chemicals which might have leaked, while others insist aliens had something to do with it. What’s weirder? There was no ship registered by the name of Ourang Medan. This has led some people to claim that the whole story was a hoax. But the distress calls to the American ships were real enough.
10. Snehal Gaware (died 20 July 2007)
Snehal Gaware was a final year engineering student at Sardar Patel College of Engineering in Andheri, Mumbai when her life ended tragically. Her father Hindurao was an employee at a private bank and her mother Kalpana was a school teacher. An elder sister, Sheetal, was studying in the UK at the Nottingham Trent University.
On 20 July 2007, Snehal, who had broken her leg a month ago, had been recuperating at home when a bunch of her friends, including her boyfriend Hiren Rathod, came over to see her. When Snehal’s mother returned home from work, she couldn’t find Snehal. She called up all of her daughter’s friends and finally called Hindurao. Both the parents went and registered a missing person case at the Ramnagar Police station in Dombivli at 6:30 PM.
The next day, Kalpana discovered her daughter’s body stashed in her box bed; her hands and feet were tied and her mouth had been gagged. An autopsy revealed that she had been strangled and suffocated. Her phone was the only item missing from the house. When the phone was traced, the dealer who bought the phone described the seller; on the basis of that description, her boyfriend Rathod was arrested.
Hiren Rathod was released and then went abroad to study for 2 years. When he returned in 2011, he was arrested and released on bail. Rathod refused a request to undergo a Narco Analysis test. All charges against Rathod were finally dropped due to an absence of evidence. Without any other leads, Snehal Gaware’s case remains an unsolved one.