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11 International Unsolved Crimes That Americans Have Never Heard Of

Updated September 23, 2021 545.8k views11 items

The United States is known to generate sensational and disturbing crimes that make headlines all over the world. The Kennedy assassination, the Manson Family murders, and the OJ Simpson trial are just a few of the media spectacles that became recognizable worldwide. Outside of the America media spotlight, international crimes and mysteries - such as unexplainable disappearances, alleged abductions, family murders, and unidentifiable bodies - have perplexed people on every continent. In some cases, which have gone cold for over 70 years, authorities and spectators alike still maintain hope in solving these unforgotten crimes and occurrences. Here is a list of some of the world's most baffling and sensational crimes that aren't as recognizable in the United States - yet.

  • Photo: Australian Police / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    'Tamám Shud,' Australia's Most Mysterious Cold Case

    On the evening of November 30, 1948, John Bain Lyons and his wife were walking along Somerton Beach, a resort area near Adelaide, Australia. They noticed a well-dressed man about 20 yards away, propped up against a concrete barrier in the sand. He motioned erratically toward them but then was still. The next day, Lyons noticed the man in the same position and checked on him. He had passed since their last encounter, and a cigarette butt was positioned as if it had fallen out of his mouth.

    During the autopsy, the mortician discovered that although the man's pockets contained transit tickets from Adelaide, a pack of cigarettes, matches, gum, and combs, there was no wallet, cash, or ID. His behavior suggested intoxication or even poisoning, but an autopsy turned up nothing. His suit had no name tags and even had the brand names removed. His calves were abnormally well-developed, and his feet had a peculiar pointed shape that led some to believe he might have been a ballet dancer.

    South Australian police circulated fingerprints worldwide and tried to connect the unidentified body to known missing persons. They also checked hotels, lost-and-founds, and dry cleaners for any relevant material. They then found a suitcase in the local railway station's checked luggage office. Investigators connected thread from the suitcase with repairs done on the man's pants' pocket.  Any items that would identify the suitcase owner's identity seemed to have been deliberately removed.

    Months after the investigation began, authorities discovered a small pocket in the waistband of the pants. Inside was a tiny rolled-up slip of paper with the words "Tamám Shud" printed on it. Eventually, investigators linked this scrap of paper to an edition of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam, a popular, 12th-century book of Persian poetry. Translated, the words mean "It is ended."

    The actual book that the slip of paper came from turned up in the backseat of another individual who had been at the beach, most likely tossed there by someone else. When police examined this book, they found a phone number they ultimately connected to a man named Alfred Boxall. However, Boxall was still alive and still had his own, intact copy of The Rubáiyát. He received it from a woman named Jo Thomson. When confronted with the likeness of the unknown dead man, police noticed she became anxious, but she claimed to have no knowledge of the man.

    Australians have floated theories concerning espionage and murder for decades, but no one has ever identified the Somerton Beach Man, and why or how he died there. 70 years later, with advancements in forensic science, investigators presented the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA with strands of hair, presumably from the unknown man. The lengthy process of identification has not yet yielded an answer, but those committed to solving the South Australian mystery remain hopeful.

  • The Severed Feet Mystery Of British Columbia

    Video: YouTube

    Since 2007, numerous decayed human feet began to surface on the coastline of British Columbia. These isolated body parts - 14 as of 2018 - were typically found encased in running shoes or hiking boots. The location of these discoveries concentrated around the Salish Sea area roughly near the city of Vancouver, with some found on Vancouver Island. Investigators have identified six missing persons from eight of the washed-up remains; the rest are from unknown individuals.

    There are several theories concerning these discoveries, most centering around the concept that with bodies decaying in water, sneaker-clad feet will remain preserved and eventually separate from the rest of the cadaver. Authorities linked some of the feet to documented depressed individuals and speculated they had jumped from any number of nearby suspension bridges. 

    While another theory maintains these are remains from the Asian Tsunami of 2004, investigators have connected the discovered sneakers to products sold in British Columbia, not Asia. While there is no conclusive answer as to the source of these feet, they keep turning up - authorities discovered another in February 2016. Because only feet have been found, it is impossible to rule out murder in some of the cases.

  • The Brutal Murder Of The Al-Hilli Family In The French Alps

    Video: YouTube

    On September 5, 2012, an unknown assailant shot and killed four people near the French Alpine town of Chevaline, near Lake Annecy. The murders took place in a small parking area at the end of a remote 3 km-long road.

    Three victims were members of the al-Hilli family: Saad, 50, an Iraqi-born British citizen; his wife Iqbal, 47; and her mother-in-law, Suhaila al-Allaf, 74. Authorities also found the body of a local French cyclist, Sylvain Mollier, 45. Another cyclist discovered the bodies after seeing al-Hilli's 7-year-old daughter stumbling around the parking lot before she collapsed. The unknown attacker had shot the girl in the shoulder and brutally pistol-whipped her. Her 4-year-old sister hid underneath her mother's skirt, and authorities did not find until hours later, unscathed physically but traumatized by the incident.

    Initially, police suspected an estranged brother, Zaid al-Hilli, to have committed the crimes over a dispute involving their father's estate. French investigators did not charge him due to lack of evidence. Speculations that al-Hilli possibly had connections to bank accounts linked to Saddam Hussein, that his wife had a secret ex-husband in the US who died on the same day as she did, and that al-Hilli was involved in complex security technology have only added to the mystery surrounding the case. 

    Although the media have discussed several potential suspects - including Michael Hecht, a Belgian suspected of a similar 30-year-old murder in Brittany, and Nordahl Lelandais, an ex-soldier - no definitive solution has emerged in this high-profile case.

  • The Lead Masks Case Of Vintem Hill, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

    Video: YouTube

    In August of 1966, an individual was flying a kite on Vintem Hill in Brazil when he found two adult male dead bodies. The men were identified as Miguel Viana and Manuel Pereira da Cruz. They were dressed in suits and raincoats, with crude lead masks covering their eyes. Police noted an empty water bottle nearby and a small notebook with a cryptic message inside in Portuguese: "16:30 be at the agreed place. 18:30 swallow capsules, after effect protect metals wait for mask sign.” 

    An autopsy turned up no trace of anything inappropriate. However, the delay before the autopsy may have invalidated the testing. Further investigation turned up the fact that both men were UFO enthusiasts and clearly were on the verge of ingesting something that might be dangerous. There were rumors of UFO sightings in the area, which might explain what drew the men there. The masks turned out to be homemade by the men themselves.

    Brazilian authorities never solved the case, and the circumstances surrounding the two men’s deaths remains unknown.