from the classic Arsenic and old lace For a glut of Agatha Christie novels, death by poison is a staple of the mystery genre. It’s also often an incredibly unpleasant way to die. Cyanide poisonings can cause violent seizures and heart attacks, and strychnine can cause painful muscle spasms or muscles to lock up completely. And these are two poisons among many that have been used in stories from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to Stephen King.
Where death by poison is a trope often used in murder mystery novels, it’s unfortunately a tool used just as often in real-life unsolved murders. Due to the nature of this crime, it is possible to commit poisoning remotely, and the killers often have plenty of time to escape before the toxins are ingested. This is a list of ten poison-related crimes that have yet to be solved.
Related: 10 puzzling disappearances that remain unsolved
10 Lieutenant Hubert Chevis
In the summer of 1931, a highly decorated British Army lieutenant named Hubert Chevis was found dead in Hampshire, England. He found strychnine in a partridge that the lieutenant had refused to finish. Apparently, he took a bite and deduced that he tasted awful, though that one bite was enough to cause Chevis’s death the next morning. His wife, Frances Chevis, was lucky to survive, for she too had tasted the contaminated partridge that night.
The poisoning was never officially solved, although the main suspects included Frances, who had only been married to Hubert for six months. Or maybe she was someone from India, as Chevis was a judge in the British-occupied country and may have made enemies. Some even speculate that the partridges accidentally ate berries containing strychnine and that the poisoning was an accident. However, one day before the news of Chevis’s death was made public, the lieutenant’s father received a mysterious telegram from Dublin, which read only “Hurray, hurray, hurray.”
9 The matter of poisons
The poison affair was a particularly brutal scandal in France in 1679, where thirty-six people were sentenced to death for alleged poisonings among the French aristocracy. And while the trials were officially held, they were instead actual witch trials, as people were accused of literal witchcraft and burned at the stake, making the authenticity of the court at the time hard to trust. completely.
In fact, there was a clandestine market in Paris for “heirloom powders,” or poisons, which were sold by crowds of fortune tellers. At the center of the investigation was one of those fortune tellers, under the pseudonym “La Voison”. While drunk, La Voison implicated hundreds of commoners and aristocrats alike, alleging that they engaged in black masses and conspired to kill the king. In response to the poisonings in France, King Louis XIV took no chances and formed a court to implicate a large number of people, most of whom were innocent. To this day, the true machinations of the poison affair remain a mystery.
8 rodney marks
The death of Rodney Marks is perhaps one of the only murders to have occurred on the continent of Antarctica. In the spring of 2000, the thirty-two-year-old astrophysicist began to feel dizzy before starting to vomit blood. Although it seemed that Marks would recover at first, he would tragically suffer his death at the hands of cardiac arrest later that night. It would be months before a plane arrived and an autopsy was performed, but the tragic situation took a sinister turn when it was revealed that Marks had died from toxic methanol consumption.
The murder of the Australian-born astrophysicist seemed completely far-fetched. Although there was speculation that the case was an accident or suicide, the fact is that Marks had consumed a glass of methanol wine; a difficult feat to accomplish without realizing it. Marks was well liked among his peers and no definite suspect has emerged from any investigation.
7 The paraquat murders in Japan
Paraquat is a particularly potent chemical used in herbicides. In the 1980s, in the Japanese city of Fukuyama, it was also used as a means of indiscriminately poisoning an unsuspecting public. Known as the paraquat murders, an event occurred in which the herbicide was intentionally left on top of vending machines placed inside the soft drink, Omanamin C. This led to the poisoning of thirty-five people and the deaths of eleven unsuspecting civilians. The first victim was a man named Haruo Otsu.
The poisonings would also reach Tokyo. However, despite the trail of evidence that came with the location change, no suspects in this case were ever identified. With no leads to follow, the Japanese police officers could do little more than post flyers warning the general public not to drink any liquor they found lying around.
6 Sergei and Yulia Skripal
While revenge plots that play out like a murder mystery often go hand-in-hand with crimes of a toxic nature, the world of espionage also has its fair share of unsolved poison-based murders. Unfortunately, the following example is too recent, as it occurred in 2018 and would involve not only the death of a British double agent but also his daughter. But unlike the other poisonings on this list, the two victims, Sergei and Yulia Skirpal, would recover in hospital.
On March 4, in the English city of Salisbury, the two victims were found unconscious on a park bench, after being exposed to the deadly Novichok nerve agent. Sergei is believed to have worked for Russian intelligence and then proceeded to feed information to the British. Although some people featured in nearby CCTV footage are believed to be suspects, no definitive conclusion has been reached by any court. Unfortunately, an equally mysterious poisoning would occur in Salisbury, involving two other people: Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess. The latter unfortunately passed away in hospital.
5 Urooj Khan
The following case is also all too recent and involves the tragic poisoning of a man who had just won a million dollars in the lottery. Forty-six-year-old dry cleaner owner Urooj Khan was living on Chicago’s North Side when he bought a lucky 7/11 winning lottery ticket in 2012. Unfortunately, just weeks later, Khan was found missing. life at home. Although at first it appeared that the man had died of accidental poisoning, it was later discovered in an autopsy that he had ingested a lethal dose of cyanide, and a crime was suspected.
Khan’s widow and brother fought hard to convince authorities that his death was a murder, but to this day, no definitive suspects have been identified. As a result of this case, many people have advocated keeping the identity of lottery winners anonymous, fearing that the public announcement of people receiving large sums of cash would make them potential assassination targets.
4 georgi markov
Ricin, a fine powder derived from castor beans, is perhaps one of the deadliest poisons a person can ingest, and it’s nearly impossible to accidentally find a lethal dose. In 1978, on Waterloo Bridge in London, a man named Georgi Markov was poisoned with ricin. The toxin is suspected to have been administered via a poison-tipped umbrella. As a result, the man would succumb to the poison in the hospital less than twenty-four hours later.
Although it may seem so at first, this murder is not a spy vs. spy murder case. Georgi Markov was a journalist and writer of plays and political fiction in Bulgaria who regularly spoke out against the government. In addition, Markov was also the target of two other failed assassination attempts in Munich and Paris. Despite the accusations against the Bulgarian government, no specific person has been officially considered a suspect.
3 The Tylenol Murders
In the early 1980s, across the city of Chicago, seven different people would tragically find themselves the victims of a random potassium cyanide poisoning. At first, the link between the seven people seemed hazy until it was later revealed that acetaminophen Tylenol pills found in their homes had been laced with the potent toxin. The company that owns Tylenol, Johnson and Johnson, immediately removed the products from Chicago shelves so that an investigation could take place.
In the investigation it was discovered that each of the contaminated bills was manufactured in different factories, so the crime of tampering had to occur in the store. However, the perpetrator remains a mystery to this day. At the very least, the incident known as the Tylenol murders would lead to significant changes in the anti-tampering methods used in the sale of over-the-counter drugs.
2 The South Croydon poisonings
England is once again the scene of a series of wicked poisonings. During a period of time from April 26, 1928 to March 22, 1929, three people were poisoned by ingesting arsenic. The first victim was a fifty-nine-year-old man named Edmund Duff, who lived in the London suburb of Croydon. Although his death was initially thought to be a natural death, suspicions were raised a year later when Duff’s sister-in-law, Valerie Sydney, suffered a similar fate, followed by Violet Sidney, Valerie’s mother, a month later.
Since all three victims were related, it was initially thought that the perpetrator of such foul play was fairly easy to determine. However, once a crime was suspected, the only clues investigators could determine were those they could find in the exhumed bodies. The only thing that could be concluded was that arsenic was present. The leading theory is that Violet poisoned her relatives before taking her own life or that the crime was perpetrated by Edmund’s then-widow, Grace Duff. However, to this day, no one has been charged.
1 Alexander Litvinenko
The latest poisoning victim on this list is also a surprisingly recent spy assassination, well past the spy heyday of the Cold War era. Unlike the other poisoning methods on this list, however, the spy suffered at the hands of toxic radiation. In November 2006, researchers found that polonium-210 was mixed into a cup of tea belonging to a man named Alexander Litvinenko.
While Litvinenko originally worked as an agent for the Federal Security Service in Russia, an organization that essentially succeeded the KGB, he fled to the UK after fierce disagreements with the Russian government. He was highly critical of Putin and worked hard to uncover another murder, that of journalist Anna Politkovskaya. These actions are thought to have painted a huge target on the ex-spy’s back. Former FSS Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun are the main suspects, although full conclusions have never been drawn in this case.
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