The biggest mistake by far made by a murderer is to kill the victim in the first place. Irrespective of the methodology, you are most likely to get caught.
Why? Because most murders are committed without planning, and the killer murders someone they know. Killing someone is relatively easy. Pretending you’ve never met the victim and successfully getting rid of the body is not. Bodies lying around are a dead giveaway—big, heavy, uncooperative, and if not quickly disposed of, they smell.
Around 80% of homicides occur between spouses. That’s where the police generally begin their inquiries. So then the killer has the added difficulty, presuming the body is safely stashed, of explaining the partner’s sudden absence. Or if the body is lying supine on the kitchen floor, dreaming up a solid alibi. A hint here. The police only believe 3 alibis:
Murderers dream up all sorts of ways to get rid of the corpse. Let’s start with the marital home. That’s full of dismemberment instruments—sharp knives, chainsaws, meat cleavers, etc.
Take the case of Dr Rory Jack Thompson in Hobart, separated from his wife Maureen and in a custody battle over the two kids. Thompson bought half a sheep, dismembered it and tested to see if he could flush the pieces down the toilet. While on a work trip to Sydney he purchased a hacksaw and other tools in preparation. While the kids were on an arranged visit with him, while they slept, he dressed in a dress and wig in case he was spotted, took his newly purchased hacksaw in a bag of tools and went to Maureen’s house. A struggle ensued and she died.
Following the murder Thompson cut Maureen’s body into smaller pieces using the hacksaw and meat cleaver and then flushed the pieces down the toilet. He took the larger parts to the bush surrounding Hobart and buried them.
In his autobiography, written not long before he hanged himself with a shoelace, Thompson explained his reasons for cutting up Maureen’s body:
‘Why did I cut up the body? Actually, I no longer fully understand the mental processes that led to it, but fundamentally I cut it up because it would not flush down the toilet whole. Why flush it down the toilet? Fundamentally, to get rid of the evidence. But why a toilet? After all, my original thought had been simply to bury the body, but that plan had gone away, though the folding shovel was still in the bag. I now think that in the many hours of agonising, my adult mind collapsed between fear and the felt necessity to make Maureen vanish, and the toilet was a very young child’s solution for how to get rid of guilty bad doo-doo.’
How was he caught? A woman’s finger was found floating in the sewerage works servicing Maureen’s area and it was traced back. There was a rumour he had also put some parts in a blender and the sick joke going around Hobart was ‘My wife makes a great pate’! It was one of the exhibits on display during the trial, until a juror asked for it to be removed. The vision of poor Maureen whizzing around in the said blender was too much …
Or how about Denis Nilsen — a British serial killer who strangled not one but 12 young men between 1978 and 1983 in London, England. After cleaning the bodies, he dissected them and burnt the bigger bits in a bonfire before flushing the smaller parts down the toilet.
When Dumb Dumb had a blocked drain, he called a plumber. As you do. The plumber discovered what appeared to be flesh and bones blocking the drain. He reported this to his supervisor, who agreed to check it with him the following morning. When they returned, the drain had been cleared. Upon inspecting another drain, they discovered more flesh and bones in the pipe which came from Nilsen’s top flat. They reported this gruesome find to the police, who arranged for examination of the material by a pathologist. The flesh and bone was identified as human, Nilson was asked a few difficult questions and confessed. Not much choice really, after police searched his flat and found plastic bags full of decomposing human remains. He must have spent the whole night before, dredging for body bits! Nilsen was sentenced to life in prison where he died in 2018.
A lot of bodies are found dumped in parks or bush, by dog walkers or bush walkers. Again, there’s the relationship thing. If you’ve said your wife ran off with a lover and a dog finds her under a tree, you might have some questions to answer. And the easiest way for the police to link a transported corpse to a mode of transport is to check your car boot. ‘Getting away with it 101’ is to not leave any evidence linking the corpse to you. Some killers miss the memo!
A ridiculous number of killers transport their victims to the dump site in the boot of their own car, or even the victim’s car, which is often then abandoned away from the body. Every single time they hit a bump, hair falls out, blood flies in all directions and skin cells rub all over the carpet.
Never, ever under any circumstances put a human being in the boot of your car. Even if they are alive! If, perchance, they later die, and the police search your boot, they will find random hairs that don’t belong to you and you may have to prove the person was still still alive much earlier on!.
In the case of Borce Ristevski, in Melbourne, a black Mercedes roadster, just like his wife Karen’s car, was spotted on a quiet country Victorian road not far from where Karen’s body was found and at about the same time she went missing.
Borce Ristevski, 54, had killed his fashion boutique owner wife Karen at the family’s Avondale Heights home in June 2016 before dumping her body in bushland and telling everyone they had argued, Karen had gone for a walk and never returned. Well, yeah.
Karen was missing for eight months before her remains were found wedged between two fallen trees at Macedon Regional Park by two bush walkers in February 2017.
Borce had taken his wife’s black Mercedes-Benz roadster to dispose of her body, killing the signal on his phone along the way, so his movements couldn’t be tracked, while not even considering he was driving an easily recognised and remembered car. An alert woman saw a black Mercedes sports car in the Mount Macedon area about the time of Karen’s disappearance. And told police, who then paid Borce a visit and towed Karen’s car away for forensic testing.
He eventually realised the game was up on the eve of the trial and pleaded guilty to manslaughter, never revealing how Karen was killed. He initially received a nine-year sentence with 6 to serve but the DPP appealed, arguing that sentence was ‘manifestly inadequate’, pointing to Ristevski’s ongoing secrecy over what he did to his wife and how he had misled investigators and his own family.
He said a particularly “unpleasant aspect” of the case was Ristevski’s “deceit”.
‘In full knowledge that he had killed his wife and disposed of her body, the respondent was a pallbearer at his wife’s funeral … and comforted a number of her relatives and friends,’ Justice Priest, one of the Appeal judges wrote.
The Court of Appeal decision was a majority ruling — with two justices supporting a new jail term of 13 years and the third saying a 12-year jail term was suitable.
I felt really sorry for Ristevski’s daughter, Sarah, who had steadfastly supported her father’s innocence during the investigation, only to find he had murdered her mother and dumped her in the bush, been a pall-bearer at her funeral and lied to her the whole time. What a bastard!
The moral of this story is probably: don’t kill your wife, but if you do, don’t use her own fancy car to dump the body. Really stupid!
More Silly Mistakes next time. Stay tuned …..