We are approaching an era in which security cameras are becoming more and more numerous and pervading our lives, in which often much of what we do is captured on video to some extent, even without our knowledge. In some places, such as the United Kingdom, such surveillance cameras are omnipresent and inescapable, and practically every move anyone makes is recorded constantly, with no real escape from the ever watching eye of this network. With this dwindling privacy and the sheer number of cameras quietly and dutifully watching practically our every move, it is perhaps no surprise that they sometimes provide curious insights and clues into mysterious deaths and disappearances, capturing victims of crimes, perpetrators, and those who have vanished into thin air. However, the existence of this potential evidence does not always lead to solving these mysteries, and in many cases can even weave more puzzles around these cases. I have covered this topic here at Mysterious Universe before, but there are many such cases, and the rabbit hole goes deep. Here are some more.
Security footage has become a useful tool for trying to solve baffling murders, and one rather well-publicized mysterious murder with surveillance footage is the case of 23-year-old Jane Rimmer, who on the evening of June 8, 1996, was out for a night on the town partying with a group of friends, visiting the Club Bayview and a friend’s house before eventually winding up at the Continental Hotel in the Claremont area of Perth Australia. Shortly after midnight, Jane reportedly told her friends she was going to head home, and her friends went off in a taxi to continue their partying. It would be the last time they would see her alive. After an extensive manhunt for the missing woman, on August 3 Rimmer’s dead body was found unceremoniously dumped in a patch of remote bushland on the outskirts of Perth.
This grim discovery would prove to be alarming for authorities because it was the same area where two other women had gone missing in the same timeframe, with one of them, a Ciara Glennon, turning up dead not far from where Rimmer’s body had been discovered. The other woman, Sarah Spiers, was never found but is thought to have been killed and connected to the Glennon murder, as both women had been abducted while leaving Club Bayview, where Rimmer had also curiously been on the night of her disappearance. Police began to suspect that a serial killer was at large in the area, and that all three women had fallen victim to the same unknown assailant, who has never been caught.
This rather dark theory gained some momentum and a mysterious clue when authorities pored over CCTV footage from the night of the Rimmer disappearance and saw something very suspicious indeed. The footage shows Rimmer outside of the Continental Hotel just after midnight on June 9, and apparently right after her and her friends parted ways for the evening. As she stands there she is approached by a man who appears to casually speak with her, although it is unclear if she knew him or not. The rotating camera then pans around to another area, but when it returns to where Rimmer had just been standing a minute before both her and the unknown man are gone. Poring over all of the footage of that evening turned up no sign of them leaving and it is unknown if they left together or not. Although there is no hard evidence to link the man seen in the footage with Rimmer’s disappearance and death, police believe that he is certainly a person of interest that could at least provide further clues, and could even be the killer himself. Unfortunately, the mysterious individual has never been identified despite widespread circulation of the footage, and until someone identifies him both he and the Claremont killer will remain specters, Rimmer's death unanswered.
The following year, in 1997, there was the senseless murder of 41-year-old Leah Rowlands, a gas station clerk and mother of two in Cozad, Nebraska. At approximately 10:30 AM on March 10, 1997, a red 1993 Pontiac Grand Am with California license plates came in for gas at the Amoco gas station where Rowlands worked, located along the rural Highway 80. Out of the car stepped a barefoot man with sweatpants rolled up to his knees, and when his tank was filled he then made his way into the station and approached Rowlands, who was working alone at the time.
The ensuing incident is entirely caught on security footage, which shows the man demanding money from the register, which Rowlands does without a fight, after which she is apparently told to get onto the floor. The frightened woman complies without any struggle, and at this point what seems to be a straightforward robbery turns into cold-blooded murder as the man produces a 9 mm semiautomatic pistol, leans over the prone, compliant woman, and ruthlessly fires three times from point blank range, killing her execution style. The man then calmly helps himself to a soda, a pack of cigarettes, and a lighter, before leaving with the $150 dollars he stole and a free tank of gas. The spooky thing about this gruesome crime is that although it is broad daylight and the man did not have his face covered in any way and is clearly visible, no one has any idea of who he actually is despite the footage being shown widely on the news and on TV programs such as America’s Most Wanted. To this day no one knows who the mystery murderer is, or why he would so brutally and ruthlessly execute a woman who was helpless and obviously not defying him in any noticeable way, obeying all of his orders.
As grim as this crime was, it is perhaps overshadowed in sheer depravity by the death of 8-year-old Nurin Jazlin Jazimin, of Wangsa Maju, Kuala Lumpur. On August 20, 2007, Nurin went off to a market near her house to buy a hair clip and never returned, sparking an intensive search that turned up nothing, the only clue at all being that some witnesses claimed they had seen her snatched off the street by some men in a white van. It was not until 28 days later, on September 17, that the girl’s fate would finally be known, when a discarded sports bag was found in front of a shop, containing what would go on to shock, outrage, and disgust the nation.
Within the bag was found the nude, lifeless body of little Nurin, which showed signs of severe beatings and strangulation, but most shocking of all had a cucumber and eggplant shoved up within her genitals, which had caused rupturing. An autopsy found that she had died rather recently, just 6 hours before the body had been found, which meant that she had been held captive and abused for nearly an entire month before being killed and dumped. At the time it was one of the most brutal, goriest crimes Malaysia had ever seen, it still is, and police were put under a lot of pressure to solve the case and bring her monstrous killers to justice.
During their investigation, authorities found an intriguing piece of CCTV footage from the day the body was found, which shows a man on a motorcycle drive up the store front and casually deposit the duffel bag with Nurin’s body in it. The whole time the unidentified person is talking on his cell phone, and seems disturbingly nonchalant about the whole thing, as if he is just taking out the trash. The footage proved to be frustratingly blurry, to the point where it is impossible make a positive identification of the man. Interestingly, an hour after this there is footage on the same camera that shows a woman chatting with a group of three men for several minutes before they drive away in a white van, all while the duffel bag and its macabre contents sits there untouched and apparently unnoticed. It is thought that all of these individuals played a part in the abduction, assault, and murder of Nurin, but not a single one of them has ever been identified and the case remains cold.
More recently was the 2011 murder of 69-year-old Emmet Velten, of Pheonix, Arizona. Security footage shows Velten arriving at his apartment at around 11 AM on April 24, 2011 along with a man of around 20 to 25 years of age with brown hair and wearing a black and white checkered short-sleeved shirt and a distinctive bright green hat, after which they ride the elevator together to Velten’s floor. The man with the hat is then seen on footage leaving 2 hours later, this time using the stairs to the first floor, after which cameras fully capture him stealing Velten’s car and calmly driving off. Not long after this, a neighbor of Velten found him crawling down the hallway, and he appeared to have been severely beaten.
Velten would later die of head trauma, but not before he managed to tell authorities that he had met the unidentified man at a local homeless shelter earlier that morning and invited him back to his home, and although he did not say why, police believe it was possibly for prostitution. Velten’s car was found 3 days later abandoned not far away, but it proved to be devoid of any useful evidence. The mystery man is thought to most certainly have been the one to murder Velten, but although he is clearly visible on several different cameras from many different angles and seems to be in no hurry at all, no one has been able to ascertain just who in the world he is, and it remains a puzzling mystery.
Some cases are not immediately clear as murders, but are mysterious deaths all the same. In 2009 a man checked into the Sligo City Hotel, in the town of Sligo, Ireland. He then stayed there for a full 3 days, mostly keeping to himself, and hotel staff would report that he had a heavy German accent. Then, on June 16, 2009, the man’s dead body was found washed up on the nearby beach and an intense investigation ensued. When authorities checked out the name he had checked in under, Peter Bergmann, it was found to be a fake alias, and his room proved to be empty and devoid of any of his belongings. CCTV footage turned up some rather odd behavior on “Bergmann’s” part, showing him making numerous trips in and out of the hotel over the course of his stay, always carrying a small purple bag when he left but no bag when he returned. This has led authorities to speculate he had been taking his stuff out, but no one has any idea why we would be doing this or why he would do it in such a strange way with so many trips and his little bag.
The cause of death has also not been determined, but although foul play cannot be ruled out it is thought that he may have committed suicide because his autopsy found him to be suffering from painful advanced prostate cancer that he had not been taking medication for. It is hard to say for sure, and his strange behavior on the footage, his purpose for coming to Sligo, how he died, and indeed who he even really is at all remain shrouded in the shadows of the unknown.
One bizarre case concerns the nude body of 64-year-old Alan Jeal, which was also found washed up on a seashore, this time on the seaside of Perranporth, England on February 25, 2014. The corpse was in quite a strange state, wearing only socks and a single shoe and a rolled up sock and pair of headphones stuffed into his mouth, with the ear buds trailing out. Strewn about on the beach near the body were a jacket, the man’s wallet, and oddly an old photo of Jeal when he was 2 years old. Where his other clothing had gone was anyone’s guess. On his head and chest were some unidentifiable injuries, but it is uncertain if these had anything to do with his death. Indeed, it is unknown if he had killed himself or been the victim of foul play, or how he actually had died at all for that matter.
When police reviewed CCTV footage from the day before, Jeal can be seen walking about in the town of Truro, to which he had taken a bus from his home in Wadebridge for unknown reasons, and at one point he can be seen talking to three unidentified people at Lemon Quay bus station. After this neither he nor the other men are seen again, and it is difficult to tell from the footage whether they got on the bus or simply walked away. Curiously, it was noticed that the jacket Jeal is seen wearing in the CCTV footage is not the same one he would be found on the beach with. It is unknown if these mysterious men in the video had something to do with Alan Jeal’s death, why he had come to Perranporth, how he ended up on that beach, how he wound up in the water, or what the meaning is behind the lack of clothing, sock and headphones in the mouth, and the other weird clues orbiting the case. The case remains a baffling cipher.
In 2015 we have the strange case of British journalist Jacky Sutton, who at the time was at an airport in Turkey for a flight to Iraq, where she intended to join an event for a free speech organization. Just a few hours later, she was found hanged in an airport restroom, dangling from the ceiling by her own shoelaces. It was assumed that she had committed suicide, but strange clues would turn up in the aftermath of this death that would cast it in a more sinister glow.
One was that it was at first reported that the woman had been extremely agitated that she had missed her flight and would have to buy a new ticket, yet later reports showed that she had been carrying plenty of money to pay for a new one. On top of this was security footage which clearly shows her carrying a shopping bag full of goods from a duty free shop in the airport, which were found on her person at the scene of the death. Why would someone planning on killing themselves moments later go on a shopping spree? It doesn’t make sense. It remains unclear if this was an actual suicide or something more ominous, but the strange death has remained under scrutiny.
A particularly eerie case of strange security footage tied to a murder happened even more recently, on April 15 of 2016, when a 45-year-old fitness instructor named Terri "Missy" Bevers was found at approximately 5 AM lying dead in a pool of blood by students arriving for her morning fitness class at the Creekside Church of Christ church, in Midlothian, Texas. The sinister crime was made even spookier when surveillance footage from the church was reviewed for clues as to what had happened. In the footage, Bevers can be seen arriving at 4:15 AM to prepare for her classes and there can also be seen the ghoulish and haunting image of an unidentified person prowling and stalking about through the church dressed in police SWAT tactical gear and carrying a hammer. Shortly after this the woman was found stabbed to death by the students.
At first it was thought to be just a random killing, a case of someone at the wrong place at the wrong time, but the unknown individual in the footage is seen to have first arrived at the church at 3:50 AM, meaning that they may have actually been waiting for Bevers to arrive. They had obviously gone through a lot of trouble to look like a police officer, although why they would do this and why it would be SWAT gear remain unknown. It has since been suggested that this was a targeted hit, and Bevers’ family believe that the SWAT gear-clad person was there specifically to kill her, with her sister-in-law, Kristi Stout, saying:
I don’t know the reasoning yet – someday I think we’ll find out. But I think she was targeted. A lot of us, including myself, really feel like she was targeted. When I think and think about this, the only thing I could think of is I could see where a woman maybe jealous of Missy.
If it was a targeted murder, then the motive is far from clear, as it seemed Bevers was well-liked and had no known enemies. There have been ideas such as she had been involved in a love triangle or had been killed out of jealousy or some unknown slight against someone, or had been involved in crime unbeknownst to her family and friends, but there is no evidence for any of these. Making things more difficult is that it is impossible to determine who the person in the footage with her could be, or even if they are a man or a woman, and police have been left scratching their heads as to the motive and meaning behind the bizarre clothing seen on the assailant. So far it remains a perplexing mystery with a rather chilling video that may never be solved.
In some cases there is mysterious CCTV footage of people who have seemingly completely vanished off the face of the earth, with these morbid videos being the last anyone has seen of them alive or dead. One of the more well-known of these is connected to the 2009 disappearance of Claudia Lawrence, a chef at the University of York’s Goodricke college, in York, England. On the afternoon of March 18, 2009, Lawrence was seen returning home from work and that evening she sent a text to a friend, but this is the last time anyone has ever heard from her. Her apartment had all of her belongings and her wallet, credit cards, and passport had all been left behind.
A major search was launched for the missing woman, and during their investigation police were able to find some compelling pieces of CCTV footage from near her home on the evening of her vanishing. In one piece of footage a silver Ford Focus hatchback car can be seen driving down the road past Lawrence’s house and its brake lights can clearly be seen to light up as it reaches the home. In another piece of footage an unidentified man can be seen calmly walking along a path that leads to the back of the house, after which he heads out towards the nearby road. As he approaches the road he acts very suspiciously when he suddenly stops and turns away as a pedestrian walks by, after which he continues on his way. Although police believe he is a person of interest and a possible suspect, no one has been able to identify the man in the footage, and although a man was arrested in connection with the case he was later released. The disappearance of Claudia Lawrence has remained stubbornly unsolved despite continuing investigation and large rewards offered for information, and neither her nor the mysterious man in the CCTV footage have been seen again.
In December of 2009 there was the vanishing of 30-year-old Steven Koecher, who had recently moved to St. George, Utah, from Salt Lake City after quitting his job with the Salt Lake Tribune. On December 12, 2009, Koecher left his home to head out in his car, a 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier, and the next he was heard from was the following day, when he called a friend to say he was in Las Vegas, Nevada. No one knew why he had gone to Nevada and there were no further calls. On December 14, his car was found abandoned in an upscale residential neighborhood in Henderson, Nevada, with wrapped Christmas presents piled in the back, but there was no sign of Koecher.
Footage from a surveillance camera in the area shows Koecher parking his car on December 13 and walking down the sidewalk until he disappears from view. He appears to be healthy and not disoriented or scared in any way, walking along like he has every business in the world to be there even though he knew no one in that neighborhood and it is unknown why he would be there or why he would just leave his car behind. This footage would be the last time anyone has seen Steven Koecher, and although a signal from his cell phone was picked up at various places in the area and his voice mail was checked, the signal went dead two days later and no one knows what significance it had or whether it was him actually using the phone or whether it had been stolen. Theories on what happened to Koecher include that he went off to start a new life, that he committed suicide, or that he was targeted by a serial killer, but there is little evidence for any of these and all we have to go on is that last footage of him.
Even as our cameras tirelessly scour our surroundings and record all that we do, the mere capture of this footage sometimes does little to delve into what it all shows, and can indeed make things even more perplexing. Here we have individuals in their last known moments committed to video, yet we have no knowledge of what has become of them or what any of the potential clues surrounding them mean. Technology and the ever invasive presence of security cameras have allowed us to snag these moments, preserve them in a sort of suspended animation to hold up to the light to study them, but they often do little to get us to the truth. In the end, no matter how much footage we manage to ensnare with our many cameras, in quite a few cases the only ones who really will ever know what happened are the subjects themselves.