Hikers Helmut and Erika Simon were out for a hiker in the Austro-Italian Alps on September 19th, 1991 when they discovered a body. They alerted the authorities thinking it was the body of a fellow mountaineer, who recently succumbed to the elements. The body looked startlingly fresh.
When the Austrian police were called to the scene it soon became clear this was no normal case. An X-ray revealed he had been shot through the left shoulder causing death. The shot had occurred from behind and the fact that none of his belongings had been stolen led investigators to presume the murder was personal.
Despite this wealth of knowledge, no one will ever be convicted of the crime though. Certainly, the perpetrator is already dead. How can investigators be so sure of this? Otzi died over four thousand years ago, which makes him the oldest known murder case.
It is thought Otzi ( a nickname given by the media) died sometime between 3350 and 3100 BC making him 5300 years old, the oldest preserved human ever found. What made his body so remarkable was the way it had been preserved. Unlike Egyptian and Incan mummies who are found in desert climates, Otzi was a ‘wet’ mummy. The combination of the glacier that had frozen his body and humidity, had preserved his organs and skin. They were pretty much intact for several millennia.
Once the body was discovered, a small team of archaeologists extracted the long-frozen body and brought in a medical examiner. It was estimated that he was 5ft 3in tall, 50 kilograms, and approximately forty-five years old.
Due to how well preserved he was, researchers could perform a modern autopsy on him. This provided historians with some fascinating insight into life 35 centuries ago. The contents of the stomach showed that his diet was one of meat and herb bread. Various types of pollen showed investigators that he died in the spring or summer. They also showed that he had recently travelled across different elevations before death, such as mountains. His highly preserved skin showed that he had more than 50 tattoos that had been made by rubbing charcoal into tiny cuts.
It was ten years later though that another x-ray showed an arrowhead embedded into his shoulder, starting the murder inquiry. Further analysis showed that he was murdered an hour after eating a final meal of dried ibex and deer meat with einkorn wheat. Before the murder, he was suffering from stomach pains and had a severe laceration to his right hand. The laceration was almost to the bone between his thumb and index finger.
It is quite an unusual situation to find this person murdered in the Alps, at quite a high altitude — Anthropologist Albert Zink.
Detective Inspector Alexander Horn was assigned to the case. At the time he commented that the body was in extremely good condition. ‘In better conditions than recent homicide victims, I’ve worked with who have been found out in the open.’ The murder was impossible to solve, but Otzi has provided many valuable insights into life in his time. It appears that Otzi still has living relatives. Gene research has uncovered nineteen genetic relatives in the Austria region to our Iceman. Although, no one has come forward to claim their murdered relative.
The mysteries surrounding the iceman have extended beyond the grave. The body was removed from the spot it had rested in for thousands of years since then there have been rumours of a curse upon those who disturbed him.
Helmut Simon, the hiker who found him, was killed in a freak blizzard, where he was found himself buried under ice and snow not far from where he found Otzi. Konrad Spindler the first examiner of the mummy also died in suspicious circumstances. Overall seven people have died who were connected to the removal of Otzi’s body, four of these accidentally. Is Otzi getting revenge on those that moved him from his burial place and then failed to solve his murder?