Whenever authorities deal with an unsolved murder or disappearance, they always hope to receive tips from the public that could help them crack the case. If the tipsters fear repercussions for coming forward, the police will often encourage them to remain anonymous. However, this can add further complications to the case.
While it’s common for the authorities to receive anonymous tips that turn out false, they can sometimes receive a letter or phone call from an unknown individual who provides important information that sounds credible. In fact, the tipster can even create the impression that they were responsible for the crime. However, since they choose to remain anonymous and refuse to come forward, their information cannot be substantiated. As a result, the mystery continues to remain unsolved.
10The Murder Of Tracey Ann Patient
In 1976, 13-year-old Tracey Ann Patient resided with her family in the Henderson suburb of Auckland, New Zealand. One day in January, Tracey was spending the evening at a friend’s house. She headed home at approximately 9:30 PM but never arrived. The following day, Tracey’s body was discovered in some bushes in the Waitakere Ranges. She had been strangled to death with her own pantyhose.
Two months later, Youthline, a telephone counseling helpline for young people, received an anonymous phone call from a woman who thought she had seen Tracey climbing into a brown car with a man in a brown suit on the night she disappeared. The female caller was never identified, but a much more chilling anonymous phone call was still to come.
When Tracey’s body was found, a signet ring she always wore was conspicuously missing. The authorities subsequently released a sketch of the ring to the public. In November 1977, the police received an anonymous call from a man who claimed that Tracey’s signet ring could be found in a rubbish bin outside a pharmacy at the Avondale shopping mall. Incredibly, the tip panned out, and Tracey’s ring was found in that very bin. Curiously, the anonymous tipster also provided a number, 126040, which he said was connected to Tracey’s case, and promised to call back later. The police never heard from the caller again, and to this day, they have been unable to figure out the significance of this number. Even though investigators are still working on the case, Tracey Ann Patient’s murder has been unsolved for 40 years.
9The Death Of ‘Wax Head Woman’
On the morning of August 28, 1981, the Ripon police in North Yorkshire, England, received an anonymous call from a man who reported seeing a body in some weeds near Sutton Bank. He gave precise directions to the location, and when police arrived there, they found the skeletal remains of a nude woman. She was believed to have been approximately 38–40 years old when she died, but the cause of death could not be determined. Forensic tests concluded that she had likely been dead for at least a year or two and gave birth to between one and three children during her life. Since the victim could not be identified, her skull was used to construct a life-size wax head bust featuring her likeness. She subsequently became known as “Wax Head Woman.”
At one point, police suspected that the victim might be an Irish woman named Geraldine Elizabeth Crawley, who had been serving a three-year sentence for manslaughter at nearby Arkham Grange prison before she escaped in 1979. Crawley seemed to match the victim’s physical description and had also given birth to children. When police publicly announced this theory, they soon received a note containing Crawley’s signature and fingerprints. This provided conclusive proof that Crawley was still alive somewhere, but she was never actually caught.
Investigators believe the key to solving the case might be the anonymous male caller who reported the victim. During the call, he refused to provide his name and said it was for “national security reasons.” This is the last time anyone ever heard from him. Until this man is found, the Wax Head Woman may remain unidentified.
8The Murder Of Jamie Santos
In 1991, 27-year-old Jamie Santos lived in Wheeling, Illinois, and made her living as an exotic dancer. On the evening of October 27, Jamie wasn’t feeling well, so she decided to call in sick and stay home. The following morning, police received a frantic 911 call from a man who reported that a young woman wasn’t breathing. The caller then provided Jamie Santos’s address, and when paramedics arrived there, they discovered Jamie on the floor of her bedroom in her nightclothes. She was not breathing because she had been smothered and suffocated with a pillow. They were unable to revive her.
Jamie’s death was particular baffling since she had not been raped and there was no sign of struggle or forced entry. There was also no forensic evidence at the scene to point to a specific perpetrator. The man who phoned 911 had refused to give his name and claimed he was calling from a nearby payphone. The caller was never identified, and investigators speculated about his involvement in Jamie’s death.
It’s possible he was an innocent bystander who had seen something bad while passing by Jamie’s house and felt compelled to call for help. Or it’s possible that the caller was the actual killer but had not intended to harm Jamie and felt genuine remorse about what he had done. Even when a recording of the call was played for Jamie’s friends and family, no one recognized the man’s voice. Until the anonymous caller can be identified, Jamie Santos’s baffling death might never be solved.
7The Disappearance Of Danielle LaRue
On New Year’s Eve in 2002, the Public Service Counter at the police department in Vancouver, British Columbia received a chilling anonymous letter. The writer claimed they had sent a message to the police earlier that month about a prostitute who went missing at the end of November and expressed surprise that her disappearance was never reported in the news. Even though the writer did not remember the missing woman’s name, they provided a description of her. Then, in a shocking turn of events, the writer admitted to killing the woman but claimed it was not intentional. They asked the police to publicize the case in the Vancouver Sun and reveal the victim’s name, concluding the letter by offering a remorseful apology to her family.
Police eventually determined that the likely victim was 24-year-old Danielle LaRue, who had worked as prostitute in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighborhood for years. Danielle lived a very troubled life of abuse and drug addiction and had run away from home to live on the streets as a sex worker when she was a teenager. She seemed to vanish without explanation in late 2002 and matched the description of the victim in the letter. Even though Danielle’s body has never been found, police do believe she was likely killed.
At the end of the letter, the writer mentioned bringing flowers to Danielle’s grave, but no one knows where this “grave” might be. Police urged the writer to come forward and lead them to Danielle’s remains, but the writer has not been heard from again, so Danielle LaRue is technically still a missing person.
6The Lyon County John Doe
On March 12, 1992, an anonymous male caller phoned the police to report some skeletal remains near Sand Canyon Road in Lyon County, Nevada. When police checked the area, they found some remains buried in a shallow grave. However, animals spread them over a wide area, and the hands and feet were never found. The victim was male, 35–45 years old, and had been dead 4–14 months. There were also signs of stab wounds to suggest homicide. The only clothing the victim was wearing was a T-shirt, and a makeshift campsite containing several other items was found 30 meters (100 ft) away. The John Doe could not be identified, but there were other notable clues in this case.
In October 1991, an anonymous caller had phoned the police to report an abandoned 1979 Pontiac Grand Prix. The vehicle was found only 3 kilometers (2 mi) away from where the skeletal remains would be discovered, but it was never claimed. It turned out the Grand Prix was registered to a man from Oklahoma, who was located and questioned in Colorado in October 1999, but his involvement in the case is unclear.
Police were also contacted by a woman who lived in the same area where the remains were found. She claimed that a stray dog often came around her property during this time period. The dog had no collar, but since a broken collar was found at the campsite, it’s believed thus dog might have belonged to the victim. Neither the dog nor the two anonymous callers in this case have ever been found. As the result, Lyon County John Doe remains unidentified, and the circumstances of his death are still unknown.
5The Murder Of Maria Caleel
In 1988, Maria Caleel was a 21-year-old veterinary medicine student at the University of Illinois. Sometime after midnight on March 6, Maria returned to her off-campus apartment in Lincoln Place. At approximately 3:30 AM, a bloody Maria crawled to her next-door neighbor’s apartment, prompting them to call 911. Maria had been attacked inside her apartment by an unknown assailant, who stabbed her and pierced the descending aorta near her liver. When police and paramedics arrived, Maria was able to utter the words “I can’t believe he did this to me.” She quickly lost consciousness and died at the hospital of acute shock brought on by internal bleeding.
Maria had not been sexually assaulted, and there was nothing missing from her apartment, so the motive was unknown. Since there were no signs of forced entry, Maria’s cryptic final statement seemed to suggest that she knew her killer and might have opened the door to let him inside.
The case remained cold until 2010, when police received an anonymous typed letter that named a suspect. Even though investigators had interviewed hundreds of people over the years, this particular suspect’s name had never come up before, and police do not believe it was someone Maria knew. This prompted them to retest the evidence, and they eventually put together a genetic profile for an unknown male. Police have since collected DNA samples from some suspects, including the person named in the anonymous letter, but thus far, their testing has failed to uncover Maria Caleel’s killer.
4The Theft Of The Weeping Woman
The most infamous art theft in Australia’s history took place at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne on August 2, 1986. The gallery housed Pablo Picasso’s painting The Weeping Woman, valued at $1.2 million. The perpetrators likely removed the painting from its wall mounting after the gallery had closed, remained there overnight, and sneaked the painting outside when the place opened the following morning. The guards mistakenly assumed the painting was being loaned out to another gallery, and no one realized it had been stolen for two days. The perpetrators had left a card inside the empty frame that read “ACT.” On August 5, a series of ransom letters were sent out by a group calling themselves the “Australian Cultural Terrorists.”
The ACT claimed they stole The Weeping Woman in response to the state’s lack of funding for fine arts. Their demands included increased funding for the arts, along with annual cash prizes to be awarded to young artists. Even though the ACT threatened to burn The Weeping Woman, the government refused to bow to their demands and offered a $30,000 reward for the painting’s recovery.
Finally, on August 19, a Melbourne newspaper received an anonymous phone call stating that The Weeping Woman could be found inside a locker at Spencer Street railway station. The undamaged, carefully wrapped painting was recovered there. Two days beforehand, Patrick McCaughey, the National Gallery’s director, had received a tip to question an artist named Mark Howson. While no evidence was ever found to implicate Howson, McCaughey had casually mentioned to him that whoever took the painting should deposit it in a luggage locker at Spencer Street station. To this day, no one knows the true identities of the “Australian Cultural Terrorists.”
3The Murder Of Rebecca Young
On May 1, 1991, the Miami police department received a 911 call from a nervous Spanish-speaking man calling himself “Antonio,” who said he had witnessed a murder near the town of Belle Glade. Antonio claimed he had been hunting in a sugar cane field when he heard a car arrive. From his concealed hiding spot, Antonio saw two Hispanic men drag a young black woman out of the car, where they got into an argument about drugs and money. The men then used a machete to butcher the woman before leaving. Antonio claimed the murder had occurred one week earlier, but he had been too scared to come forward. He provided the operator with details about the location where the crime took place before hanging up.
Police were able to find the sugar cane field described by Antonio and discovered the woman’s decomposing body. She was identified as a 21-year-old resident named Rebecca Young. At the time, Rebecca was in an abusive relationship with a man involved in criminal activity, but investigators do not believe he was responsible for her murder.
Police soon picked up a man who had allegedly bragged to a prostitute about killing a black woman. However, since there was no direct evidence against the suspect, they were forced to let him go. It was apparent that investigators could not make a case against the suspect unless they could track down the anonymous caller who supposedly witnessed the crime. Unfortunately, Antonio has never come forward, and Rebecca Young’s murder is still unsolved.
2The Death Of Baby Parker
On July 28, 2005, a woman was walking her dog in the town of Brantford, Ontario, when the dog directed her toward a horrific discovery in some bushes: the body of a newborn male infant. The child was wrapped in a beige towel, and it was determined that he had likely been born alive. The exact cause of death was unknown, but a postmortem examination discovered trauma to the child’s skull and ribs. The following day, a nearby resident reported finding a bloody item near his home, which turned out to be a placenta. Since the child’s identity could not be established and he was found near Parkside Drive, police decided to name him “Baby Parker.”
One week after Baby Parker was found, the police received an anonymous letter. The writer claimed she had been pregnant and was partying at Lansdowne Park when she went into labor. One of her friends helped her deliver the baby but told her the child was dead and left his body in the bushes. The writer claimed that no one else in her life, including the child’s father, had known she was pregnant and wrote, “I’m scared and I’m lonely.” She promised to come forward to the police once she worked up the courage but never did so.
Strangely, even though the woman claimed she had been partying at Lansdowne Park, no one else ever came forward to confirm a party took place there that night. Since police were able to extract a DNA profile from the placenta, they will be able conclusively determine the identity of Baby Parker’s mother, but this may not happen until the anonymous letter writer can be found.
1The Disappearances Of Tiffany Sessions, Tracy Kroh & Beth Ann Miller
In May 1994, a missing children’s hotline received one of the strangest anonymous tips imaginable. The caller provided the names of three missing young women and claimed they were all being held captive together in a prostitution ring in Austin, Texas. The strangest aspect of this tip was that these were three women from three different states and had disappeared at different times. The victims were 14-year-old Beth Ann Miller, who went missing from Idaho Springs, Colorado, on August 16, 1983, 20-year-old Tiffany Sessions, who vanished from Gainesville, Florida, on February 9, 1989, and 17-year-old Tracy Kroh, who vanished from Millersburg, Pennsylvania, on August 5, 1989. Up until this point, no one had had any inkling that these cases might be connected.
The caller also claimed that the three captive women were being controlled by a man named Thomas Stewart, and they often traveled around together in either a white or blue-gray van. This prompted police from each of the three victims’ states to investigate the tip and determine if there was any truth to it. However, they were unable to find any evidence to support the caller’s claims or any indication that this “Thomas Stewart” even existed. In fact, in February 2014, police announced that the most likely suspect in Tiffany Sessions’s disappearance was a career criminal and possible serial killer named Paul Rowles. Even though Tiffany’s remains have never been found and Rowles died in prison in 2013, there is enough circumstantial evidence to suggest that Rowles might have murdered her. In the end, it’s likely that the call to the missing children’s hotline was a hoax, but it was a particularly bizarre one, and all three cases are technically still unsolved.
Robin Warder has launched a new true crime podcast called “The Trail Went Cold,” where he analyzes some of the unsolved mysteries he’s written about right here on Listverse. Feel free to contact him here.