In the criminal justice system, unprovoked murders are considered especially heinous. In the mountains of northern Italy, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad known as the Cold Case Unit. These are their stories. DUN DUN.
No, this is not the intro to a new "Law and Order" spin-off. But it is the intro to a riveting tale of an unsolved murder, a long-hidden mummy and a dedicated investigator.
Back in 1991, a remarkably well-preserved mummy was discovered by two hikers in a thawing glacier on the border between Italy and Austria. The mummy, known as Ötzi, was carefully extracted by scientists and taken away to be studied. It was soon discovered that the man died sometime around 3300 B.C., making him the oldest preserved European mummy ever discovered.
10 years after Ötzi was unearthed, a flint arrowhead was found in the mummy's back and it became the official cause of the ancient iceman's death. But a slew of questions remained unanswered for years. At what time of year did he die? Why was he killed? Who did it?
The team at South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, where Ötzi is kept, knew they had to think outside the box if they wanted to solve this extremely dated mystery. So the Bolzano, Italy museum called on Munich Police Detective Inspector Alexander Horn to help with the investigation.
"When I was first contacted with the idea, I thought it was too difficult, too much time has passed," Inspector Horn told The New York Times. "But actually he's in better condition than recent homicide victims I've worked on who have been found out in the open."
Investigating Ötzi's death involved a whole lot of high tech forensics. Pollen in his digestive system was analyzed in order to discover that the iceman died in spring or early summer. The other food remnants in his system suggested that he walked up and down the Ötzal Alps in the days leading up to his murder. But the biggest clue to the mummy's death came in the form of a disabling cut deep in his right hand.
"It was a very active defensive wound, and interesting in the context that no other injuries are found on the body, no major bruises or stab wounds," Inspector Horn said. According to him, Ötzi likely got this injury in a fight. "So probably he was the winner of that fight, even possibly he killed the person who tried to attack him."
But then, a day later, Ötzi was shot in the back with the flint arrowhead from roughly 100 feet away. The wound was so debilitating that it probably would have killed the iceman even today. Strangely, he was left with his costly possessions on him, meaning this wasn't a robbery. Instead, Inspector Horn believes this killing was related to the fight Ötzi had been in just a day or two before.
"The aim of the offender was to kill him, and he decides to take a long-distance shot -- could be a learning effect from what happened one or two days before. Which is pretty much what you see all the time nowadays," Inspector Holm said. "Most homicides are personal, and follow violence and an escalation of violence."
Turns out, Ötzi and his killer aren't actually that different from all of us today.