Detective discusses Iceman murder clues in 'coldest case' of all
Published Monday, April 3, 2017 1:50PM EDT
The murder victim was about 45 years old, 5’5” tall, weighed 110 pounds, had brown eyes and shoulder-length hair, numerous tattoos and dined on a hefty meal of meat in the half an hour before his death. He suffered a fatal wound to his back, just below the shoulder, from an arrow shot from behind.
And the time of death? Around 3,300 B.C.
Commonly referred to as the “Iceman” or “Ötzi,” the victim is the world’s most perfectly-preserved natural mummy. He was discovered by two hikers in 1991, frozen inside of a glacier in the Ötztal Alps, along the northern Italian border with Austria.
Because the Iceman was found in the state in which he died, his organs and skin were mostly preserved, unlike the mummies you may be familiar with from that time period, who had their organs removed for ritualistic purposes.
The frozen mummy presented researchers at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy with a unique opportunity to study how the Iceman had lived and even, perhaps, how he had died.
In order to get to the bottom of this ancient “whodunnit,” the museum enlisted the help of a reputable cold-case profiler, Det. Insp. Alexander Horn of the Munich Police in Germany.
“It’s by far the coldest case that I’ve been working on,” Horn told CTV News Channel from Munich on Monday. “I’ve worked on cases that were 30 or 40 years old but 5,300 years… that was a long time ago.”
Horn revealed that he was initially concerned there wouldn’t be enough information to work off of until he learned about the condition the body was in. In fact, Ötzi’s frozen remains ended up providing Horn with a wealth of clues that would eventually lead him to piece together a convincing theory of how the murder transpired.
The contents of the Iceman’s stomach played a vital role in determining what may have happened to him, Horn said, noting there was evidence of recently cooked meat in the mummy’s body. That suggests Ötzi took the time to sit down and prepare a proper meal for himself in the half hour before he died. The realization upends previous speculation that the Iceman was on the run when he was attacked.
“If you’re in permanent danger, would you sit down and eat for a couple of minutes and take your time to do that if you’re running away from somebody?” Horn said.
In addition to the Iceman’s final meal, Horn said the discovery of a deep “defensive” wound on his right hand, which researchers estimate he received a day or two before his death, also offered important clues as to what may have happened.
The detective believes Ötzi’s murder was the intentional result of a prior feud.
“For us, it’s more likely that this was a follow up actually, that somebody followed him and then killed him and his choice was to kill him from a distance with an arrow,” he said.
The possibility that the Iceman had been robbed at his camp on the glacier has also been ruled out because a number of his belongings, including a valuable copper axe, an almost-completed longbow and fur and leather clothing were retrieved with the body.
Even though investigators will have their work cut for them when it comes to identifying Ötzi’s killer, archeologists continue to examine his remains to learn more about the time period and the evolution of the human body using forensic science.
“The interesting thing for us in researching Ötzi is that it’s an ongoing research project. It has been for the last 25 years and will continue to be,” Horn said.