We known people don’t just vanish into thin air, so it's tempting to believe that somebody somewhere knows something about each and every missing person. It's a devastating situation for the families of missing people, who undoubtedly find it difficult to get on with life when they're denied the opportunity to grieve but can’t go back to the way things were. These cases intrigue the world. We follow them with great interest and the mystery of each case just spurs on our interest. What could possibly have happened?
Take the recent shock of Malaysia Airlines flight MH 370 – we'd be forgiven for believing a jetliner carrying a couple of hundred passengers can't just vanish into thin air and yet, somehow, it has. This case still features on headlines and news bulletins across the globe. We have an insatiable curiosity that wants – nay needs – to be satisfied. Documentaries on missing person cases from years ago are a dime a dozen while enewed appeals for information five, ten even twenty years after the disappearance are all over the news.
Something we cannot understand is at best frustrating and at worst truly terrifying; and if it's that bad for the general public, we can barely imagine how straining it is for the families of the disappeared. Here, we're taking a look at some of the most astonishing, baffling and confusing missing person cases the world has ever seen which have boggled investigators worldwide and have left families and loved ones traumatised.
5 The Indiana Dunes Women
What started out as a fun, carefree day ended in tears in Indiana back in 1966. Three women vanished in the blink of an eye while enjoying a day on the beach. Renee Bruhl, Patricia Blough and Ann Miller packed up their stuff and headed for Indiana Dunes State Park on July 2nd, 1966. After driving to the park, they spread their stuff out on the beach and went into the lake together around noon, for a swim.
Witnesses said the women were seen climbing into a white boat with a young, tanned man. There was a reported sighting of the women later that day, walking along the sand dunes and stopping to talk to another unidentified man. Though never substantiated, this was considered a reliable sighting.
Police launched an immediate investigation. A holidaymaker was filming home movies at the time of the disappearance and offered his reels to the investigation which led to two leads; two separate boats on the water. Drowning was an initial theory that was soon rubbished as all three women were strong swimmers.
Chillingly not the two boats nor the men on each boat or the strange man the women were speaking to on the dunes have ever been seen since; neither, of course, have the three women. Several reported sightings have come up over the years but, almost 50 years on, the case remains unsolved.
4 Ireland’s Vanishing Triangle
The island nation of Ireland was gripped with fear, curiosity and paranoia in the 1990s when women began to disappear. The case, unsolved to this day, intrigued the country and the wider world. Though it was never proven that the disappearances were related, the most widely accepted theory is that the same perpetrator was behind the eight kidnappings. The women disappeared between 1993 and 1998. They were Annie McCarrick (26), an American student living in Dublin, who vanished in 1993; Eva Brennan (40) who left her parents’ house in 1993 and was never seen again; Imelda Keenan (22) disappeared from Waterford City in 1994; JoJo Dollard (21) disappeared 1995 while hitchhiking home; Ciara Breen (18) vanished while sneaking out of her house in 1995; Fiona Pender (25) stepped out of her flat one evening in 1996 and was never seen again. Fiona was seven months pregnant when she disappeared; Deirdre Jacob (18) vanished without trace just yards from her parents’ home as she walked home in 1998; and Fiona Sinnott (19) in 1998 was last seen leaving a pub in Broadway, County Wexford.
The Irish police exhausted every available avenue in the hunt for each of these girls but all leads lead to dead ends. There was a renewed appeal for information in 2012 as another missing woman case was chillingly similar to the Vanishing Triangle cases. However, this lead, again, proved futile to solving the mystery. Several theories have been put forward on the disappearances and several suspects were detained and questioned but, sadly, the victims’ families have been left wondering.
3 Elisabeth Fritzl
In 2008, the police came knocking at Josef Fritzl’s door, asking to speak to him about his daughter, Elisabeth. Hours later, the disturbing story was heard across the world. On August 29th, 1984, Josef Fritzl lured Elisabeth into the basement of the family home. There, she was confined to the underground living quarters for 24 years.
Over the years of her confinement, Elisabeth was subject to persistent sexual abuse at the hands of her father. He fathered seven children with his victim, six of whom survived their infancy. Bafflingly, Fritzl brought three of his children/grandchildren upstairs to live with him and his wife, telling people Elisabeth had left them at their doorstep, unable to care for them herself.
When the police discovered the case, Elisabeth and the three children living with her in the basement were rescued. They suffered from severe physical and mental ailments. Fritzl was sentenced to life imprisonment and his victims were sent for psychological treatment for their trauma.
2 Madeleine McCann
This case has been described as the most heavily reported missing person case in modern history. In 2007, 3-year-old Madeleine McCann vanished without a trace from the bedroom she shared with her twin siblings in a holiday apartment in the Algarve, Portugal. The toddler was visiting the area with her parents, brother and sister and a group of other travelling companions from the UK. The adults in the group decided to go for dinner, while checking on the children regularly.
The McCanns left their three children in the apartment at 8.30pm and by 10.00pm they had raised the alarm that Madeleine was gone. The case went public with appeals for information and it became a wild media frenzy. Several theories were put forward on the young girl’s vanishing. Initially, abduction was the main theory. Soon after, the investigation seemed to suggest that she had died in the apartment; which led to her parents being suspects. The parents were later cleared but Madeleine’s whereabouts remain a mystery.
The case was reopened in October 2013 with British and Portuguese forces involved and the McCanns remain ever-hopeful that their daughter will one day be returned to them.
1 1. Moors Murders
This case was one of the most chilling disappearance cases the world has ever seen. Between July 1963 and October 1965, five young people went missing from the Greater Manchester area of England. The victims were aged between 10 and 17 and vanished one by one over the space of the two years.
After a call to the police from a witness to the final victim’s demise, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley were arrested. The couple had been picking off local youths for two years and burying them on Saddleworth Moor. The sickening crimes included sexual assault, kidnap and eventually murder. While Brady mainly carried out the crimes, Hindley was instrumental in the kidnapping and disposing of their young victims.
Both were sentenced to life imprisonment. Hindley died in her incarceration in 2002 and Brady is still confined in a mental health institution. To add insult to injury, Brady and Hindley refused to confess their guilt until 1985, meaning the victims’ families were unable to lay their loved ones to rest for 20 years after the arrest of their murderers.