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The Fascinating Story of the Oldest Murder in History

Ravi is a traveler and foodie who loves to visit off-the-beaten-track places and understand the culture, history and customs behind them.

The murder mystery of Ötzi the Iceman is 5,300 years old.

The murder mystery of Ötzi the Iceman is 5,300 years old.

The Background

His frozen body was found accidentally in a remote area of the Oetztaler Alps in northern Italy.

At first glance, he just looked like a hiker who had fallen to his death. But when nobody had reported anyone missing and police were approached to investigate. Then further details emerged later.

He was shot in the back with an arrow. The arrow hit the main artery and death was almost instantaneous. Was it an act of revenge? Who had killed him at this desolate location? One of Europe’s most renowned detectives, Chief Inspector Alex Horn, was called to investigate the case.

To begin with, Alex had a well-preserved body before him and an untampered crime scene with all evidence scattered before him to enable him to easily get to the killer. For a man of Alex’s reputation, solving the case should be a child’s play.

Except that, it wasn’t.

The victim was one of the most perfectly preserved mummies ever found, belonging to the copper age some 5,300 years ago. He was called Ötzi, the iceman. And Alex was engaged by the South Tyrol Museum to accomplish the most unenviable task in the world; to find out who killed the Iceman?

Along with Alex was a team of archaeologists as well as experts from forensic medicine, radiology, and anthropology.

As Chief Inspector Horn says later.

"The usual cold case that we have is 20 or maybe 30 years old, and now I was asked to work on a case 5,300 years old. It is far colder than any of my coldest cases so far."

The Murder of Ötzi, the Iceman

Alex was quite optimistic about his assignment when he said.

“He was preserved in such a good way in the ice, that actually he’s in a better condition than some of the murder cases that I was working on. Therefore, we decided we were going to give it a try.”

Ötzi was 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighed 110 pounds. He had shoulder-length hair and was somewhere the age range of 45 years. He had a good physique of a man who does a does a lot of walking and climbing. He is typically dressed in furs and skins suiting the harsh climate and had a valuable copper axe that was still lying beside him.

The first breakthrough was given by forensic experts who found an old wound on his right thumb that happened just two days before his murder. It is a "self-defence" wound as the experts inferred.

As Alex interprets the findings.

“Probably, he was in a fight, and he won that fight. I think it’s not a coincidence that you have a…classic defence-wound injury and you’ve got a murder the next day. There’s a high probability that this is linked.”

He reconstructs the crime like this:

Ötzi had a fight with someone in the village, a fight he won after sustaining some serious injuries in his thumb and body. Spooked and thinking he might be attacked again, he flees the village and makes the treacherous journey up the glacier that separates modern-day Italy and Austria to somewhere he thought he would be safe.

After covering substantial distance, he starts feeling safe and relaxes. He makes a camp in a protected gully on the mountain saddle, spreading his belongings around and starts eating his last meal of ibex meat and einkorn wheat, possibly in the form of bread. After finishing his meal, Ötzi continues his journey. Here is where his attacker surprised him.

His killer came and shot him from the back with an arrow from a distance of almost 100 feet. The arrow went under his left armpit, ripping through a fatal artery, killing him instantly. The angle of the arrow shows that Ötzi was either shot from below and behind or he was hit from above and behind. He was surprised by the ferocious attack, hardly getting any chance to defend himself.

As Alex says.

“He got away with murder. The offender didn't steal Oetzi's valuable copper blade axe and other gear, so it is unlikely to have been a crime for profit. It was an emotional crime of revenge.”

The perfectly preserved body of Ötzi, the iceman

The perfectly preserved body of Ötzi, the iceman

Humans are Still the Same

The crime may have happened long, long ago but human emotions are the same. We still harbour thoughts of revenge, treachery, hate, and anger that would never change. The fact that the murderer chose to kill Ötzi from behind suggests that he was weak and could never defeat him in a face-to-face physical confrontation. That is why he chose to kill him by deceit.

As Alex Horn sums up:

“It is interesting to note that this behavioural pattern is prevalent even today in the bulk of murder crimes. Humans are still the same. I don’t think they have changed over the past 5,000 years.”



Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on April 16, 2021:

All, please feel free to comment in this article.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on April 14, 2021:

All please do comment on this article.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on April 11, 2021:

Thanks Devika

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on April 11, 2021:

Wow! You come up with great ideas and an interesting hub indeed!

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on April 10, 2021:

Thanks Peggy for your kind comments.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 10, 2021:

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Read More From CrimeWire

Finding a perfectly preserved body from that long ago, in itself, is amazing. Solving an old murder case like that one took some great detective skills.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on April 10, 2021:

Thanks Flourish

FlourishAnyway from USA on April 10, 2021:

Cold case indeed but extremely interesting! It took a great detective to solve this one!

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on April 09, 2021:

Thanks, Manatita for your comments.

manatita44 from london on April 09, 2021:

A very entertaining read, thank you. Yes, we still need to conquer our lower nature. Peace.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on April 09, 2021:

Thanks Chrish

Chrish Canosa from Manila Philippines on April 09, 2021:

The old doers are seriously bad, lives simply don't matter to them. Honestly speaking the current doers aren't as bad as those years. Just my personal view. It was a great read! Blessings

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on April 09, 2021:

Thanks, Chirangada for your comments.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on April 09, 2021:

An interesting and intriguing story, well written. Human behaviour remains the same, as it was thousands of years ago. With the difference, that the methods of investigation, especially in a murder case has changed a lot.

Thank you for sharing.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on April 08, 2021:

Thanks, Misbah for your comments.

Misbah Sheikh from — This Existence Is Only an Illusion on April 08, 2021:

Ravi, this was an interesting and engaging story. I love to read and watch movies based on murder mysteries. I enjoyed reading it. Thanks for sharing

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on April 08, 2021:

Thanks Gyanendra

gyanendra mocktan from Kathmandu,Nepal on April 08, 2021:

Ravi, I agree with you. Yes, humans have still the same behaviour even after 5000 years. Practical lesson to learn from your article

Thank you.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on April 08, 2021:

Thanks, Bill for your comments. And this is the coldest murder mystery ever solved which makes it unique in the annals of crime.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 08, 2021:

Really amazing, my friend. What a fascinating story you have unearthed. I've read thousands of articles on HP, and yours always present me with fascinating facts.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on April 08, 2021:

Thanks Ann for your comments

Ann Carr from SW England on April 08, 2021:

Pretty clever how they managed to solve such an old case, but, as you say, the methods are the same and humans don't change much; we're still savages!


Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on April 08, 2021:

Thanks Liz.

Liz Westwood from UK on April 08, 2021:

This is a fascinating article. I had heard of the ice man, but it is interesting to see how the evidence points to how he was murdered.

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