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A psycho killer, a trained hit squad and a skydiver's fatal attraction.
BOSTON — It’s an age-old adage: If it bleeds, it leads.
And 2010 was no exception.
Here are five crime stories that made headlines last year.
Psycho killer, qu'est-ce que c'est?
It was a Jekyll and Hyde story that added a new twist to the study of serial killers.
Russell Williams — a colonel in the Canadian air force — brutally beat, raped and murdered two women, sexually assaulted two others, and committed or attempted 82 fetish home burglaries.
A decorated pilot, the 47-year-old Williams used to head the squadron that flew VIPs, including the prime minister. He had a successful military career, a long, apparently loving marriage, and didn't embark on a life of crime until he began his fetish home invasions in September 2007, at the age of 44.
Prosecutors at his trial showed some of the thousands of pictures Williams took of himself during those break-ins. Many showed him modeling women’s underwear he stole, his penis often protruding from tight panties. In others he lay on the bed in the rooms of his victims, masturbating with lingerie. He raided the underwear of girls as young as 9.
Williams received life sentences. He can apply for parole after 25 years, but few believe he’ll ever see the outside of a maximum-security prison.
Dubai's new business: international intrigue
Dubai, a glitzy city on the Persian Gulf, has become a kind of Arabian Big Easy where a senior political operative can be assassinated in a five-star hotel. Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a military commander and arms smuggling specialist with Hamas, was found dead in his room at the swanky Al Bustan Rotana Hotel on Jan. 20. Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency is widely believed to be behind the assassination.
The team that carried out the killing came into Dubai a few hours ahead of their target. After arriving, they checked into hotels scattered across the city. Toting tennis rackets or dressed in business suits, they blended in easily with other Western visitors. They killed some time at a shopping mall. They used wigs and other disguises to change their appearance. And according to police, they communicated with each other in code through a command center in Austria. The killers went to some lengths to make it appear that Mabhouh had died of natural causes. The door of his hotel room was chained from the inside.
Dubai police were able to identify at least 26 members of the hit squad, all of them traveling on fake European and Australian passports, and in most cases using identities stolen from Israeli citizens with dual citizenship.
Israel continues to deny any involvement in the plot.
Gruesome twist in South African murder
It seemed a murder story that embodied the worst assumptions about South Africa: A newlywed couple goes to Cape Town on their honeymoon, takes an unfortunate trip into an impoverished, crime-ridden township late at night and their taxi is carjacked by gunmen. The beautiful young bride is robbed and killed while her husband, forced out of the vehicle, is left grief-stricken and heartbroken.
Except now the “grief-stricken” husband, Shrien Dewani, has been arrested on suspicion of conspiring to murder his Swedish wife, Anni. Taxi driver Zolo Tongo accepted a plea bargain, and in a lengthy confession described how Dewani offered 15,000 South African rand (about $2,165) for his bride to be killed, paid in U.S. dollars.
The skydiver's fatal attraction
The skydiver’s horrific final moments were captured by the video camera on her helmet. Els Van Doren plunged screaming for more than half a mile as she frantically struggled to open her sabotaged parachute.
In October, a jury found fellow skydiver Els “Babs” Clottemans guilty of her friend’s murder, the crime motivated by a deadly rivalry for the affections of the lover they shared. Clottemans, 26, had always denied the charge that she had caused the fatal fall in November 2006. But she was convicted of the crime and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
With a raging drug war that has killed more than 30,000 in four years, there was no shortage of horrific murders in Mexico this year. In March, drug gangs killed three people linked to the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez. In June, a squad of 15 gunmen dressed as soldiers killed a favorite gubernatorial candidate in Tamaulipas. In July, a car bomb in Juarez killed a federal police officer, doctor and civilian. It was the first effective use of car bombs against police in Mexico. In October, 14 people were gunned down at a birthday party in Juarez and 13 men were killed in an execution-style raid on a drug rehabilitation center in Tijuana.