The case of the Black Dahlia murder is one that has kept police guessing and amateur sleuths fascinated for decades.
On the morning of January 15, the naked and mutilated body of a 22-year-old woman was discovered dumped on a stretch of grass in a vacant lot on South Norton Avenue in Los Angeles.
The body had been cut in two at the waist and drained of blood, leaving the skin a pallid white. Her face had also been slashed from the corners of her mouth to her ears while there were cuts on her body and entire portions of flesh had been cut away.
The victim was eventually identified as budding actress Elizabeth Short, while the case was quickly dubbed The Black Dahlia by the press, in reference to the film The Blue Dahlia and Short’s resemblance to the movie’s star, Veronica Lake.
70 years on and this murder continues to baffle. Since the case first broke as many as 50 suspects have been named and yet the mystery remains unsolved. British author Piu Eatwell is looking to change that though with the book “Black Dahlia Red Rose: America’s Most Notorious Crime Solved For The First Time” which puts forward a very different theory as to what happened to Short.
Most theorized the actress was killed after a date turned violent or that she simply hitched a ride with the wrong man. Eatwell believes otherwise though, according to The Sun. After trawling through official documents and unseen files she has come up with a very different theory.
The story goes that by January 1947, Short was down on her luck and decided to strike up a relationship with wealthy Danish businessman Mark Hansen. Hansen allowed the homeless Short to stay in his house behind a nightclub he also owned. But Hansen was no ordinary businessman – he had mob connections.
So when his relationship with Short turned sour and she refused to vacate his home, Eatwell claims Hansen enlisted the help of an associate called Leslie Dillon to get rid of her. What he didn’t realise, however, was that Dillon was a full blown psychopath and killer. More importantly for Eatwell, he had the necessary skills to commit the murder.
Prior to his criminal enterprises, Dillon had worked as a mortician’s assistant, where he gained an understanding of human anatomy and how to bleed bodies. In the years after the murder Dillon, who was a budding writer, also expressed an interest in writing a “true detective” piece on the case.
Dillon is thought to have carried out the murder at the Aster Motel. The story goes that motel owner Henry Hoffman actually discovered the grisly murder scene in cabin 3 when he went in to check on the room.
Blood and faecal matter were splattered on the walls and floor, while someone left a bundle of blood-stained women’s clothes in a neighbouring cabin. Hoffman had only recently been in trouble with the law though, so rather than report the scene he opted to clean it up and keep quiet, even forgetting to mention the discovery when police made their inquiries a few weeks later.
It was only a chance remark made years later that allowed police to confirm that the motel was indeed the scene of the murder. Even now, Leslie Dillon is only one of several suspects for The Black Dahlia murder.
Author James Ellroy is among those to argue LA surgeon Walter Bayley is the most likely suspect. Bayley performed abortions, mastectomies and hysterectomies as a surgeon and was suffering from a neurodegenerative condition that was known to produce violent behaviour.
But Bayley is just one of several suspects for the crime. With each passing year, the likelihood of ever uncovering the true identity of the killer fades ever further.