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Thursday, December 6, 2018

Decemystery 6: The Isdal Woman

Who are you?

There are no doubt more than a few unsolved murders that could be explained as Cold War espionage—and we'll be covering two with this miniseries. The first of those is probably the more blatantly obvious and less known of the two: the Isdal Woman.

November 29, 1970 in Isdalen, Bergen, Norway. By all accounts, it was a day that wasn't unlike any other. That is, if you weren't the man or either of his two daughters that happened to be hiking on this fateful day. It was on this special day that they stumbled across a shocking—and no doubt traumatizing—sight. The corpse of a woman; partially charred.

Authorities discovered two partially charred bottles, a scarf, umbrella, earrings, watch, ring, and a fur hat that was beneath the women. Her fingerprints had also been sandpapered off, and the labels of her clothing were clipped away. According to an autopsy, her face was burned to the point it was unrecognizable and her neck was bruised.
The cause of death was a mixture of carbon monoxide poisoning and the fact she ingested fifty sleeping pills. It remains to be seen if they worked.

The police investigation into the woman who'd now become known as the “Isdal Woman” was launched. Composite sketches of her were made via reports from people who'd seen her. Meanwhile, at a train station, two suitcases were discovered belonging to the woman. Their contents, however, only raised more questions than answers. Among other things, German and Norwegian currency, a lotion prescription (with the Doctor's name and date removed), a pair of sunglasses with some partial fingerprints, clothing with the labels removed, and a diary. Said diary was later concluded to contain the dates and locations the woman had visited; but was encrypted.

The one piece of usable evidence in the suitcases was of a postcard, which was from an Italian photographer. Upon being questioned, he stated he had gone to dinner with the woman, and stated she had told him she was Johannesburg, South Africa; going on to claim she had six months to see the sights of Norway. Upon checking the name the photographer gave the woman had given him, it was discovered no woman by that name was missing from South Africa. So, it was back to square one.

A square the case remains at to this day.

The Isdal Woman is a case that screams “spy”. It was discovered that the woman had eight fake passports she likely used to travel the world. For what reason, nobody can say for certain. However, it's commonly believed it was for espionage. The Cold War was at its height and with the woman believed to be German, it's only logical one would believe her to be sent from place to place to gather intelligence on what American allies may have been plotting.

Other theories as to who the woman was… aren't as prevalent. There exist two I'll mention, but the extent of the reasoning behind them is as this as a blade of grass.

The first is that the woman was involved in fake check trafficking, with her potentially having been murdered as she was expendable or possibly having been killed by a rival. Why she'd have an encrypted diary though is beyond me.

The second is that there was a cover-up because the police were involved. However, the grisly extent of the murder leaves me skeptical. That doesn't explain the woman's seemingly adventurous side, not that anything else answers anything.

While the Isdal Woman may have only stood at 5’5, she's proven herself to be one of Norway's biggest mysteries. The likeliest and most agreed upon theory was that she was a spy—likely a German one that was caught and disposed of. But, just as likely, she could've been killed by a scorned lover. But with eight dake passports and an encrypted diary, it's more than likely whoever this woman was has been erased from history. Such is the consequences of the Cold War.

1 comment:

  1. Tyler "Bio" RodriguezDecember 7, 2018 at 8:14 PM

    Definitely sounds like spying. Apparently analysis of the teeth showed that she had been to a non European doctor and recent DNA records seem to point to German or French German, born in the 1930s or 40s. The best clue for me is that while this was going on, the trials for the Norwegian Penguin nuclear missiles were underway. Some fishermen even claims to have spotted a woman watching these trials. Also petrol found on a corpse? Yeah that's not normal suicide. I'm incline to agree it's an act of espionage.