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Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr., 20-month-old son of the famous aviator and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, was kidnapped about 9:00 p.m., on March 1, 1932, from the nursery on the second floor of the Lindbergh home near Hopewell, New Jersey.

The child?s absence was discovered and reported to his parents, who were then at home, at approximately 10:00 p.m. by the child?s nurse, Betty Gow. A search of the premises was immediately made and a ransom note demanding $50,000 was found on the nursery windowsill. After the Hopewell police were notified, the report was telephoned to the New Jersey State Police, who assumed charge of the investigation.

During the search at the kidnapping scene, traces of mud were found on the floor of the nursery. Footprints, impossible to measure, were found under the nursery window. Two sections of the ladder had been used in reaching the window; one of the two sections was split or broken where it joined the other, indicating that the ladder had broken during the ascent or descent. There were no bloodstains in or about the nursery, nor were there any fingerprints.

Household and estate employees were questioned and investigated. Colonel Lindbergh asked friends to communicate with the kidnappers, and they made widespread appeals for the kidnappers to start negotiations. Various underworld characters were dealt with in attempts to contact the kidnappers, and numerous clues were advanced and exhausted.

The Lindberghs were inundated by offers of assistance and false clues. Even Al Capone offered his help from prison. For three days, investigators found nothing and there was no further word from the kidnappers. Then, a new letter showed up, this time demanding $70,000.

After 10 more ransom letters, the kidnappers eventually gave instructions for dropping off the money and when it was delivered, the Lindberghs were told their baby was on a boat called Nelly off the coast of Massachusetts. After an exhaustive search, however, there was no sign of either the boat or the child. Soon after, the baby?s body was discovered near the Lindbergh mansion. He had been killed the night of the kidnapping and was found less than a mile from home. The heartbroken Lindberghs ended up donating the mansion to charity and moved away.

The kidnapping looked like it would go unsolved until September 1934, when a marked bill from the ransom turned up. The gas station attendant who had accepted the bill wrote down the license plate number because he was suspicious of the driver. It was tracked back to a German immigrant and carpenter, Bruno Hauptmann. When his home was searched, detectives found a chunk of Lindbergh ransom money.

Hauptmann claimed that a friend had given him the money to hold and that he had no connection to the crime. The resulting trial was a national sensation. The prosecution?s case was not particularly strong; the main evidence, besides the money, was testimony from handwriting experts that the ransom note had been written by Hauptmann. The prosecution also tried to establish a connection between Hauptmann and the type of wood that was used to make the ladder.

Still, the evidence and intense public pressure were enough to convict Hauptmann and he was electrocuted in 1935. In the aftermath of the crime?the most notorious of the 1930s?kidnapping was made a federal offence.

Robert Zorn an American author claims that ‘Cemetery John’, was the mastermind behind the crime. Zorn has identified?John Knoll, a deli worker who was a one-time acquaintance of his late father as the culprit. The pair had become friends thanks to their mutual love of stamp-collecting.

Mr?Zorn claims that his father overheard Knoll in?conversation with his brother and a stranger called Bruno?discussing how they might spend an incoming fortune. The author now believes ‘Bruno’ is actually?Bruno Richard Hauptmann, the only man charged, convicted and executed in connection with the kidnapping.

‘John Knoll was a real villain and a guy who always had to draw attention to himself,? ‘It didn?t click with my dad until many years later that the German named Bruno could have been the man who was executed.’

Mr Zorn also says that experts have matched a sample of Knoll’s handwriting with that found on a ransom note left at the Lindbergh house after Charles was taken. He added that Knoll?had enjoyed a lavish lifestyle in the wake of the murder, enjoying holidays abroad and buying a country estate where he died aged 74 after falling off a ladder.

Despite investigators believing that a gang had taken the child, the case was closed. In his book, Zorn writes: ‘I see it as poetic justice that Knoll was eventually killed falling from his ladder, just as baby Charles is presumed to have died during a kidnapping that went wrong. The case has intrigued the world and baffled the police for eight decades.? Famed FBI profiler John Douglas echoes this analysis, adding that Knoll is ‘the best suspect there has ever been in this case’.

The identification of the German immigrant as ‘Cemetery John’ has also been supported by high-profile political and legal figures such as former Vice President Dan Quayle.

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Robert Zorn

The Undiscovered Mastermind of the Lindbergh Kidnapping

Lindbergh baby kidnapped

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