Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Britain's Bizarre 'Hair-in-Hand' Murder Case

Another Italian Connection

Elisa Claps
Elisa Claps

Two years later, in 2008, police decided that a collaborative effort with their counterparts in Italy might be in order. Restivo was, after all, from Italy. Dorset detectives eventually revealed that they had learned early on in the investigation that Restivo had also been looked at as a person of interest by police in Italy in the disappearance of 16-year-old schoolgirl Elisa Claps, of Potenza, a city in the southern part of Italy. Restivo had been one of the last persons to see her alive on September 12, 1993, a Sunday, after she left home wearing a sweater knitted by her mother to meet to meet with him at a 15th century church in Potenza. If she had met with foul play at Restivo's hands, a collaborative effort might yield results. It was something of a long shot since the girl's disappearance had no apparent direct connection to Heather's murder. But with little to lose, the Dorset detectives provided information about their case to Italian authorities, who, in turn, broadcast it on a program on state-run television called Chi l'ha Visto, similar to the Crimewatch program on Britain's BBC. Their intention at this stage was to spotlight the mystery of the surreptitious haircutting for the television program, and to learn as much as they could about Restivo from the Italian police.

In practically no time at all and much to everyone's surprise, the move to share information paid off. Women from several points in Italy — Rome, Potenza, Turin, Milan, and other locales — began calling in to report that someone had cut their hair, too, under suspicious circumstances. Before the calls stopped, more than a dozen women had reported losing hair to the mysterious hair cutter.

Following "several lines of specific, detailed and continuing inquiry," the Dorset investigators were now more certain than ever that a hair-fetish link existed in their case, one that reached across the English Channel to Europe and possibly as far away as the United States. They suspected that their killer harbored a compulsion to cut hair from women without their knowledge, perhaps while traveling on buses, and was similar to the evidence that had been developed in Bournemouth.

Dorset detectives made plans to travel to Italy where they would interview the women who claimed to have had their hair cut surreptitiously. The detectives would also collect DNA samples from the women so that they could make comparisons with the evidence found at their own crime scene. They also wanted to learn as much as possible from their Italian counterparts about Restivo's connection with the young schoolgirl, particularly since it was beginning to appear that he may have been involved in multiple crimes that crossed national borders.

In the meantime, it seemed to the public at large that the investigation of Heather's murder languished, since there were still no charges made in her death. Nonetheless, Dorset investigators vowed to keep their investigation active; intuition told them that their efforts would eventually pay off.


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