With COVID-19 restrictions finally starting to ease up around the world, many people are now making travel plans to shake off the dust that has accumulated over the course of spending nearly two years indoors. These eager travelers will be greeted in many places by friendly local business owners who have been desperately awaiting the return of customers so they can begin to reopen all of the hotels, restaurants, and tourist activities that have lain dormant since the world started facing up to the realities of the pandemic.
Upon receiving such a warm welcome when arriving in what appears to be paradise, many visitors let their guard down completely in order to make the most of the time they have available. This list, however, is a reminder that we should always remain vigilant, no matter how beautiful our surroundings are. Here are 10 nightmarish murders that happened in dream holiday destinations.
10 Sarah Groves—Kashmir, India
Sarah Groves was a 24-year-old fitness instructor from the UK who was traveling around India when she arrived in the southern city of Goa. It was here that she met a young man from Kashmir named Sami Shoda, and the two quickly became inseparable, with Sarah eventually agreeing to travel 1500 miles north to Sami’s hometown of Srinagar, Kashmir, to visit his family.
At 3 am on April 6, 2013, Sami’s mother woke to strange sounds coming from the houseboat where Sarah was staying. She investigated with other family members and found Sarah’s body lying in a pool of blood, covered with over 40 stab wounds. Another guest, a Dutch man named Richard de Wit, who had also been staying in the same area, was reported missing soon after Sarah’s body was discovered.
After evading police for a while, de Wit was eventually arrested for the murder about 45 miles away from where Sarah’s body was found. He was reported to have said, “The devil took over my body,” when he was finally apprehended and charged with the crime.
This all seemed like a pretty open and shut case, and Sarah’s family hoped justice would be swift. However, a multitude of problems have delayed the court processes in Kashmir over the last decade, and there has still been no guilty verdict or sentencing. Richard de Wit now claims he has been set up, and political and security issues in Kashmir have led to even more delays in his conviction.
9 Yuri Shipulin and Nataliya Gerasimova—Denarau Island, Fiji
The murder of Yuri Shipulin and Natalya Gerasimova on Denarau Island, Fiji, remains one of the island nation’s greatest unsolved mysteries. Yuri and Natalya were Russian nationals who had moved to a farm on Denarau Island permanently in 2011. Just after midday on Thursday, June 16, 2016, they jumped in their car and headed off to a location known only to them. Unfortunately, that was the last time anybody in their neighborhood would see them alive.
The couple was reported missing later that day, and nobody could explain what had happened to them until their vehicle was found abandoned at Natadola Beach two days later. This gave investigators some indication of their final movements before disappearing, but it wasn’t until June 29th that they finally had conclusive proof of the couple’s demise.
Officers were forced to close a section of the beach after severed limbs belonging to Yuri and Natalya washed ashore. Over the next few days, various body parts belonging to the couple, weighed down with rocks and wrapped in netting, were discovered on the beach. The only answer they provided was that the couple was certainly dead, but, as of today, nobody has ever been arrested for this brutal crime. The local police even announced on July 7, 2016 (just one month after they disappeared) that they would no longer be commenting on the murder.
8 Michaela McAreavey—Grand Gaube, Mauritius
Grand Gaube is one of the most instagrammable holiday destinations in the world—an exclusive, beautiful paradise island that will only ever be a dream for most people to visit. In January 2011, Michaela McAreavey and her husband John had just arrived to enjoy their honeymoon at the Legends Hotel Resort after spending some time in Dubai.
Just days into their stay, Michaela returned to their luxury hotel room during lunch to fetch some crackers, but tragically she interrupted a burglary in progress. An unknown assailant wrestled her to the floor and strangled her from behind before leaving her body in the bathtub with the water running. When she failed to return to lunch, John paid his bar bill and went back to the room to check on her and discovered her lifeless body in the bathroom.
After initially detaining John, the authorities eventually arrested two cleaners who worked at the hotel and charged them with her murder after they found a master key card had been used to enter the room, suggesting it had been an “inside job.” Unfortunately, the prosecution’s case was poorly constructed and eventually fell apart because of incompetent police work, and the two men were eventually released without a conviction. Still today, despite numerous promises from the government to reopen the investigation, nobody has ever been convicted for the crime.
7 Kyle Bruner—Nassau, Bahamas
Kyle Bruner was working as a first mate on a private ship that docked on the island paradise of Nassau, Bahamas, in May 2013. Not long into his stay on the island, the 34-year-old apparently witnessed a woman being mugged by a group of men. As somebody who didn’t like bullies and had served in Indiana’s Army National Guard, he heroically stepped in and attempted to help. This led to a confrontation that saw him shot in the neck from close range, where he died at the scene.
In November 2015, three of the five men who stood trial for his murder were found guilty and eventually sentenced to life in prison. Kyle is still remembered by his family and friends as a selfless hero who paid the ultimate price in his attempts to aid a complete stranger in a foreign land.
6 Sarai Sierra—Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul is considered by many to be the center of the world. It’s a city from which trade routes have linked the furthest corners of Europe, Asia, and Africa for thousands of years. The beauty, mystery, and intrigue of the city descend from the diversity of cultural and religious influences it has received over its epic history. As such, it is considered a rite of passage for seasoned travelers, which is why 33-year-old Sarai Sierra, a mother of two from New York, was visiting the city in January 2013.
Sarai was fascinated by the history and architecture of Istanbul, and as a keen photographer, she decided to travel there alone after her childhood friend couldn’t join her. She vanished on January 22, and when she failed to appear in New York on her planned day of return, a thorough search of the city was launched. Her body was discovered 12 days later near the ancient city walls; she appeared to have died from a blow to the head.
The investigation was well organized and thorough, especially compared to many of the other investigations on this list. Eventually, a suspect named Ziya Tasali was apprehended in March 2013, near the Syrian border. Tasali was a homeless scrap paper collector who apparently admitted to killing Sierra after she refused to kiss him; he was sentenced to life behind bars.
5 Bakari Henderson—Zackynthos, Greece
In 2017, Bakari Henderson was a recent college graduate who had just launched his own clothing line. He decided to do a photoshoot in Zakynthos, Greece, to launch his new brand. While he was there, Bakari was enjoying himself in a bar in the Lagunas area when he was recorded on CCTV taking a selfie with a young lady. This simple act of posing for a photograph appeared to anger a man nearby who loudly berated the woman for taking a photo with a black man.
A scuffle ensued after the aggressor apparently threatened Bakari before both men appeared to run from the bar. A video taken from another CCTV camera out on the street shows Bakari attempting to escape from a group of more than 10 men when they catch him and attack, repeatedly punching and kicking him in the head until horrified locals intervene.
Bakari died at the scene, and despite almost the entire encounter being captured on CCTV, none of the men, most of whom were Serbian nationals, were convicted of murder. Instead, the judge decided to hand down sentences ranging from five to fifteen years for the lesser crime of “deadly assault.”
4 Antoinette Traboulsi—Varadero, Cuba
Antoinette Traboulsi was a hospital worker and mother of four from Montreal who visited Cuba regularly and was desperate to get back there after working long hours during the pandemic. She rented an apartment with some local friends in Varadero and posted videos and pictures on Saturday, November 13, 2020, that showed her enjoying herself on the beach where she lived. However, Antoinette was reported missing later that evening when she failed to meet up with a friend for dinner.
Three days later, a 15-year-old boy was walking along the beach near Antoinette’s apartment when he noticed human remains protruding from the sand and informed the authorities. The autopsy reported that Antoinette suffered injuries to her head and skull, bite marks on her chest, a badly beaten face, and apparent foaming at the mouth.
A man was arrested for her murder, but in true Cuban style, the government has not released any details about the individual or the case to the public. It has been reported that Antoinette’s cousin Sami Soussa received multiple messages from people he doesn’t know confirming the reports that the authorities have arrested the person responsible for her murder.
3 Sheila Von Weise Mack—Bali, Indonesia
When Sheila Von Weise Mack checked into the 5-star St.Regis resort with her daughter on the island paradise of Bali in 2014, she could have had no way of knowing it would be the last place she saw. It must have been horrifying for her as she gradually realized that a plan was in motion to end her life and that it was set up by the one person she thought she was closest to—her daughter, Heather Mack.
Heather had begun to rebel a lot after her father passed away from colon cancer, so this holiday was supposed to be something of a bonding experience for mother and daughter, as Sheila felt she was losing control of her wayward teen daughter. What she could never have known was that Heather’s boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, had arrived at the resort a couple of days after the pair, with the sole intention of ending Sheila’s life. Hours after he arrived at the resort, CCTV shows Tommy entering Sheila’s hotel room before bludgeoning her to death with a glass fruit bowl and stuffing her body into a suitcase with Heather’s help. They then wheeled the suitcase out of the hotel, left it in a taxi, and ran away.
The couple was caught sleeping at another hotel and arrested. Heather was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and Tommy was given 18 years after being found guilty of murder by a Balinese court. It did not go unnoticed that their sentences seemed incredibly light, especially compared to the potential death penalty they could have received. Heather will be released early from prison in late October 2021; she will be deported back to the United States.
2 Theodor Walling—Montego Bay, Jamaica
A 65-year-old Detroit man, Theodor Walling, had recently retired and was spending his days in Montego Bay, Jamaica, in March of 2020. He was last seen entering his hotel room with a man who was later identified as 21-year-old Soniman “Shortman” Walker, before he was stabbed multiple times and had all of his valuable possessions stolen, including his laptop, phone, and some gemstones he had apparently been trading.
While the authorities couldn’t understand the nature of the meeting between Soniman and Theodor, they now knew who their main suspect was, and his face was plastered all over the news. Despite this, Shortman managed to avoid the authorities multiple times and was on the run for almost a year before he was eventually arrested, just moments before he was due to be smuggled out of the country to Haiti, where he would have avoided prosecution and any repercussions for his heinous and cold-blooded crime.
1 Hannah Witheridge and David Miller—Koh Tao, Thailand
Upon arrival by boat, Koh Tao appears to be perfect. With clear blue seas, clean sandy beaches, and lush green mountains that provide a tropical backdrop, you get the sense you have arrived at a bustling yet quaint little island paradise where you can safely relax, scuba dive, shop, party, or just chill, depending on your own particular tastes. However, this idyllic image masks a very dark reality, which both Hannah Witheridge and David Miller would find out by paying the ultimate price.
The two had never met before they checked into the same hotel on the island. But they soon hit it off and intermittently spent time together before enjoying an evening of drinking in some of the bars in the infamous Sairee beach area. Eventually, they found themselves on a beach that was far enough away from the bars to appear isolated and peaceful. However, it would prove to be anything but on this particular night.
The couple’s bodies were found by a cleaner the next morning. They had been attacked with a metal hoe used for digging sand. David suffered blows to the head and eventually drowned in the sea. Hannah had been raped before having her face completely cleaved off with a forceful blow from the murder weapon. Mere minutes after the bodies were found, photographs began circling the island of the mutilated couple long before a police investigation that was botched in practically every way was launched.
Eventually, two young Burmese migrants were arrested and found guilty of murder, which they confessed to after allegedly being tortured by the Royal Thai Police. Nobody living on the island at the time really thought that these young boys were responsible, but they remain in prison to this day. Fortunately, they were spared the death penalty in 2020 when the King of Thailand granted them clemency. However, their appeals against the conviction have so far been completely unsuccessful, and the real murderers, thought to be members of a local “mafia” family, may well have already killed again, as there have since been numerous examples of tourists dying under suspicious circumstances.