Perfect crime  

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"Conscience ! is it possible that thou canst be but a phantom of the imagination, or the fear of the punishment of men? I ask my own heart, I put to myself this question: "If thou couldst by a mere wish kill a fellow-creature in China, and inherit his fortune in Europe, with the supernatural conviction that the fact would never be known, wouldst thou consent to form such a wish?" [1] --Mandarin button excerpt from The Genius of Christianity

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

A perfect crime is a crime committed so perfectly that no evidence is apparent, and the culprit cannot be traced.

Since evidence must be matched to find the culprit, the best way to commit a perfect crime appears to be one outside the circle of suspects that police can question. In practice, however, those who commit serious crimes are usually linked to the victim in some way, and the police know from experience which people to question. A crime based on a chance meeting, such as a rape, murder or mugging, can go undetected if no connection remains. However, a rapist will most likely leave his DNA (e.g. in the form of semen) and sustain minor injuries, which might indicate his guilt; a mugger might be found with his victim's belongings. Moreover, the police have the fingerprints and DNA of convicted felons on file. Many criminals spend stolen money too freely or brag about their crime.

A murder committed by somebody who had never before met the victim, has no criminal record, steals nothing and tells no one might be a perfect crime. According to criminalists and scientists, perfect crimes do exist. Similarly, criminals are able to keep their identity concealed by performing their crimes where the population is great, such as a public places, where there is a great range of DNA available, therefore creating the impression of 'finding a needle in a haystack'.

Would-be perfect crimes are a popular subject in crime fiction and movies. They include Double Indemnity, Strangers on a Train, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Witness for the Prosecution, and Dial M for Murder.

It is possible that many perfect crimes have been committed and remain undiscovered, lending some to define a perfect crime as one whose very existence cannot be substantiated. Some crimes might have been solved if the police had better resources at their disposal or had not overlooked vital evidence. In the well-known case of Jack the Ripper, plenty of evidence was left at the crime scenes, but the crimes were never solved.

Some crimes such as the Black Dahlia murder, the Zodiac murders of the late 1960s, the Tylenol scare of 1982, and the Diane Suzuki case of 1985 are referred to as perfect, but the possibility always remains that a culprit will ultimately be identified.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Perfect crime" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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