LINDBERGH BABY KIDNAP; Serial Killers, Cold-Blooded Murderers and Gun-Toting Gangsters. Each Week Former Top West Midlands Detective JOHN PLIMMER Looks at the Most Notorious Criminal Figures of the Last Century -and How They Were Caught. the Ransom Murder That Shocked America

Article excerpt

Byline: JOHN PLIMMER

CHARLES Lindbergh was an allAmerican hero. In 1927 the aviator gained fame and fortune by becoming the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic.

He was feted across the US and women fell in love with the dashing adventurer -but he had eyes for only one.

He married Anne Morrow, the daughter of a US Ambassador, soon after his historic flight and their first son, Charles Augustus Junior, was born in July 1930. The family then moved to Hopewell, New Jersey.

For a short period they lived happily -until tragedy struck. At 10pm on Tuesday, March 1, 1932, nanny Betty Gow went to young Charles' bedroom to checkon her charge and found his cot empty. A ransom demand had been left nearby on the windowsill.

Police arrived at the Lindbergh home in droves followed up to 400 reporters who had been tipped off.

Officers found a set of footprints in the wet ground below the child's bedroom window. Two holes were also left by a ladder found less than 100 yards away.

There were also tyre tracks nearby.

The ransom demand, full of spelling mistakes, was tested for fingerprints but nothing was found.

'Dear Sir!' it read. 'Have $50,000 redy with $2,500 in $20 bills, $1,500 in $10 bills and $1,000 in $5 bills. After two to four days we will inform you were to deliver the Mony.

'We warn you for making anyding public or for notify the polise the child is in gute care.'

Colonel H Norman Schwarzkopf, chief of the state police, advised the Lindberghs not to pay the kidnappers or promise immunity if the child was returned.

On March 4 a second note was received which stated the ransom had been increased to $70,000 as a result of the police involvement.

DrJohnFCondon,a 72-year-old retired teacher from the Bronx, offered himself as a negotiator. Three days later, the Lindberghs received another letter, accepting Condon as a go-between.

An advert was placed in the New York American, notifying the kidnappers that the money was ready.

On March 12, Condon received written instructions demanding the ransom money be taken to Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.

There he met a man with a foreign accent, who called himself John. Condon told him he would not hand over the ransom money until he had seen the child alive.

John refused but agreed to send Condon the baby's sleeping suit by the following Monday morning.

The garment was received by Condon and another rendezvous was set up for the ransom to be paid.

It was late on April 2 when Lindbergh drove Condon to St Raymonds, another cemetery in the area.

Lindbergh was armed with a gun and waited in the car, watching as Condon made his way between the tombstones.

John was waiting and, after a short discussion, Condon returned to the car to collect the cash, which consisted of gold certificates contained in a cardboard box.

A record had been made of all the serial numbers.

After being given the money, John told Condon that the baby could be found on a boat named Nelly. He handed over a note for Lindbergh before disappearing with the cash.

A brief description of the Nelly was written on the note, confirming that the boat was anchored between Horseneck Beach and Gay Head.

For two days, Lindbergh flew across the bay, but found no trace of the Nelly or his son. Despair set in.

On May 12, 1932, the biggest kidnapping case in American history turned into a murder investigation.

A truck driver had spotted the nakedcorpse of a child on a road between Hopewell and Princeton, partially covered with leaves and badly decomposed.

Charles Lindbergh later identified the remains as those of his son.

In April 1933 the newly-elected President Roosevelt called in all gold currency to seek links to the kidnap, which was still creating national headlines. …