1. The Honey Trap Killer
Mehmet Hassan had a real taste for gambling – and he was good at it, too. The father-of-three Londoner was known to sometimes bring home more than £15,000 from a night at the casino. At 56-year old, his career in professional gambling had brought about considerable wealth. Hassan enjoyed spending his money frivolously – on poker, fine dining and young women.
It was his weakness for the latter which led to his brutal demise.
On a cold February evening, Hassan headed out for what was going to be a typical night at the Palm Beach Casino in London. Accompanying him was his latest girlfriend, the 25-year-old Leonie Granger. Always with a smile on her face; the beautiful Miss Granger had found it easy to charm her way into Hassan’s heart. The two of them walked arm in arm throughout the night, kissing passionately, posing for photos, and enjoying an expensive dinner together. “I’m not even paying for her!” Hassan reportedly joked to the casino receptionists, over-the-moon with pride over his gorgeous companion. Little did Hassan know that Granger had spent the last few weeks planning his murder.
After Granger gambled away £1,000, which Hassan had given her to spend at her whim, the couple took a taxi back to Hassan’s apartment. Shortly after arriving, however, Granger started making excuses as to why she couldn’t stay the night. She left in a hurry. Perhaps Hassan was bewildered as to her sudden change in behaviour, perhaps he thought nothing of it. A few minutes later, two men arrived at his door.
The men were Kyrron Jackson and Nicholas Chandler. With the door unlocked, they easily forced their way into Hassan’s home, tying him with duct tape to a chair in the bedroom. Both men took turns to physically assault Hassan, taunting him for having fallen victim to Granger’s trap. It is unclear for how long Hassan had to endure the ruthless beatings of his attackers before eventually bleeding to death. Once murdered, Jackson and Chandler proceeded to ransack Hassan’s home, searching for casino winnings. After finding thousands of pounds worth of hidden cash, Jackson and Chandler then used their phones to film their perverse celebration. Throwing around wads of cash and stuffing £50 notes in their underwear, the video shows Jackson and Chandler laughing as Hassan lay murdered in the next room. The film also reveals that Granger joins them soon after. She is seen grinning next to Jackson, who is at this point wearing a gas mask. Fleeing together, they take £3,000 along with Hassan’s TV and mobile phone. The next morning, after receiving a call from a concerned relative, police checked on Hassan’s apartment to find him lying in a pool of his own blood and with shoe prints on his face.
It didn’t take police long to realize Granger had played a role in the brutal murder and apparent raid. After examining phone records and CCTV from the Palm Beach Casino on the night of the murder, police were quickly able to determine the cause of, and motive behind, Hassan’s tragic death. Jackson and Chandler were convicted with murder and sentenced to a minimum of 36 years in prison. As for Granger – the “honey trap” killer received a sentence of 16 years in prison, with the somewhat lenient charge of manslaughter.
2. The Body In The Boot
Montecasino in Johannesburg is one of the city’s most prestigious and well-known gambling resorts. With its impressive fort architecture and luxurious interior, the casino sees many hundreds of visitors enjoy its selection of poker rooms and slot machines everyday. On one particular September afternoon, a guest of the casino complained about a terrible smell coming from the parking lot.
A casino employee went out to investigate, soon tracing the source of the horrific smell to the boot of a dark vehicle. Police arrived at the scene. No one was sure what to expect when the boot was opened.
The severely decomposed body of Dustan Blom lay stuffed inside. Discoloured and bloated; the condition of his body would have made a sight-based identification near impossible had it not been for the tattoo on his hip, recognized by one of Blom’s friends. The deceased was reported to have been covered in yellowish brown abrasions and was producing an overwhelmingly foul odour. An autopsy of the body revealed Dustin had been drugged and strangled, dating his time of death to within the last few days.
Blom had been a wealthy and successful businessmen, leading investigators to immediately suspect there was a financial motive behind the killing. His wife had died in childbirth three years prior and Blom had succumbed to a life of excessive drinking and frivolous spending. Amongst the many places in which he chose to drown his sorrows was a local stripclub known as the “Lollipop Lounge.” One of the club’s strippers, Maruschka Robinson, was said to have had a special relationship with the late Blom. He appeared to have been particularly fond of her, showering her with gifts and even letting her stay rent-free at his home. Robinson denied any involvement in the murder, as did her drug-dealing boyfriend at the time, Jean-Pierre Malan.
A series of text messages between the couple would suggest otherwise, however. It transpired that the couple had long been taking advantage of Blom’s weakness for Robinson. Regularly spiking his drinks with date rape drugs, the couple made a habit of withdrawing money with his credit card as he lay unconscious. Then, deleting the withdrawal notifications from his phone, the two would return his card and mobile undetected. Blom would wake up with no idea that he’d been robbed of thousands of dollars. On the fateful night in question, Blom had fallen asleep early and made the drugging process more difficult. Malan suggested they instead put Blom in a chokehold that would have him pass out for a longer period of time. Whether or not it was ever Malan’s intention to actually kill Blom, the chokehold resulted in his asphyxiation. After disposing of the body, CCTV shows Robinson and Malan withdrawing money from Blom’s credit cards in a calm and unhurried fashion.
DNA found on Blom’s body, along with the conspiring couple’s uncovered text messages, was enough evidence with which to convict the murderous lovers. What was once a romantic and loyal companionship between the two criminals soon turned bitter, with each one blaming the other for Blom’s death. Both have been charged with premeditated murder and still await their sentence.
3. The Country Club Murders
Professional poker may seem like a glamorous occupation. You earn your money from travelling to tournaments all over the world, or else sitting at your laptop in the comfort of your own home. The big stars make millions of dollars from having a strategic and psychological edge over opponents, and they use their winnings to live a life of luxury.
Except in reality it doesn’t always work out that way. At least it didn’t for Ernie Scherer.
Scherer may have been a talented player, but his $350,000 dollars in poker earnings didn’t make up for the phenomenal amount of debt he’d managed to acquire over the years. With $90,000 in gambling debt, $40,000 in credit card debt and a $616,000 loan from his father for a new house – Scherer was under a lot of financial pressure. Add to this his failing marriage, and what could be described as a somewhat sociopathic mindset, and you have someone on the brink of snapping.
And snap is exactly what he did. In 2008, on a sunny day in March, Scherer visited his parents at their country club home in California. Scherer’s family, consisting of his parents and sister, were very close. They regularly went on holidays together and kept in touch through phone calls and emails. There was no reason for Scherer’s parents to have been surprised when their son suddenly appeared at the door. After welcoming Scherer in, his father turned his back for a moment. Scherer took the opportunity to pick up a baseball bat and viciously beat his father until he was on the ground and incapable of moving. His mother stood screaming in horror. Scherer’s father died after multiple blunt force trauma injuries to his head, at which point Scherer turned to his mother, Charlene. She suffered at least twenty blunt force injuries to her head. She also had her wrists, carotid arteries and jugular vein slit open.
In an attempt to make the murder look like a robbery, Scherer then stood in his parent’s blood with a pair of Nike shoes he’d bought the day before in a size different from his own. He then walked over the house in the direction of valuables, pulling aside sheets, knocking vases and emptying drawers. Scherer removed all murder weapons before exiting the scene. Ironically, it was his deliberate and careful attempt to stage the crime scene as burglary which had detectives suspecting there was something more to the case.
Investigators agreed the way in which the house has been ransacked appeared too “obvious.” Several valuables were left untouched, suggesting there was an alternative motive behind the invasion and brutal murders. They considered the couple’s son, Scherer, who stood to inherit $2 million from his parent’s house. CCTV even revealed a red convertible, similar to Scherer’s, entering the Country Club on the night of the murder and then leaving four hours later. The quality of the video was too poor to make a definite identification of the car. Though his alibi on the night of the murder was weak, Scherer maintained a poker face throughout interrogation. Investigators were convinced of his involvement, but had no substantial evidence linking him to the murders. Police were at a standstill until, combing the house for what must have seemed like the millionth time, one detective discovered a bloodied receipt for a baseball bat and pair of Nike shoes from a nearby sports store.
At this point Scherer had packed his bags, left his wife and toddler son, and fled to Vegas where he gambled extravagantly and placed Craigslist ads to meet random women. The high roller was quickly found and arrested, with both his wife and sister testifying against him in court. Scherer was convicted with two life terms in prison.
4. The Suicide Note of Jill Rockcastle
From the outside, Jill Rockcastle and Bill Gustafik appeared like a perfectly normal and happy couple. Charismatic, sociable and apparently successful; their friends and neighbours thought highly of them and their seemingly perfect life together. Little did they know how the couple’s relationship was fueled by a terrible greed for power and money. They were obsessed with the ‘high life’, undergoing plastic surgery and seizing any opportunity to appear in the spotlight. They also shared a talent for manipulating everyone around them.
Dealing with cocaine and gambling addictions, the couple were prepared to do almost anything for money. This lead them down a life of fraud and scams. Bill was a professional poker player and at times, when the money was coming in, things were great between the ambitious couple. At other times, like on those occasions Bill would lose thousands of dollar in just one night, the relationship turned bitter. “We were living this fake life of millionaires. But we weren’t. We were going broke,” Jill later confessed.
Bill started to become more and more violent, often lashing out at Jill. He became obsessed with pornography and delved further into his drug addiction. After an especially heated argument, Bill grabbed Jill by the hair and pulled her back with great force. Terrified, Jill reached for a nearby knife and stabbed Bill in the chest more than a dozen times. Panicked and in a state of hysteria, Jill then fled to a motel in California. She was found alive but unconscious on her motel bed just a few days later; a 10-page suicide note by her side. The note revealed the sinister nature of Jill and Bill’s relationship.
“Both of us lied, manipulated, cheated, conned and hustled people to make the most money for us…I had to stop us.”
Jill then addresses Bill’s ex-wife in the letter; a woman with whom Bill had a young daughter.
Two years ago, he did plan to have you and your Mom killed. He paid a guy to do it while we had [Bill’s daughter] in Las Vegas for our Christmas time. It was the scariest few days…Find console in the fact we are gone and cannot hurt you anymore.
If for some reason I fail in this, at least this will guarantee my conviction and I will have to pay everyday for my disgusting life. Not that it could mean anything but I am truly sorry. To the people who loved me, I apologize for this shame.
Upon discovery, Jill had to spend the next two weeks in intensive care. Once fit enough to stand trial, she was sentenced with 10 years to life in prison.
5. The Skull in the Woods
On September the 19th 1997, police were called to a bloody scene at a Las Vegas hotel. Marcus Bebb-Jones, a British professional gambler, had put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. The bullet exited through his cheek, leaving him alive but bleeding profusely. After taking the overweight and balding man to hospital, investigators discovered a suicide note.
“Sabrina . . . I can’t change who I am. I understand your anger, but now as the years pass, that will diminish.”
In a different room at the same hotel, a three-year-old boy was found completely alone, naked from the waist down. This was the man’s son who had been abandoned for the last 48 hours.
The story is a tragic one. Marcus Bebb-Jones and his beautiful wife, Sabrina, had been struggling with their hotel business. Their arguments had become more frequent and Marcus Bebb-Jones became increasingly ashamed of his inability to provide for his family. Some say Sabrina had requested a divorce and wanted full custody of their son. After Sabrina stormed out of a shopping mall during an argument one day, Bebb-Jones was left worrying whether she had deserted them for good. Remembering Sabrina had some family in Las Vegas, Bebb-Jones went in search of his wife in the neon city. After endless searching but no luck, Bebb-Jones’ depression got the best of him. He turned to gambling, prostitutes, and cocaine in an extravagant two-day binge. Having maxed out all of his and his wife’s credit cards, the poker player felt too ashamed to deal with the consequences of his actions, and decided to commit suicide.
This was the story Bebb-Jones went with. It was a convincing one. It allowed police to file Sabrina’s disappearance as a “missing persons” case, and it allowed Bebb-Jones to return home to England and start a new life. Those who knew of his wife’s disappearance and suicide attempt empathised with Bebb-Jones’ tragic past, and admired him for turning his life around. Bebb-Jones lived comfortably in England for 16 years, enjoying some success at both local poker games and online tournaments; even qualifying for the William Hill Grand Prix.
All this changed in 2004 when a skull was discovered at a remote meadow in Colorado. Though badly decomposed, forensics were nonetheless able to identify a bullet wound in the skull. Through dental records, they were able to determine the skull had belonged to Sabrina Bebb-Jones. A distinct type of plant was found at the meadow – a plant which was also found under Bebb-Jones’ car following Sabrina’s disappearance. The evidence began to pile up.
Bebb-Jones denied murdering his wife, but later pleaded guilty to second-degree murder when realizing this was his only chance of avoiding life in prison. The real story unravelled. On the day of the murder, Bebb-Jones had told Sabrina that he wanted to take her and their son on a hike in the woods. He drove them to a remote area at the Colorado-Utah border and asked her to step out of the car. Shooting her in the head, Bebb-Jones then left his wife’s body to be eaten by wild animals. It is unclear whether their son witnessed the murder.
Bebb-Jones then took Sabrina’s credit cards and headed to Vegas for his two day binge, abandoning his son in a hotel room. After spending approximately $13,290 on drugs, casinos, and prostitutes, Bebb-Jones thought the best way to disguise the murder was to pretend Sabrina had walked out on him and their son. Deliberately shooting the gun to the side of his mouth, Bebb-Jones never intended to kill himself. It was the perfect crime until 16 years later when the remains of Sabrina came back to haunt him. Bebb-Jones was sentenced to 20 years.
As for his son – he was raised by his grandparents upon moving back to England, and is now in his early 20s.
Though the world of professional gambling can be both safe and rewarding, there’s no doubt it attracts its fair share of criminals – and the aforementioned murderers are just the tip of the iceberg. From the Hilton arson of 1981 to the kidnapping of Steve Wynn’s daughter; there’s never a dull moment in the controversial city of Vegas.