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Bagged up: 4 murders involving suitcases

A rusty old suitcase

Body in the Suitcase: The Murder of Deborah Chong explores the remarkable circumstances surrounding the disturbing case of Deborah Chong, who was murdered and decapitated. Stream now on Crime + Investigation Play or catch up on demand.

In the aftermath of a murder, everyday objects can take on an eerie and unsettling perspective. Suitcases, holdalls and rucksacks are innocuous things - helpful travel companions filled with clothes and personal items. However, when a crime has been committed, they can be transformed into accessories to a murder. Here are four murders that involved bodies being found in suitcases.

Deborah Chong (2021)

On 28th October 2022, Jemma Mitchell received a 34-year prison sentence for the murder of 67-year-old Deborah Chong in Wembley, London. Having met at a church in 2020, Mitchell formed a friendship with Chong, who suffered from mental health issues and took antipsychotic medication to deal with delusions - including the belief that she was communicating with Prince (now King) Charles via YouTube comments.

Seeing an opportunity in Chong’s vulnerability, Mitchell (who herself was dealing with serious financial issues) attempted to extract money from her, saying the funds would pay for renovations on Mitchell’s home. When this failed, Mitchell resorted to violence. On 11th June 2021, she attacked Chong, fracturing her skull. She then decapitated her and stashed the severed head and body in a suitcase which she kept at her own residence for two weeks.

Chong's decapitated remains were stumbled upon by a family on a walk 16 days after the murder. During the police investigation, CCTV footage of Mitchell wheeling a large blue suitcase formed a key part of the evidence against her. When police uncovered a forged will in Chong’s name, leaving money to Mitchell, it became clear who their number one suspect was.

Jessica Lewis and Austin Wenner (2020)

In Winter Park, Florida on 9th June 2020, the lives of Jessica Lewis and Austin Wenner ended abruptly at the hands of their landlord. Ultimately, Michael Dudley was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder. The jury made their decision after a two-month trial and convicted Dudley to 46 years in prison.

The crime itself was beyond grisly. Dudley fatally shot the couple, then dismembered each of their bodies before concealing their remains in suitcases and duffel bags. After this, he disposed of the luggage in the Puget Sound and the Duwamish River. Circumstantial evidence was the basis for the conviction and phone records played a pivotal role. Lewis' cellphone had gone off-radar moments after gunshots were reported coming from the Dudley residence.

What really brought the wider public's attention to the case was when teenagers using the Randonautica app made a TikTok video in which they discovered the dismembered corpses. The Randonautica app randomly generates GPS coordinates for explorers to visit in the hope of making odd discoveries. This group of curious adolescents may have wished they hadn’t followed the app’s instructions.

Gareth Williams (2010)

Gareth Williams was a highly qualified British intelligence officer, and his death remains a source of confusion as both amateur and professional detectives are baffled by the circumstances to this day.

His lifeless body was discovered inside a red North Face duffel bag which had been placed in the bathtub of his flat in Dolphin Square, West London. This high-profile apartment complex has been home to many senior politicians, including Harold Wilson, David Steel, William Hague, Estelle Morris and Beverley Hughes. The mystery of Williams’ death deepened when it became clear that there were no signs of forced entry and the door was locked from the inside. A media frenzy ensued and multiple theories to explain the situation have been generated.

Whilst some believe Williams’ death was merely a tragic accident which came about due to a sexual fetish, others believe that his death was somehow the result of an espionage operation. Numerous investigations and a coroner's inquest have failed to bring the truth to light.

Bill McGuire (2004)

Bill McGuire and his wife, Melanie, tied the knot in 1999. They subsequently had two children who were just four and one at the time of the horrific events that unfolded in April 2024.

Celebrating their fifth anniversary, the McGuires had recently purchased a half-million-dollar home in New Jersey. Their life seemed idyllic to friends and neighbours, but there were serious issues beneath the perfect veneer. Melanie later recounted details of their problematic relationship, which was blighted by intense fights.

In 2004, Bill went missing. There followed a series of gruesome discoveries that sent shockwaves through the community as Bill's dismembered body was found in a series of suitcases washed up in Virginia's Chesapeake Bay. On 5th May, fishermen stumbled on some luggage and found that it contained human legs. Days later, a student discovered another case containing a torso and a severed head inflicted with two bullet wounds. A third suitcase was found containing Bill's arms.

Evidence mounted against Melanie, including details of her affair with a doctor. This especially strengthened the case against her when the individual cooperated with the police and secured a confession from Melanie in recorded phone calls.

In March 2007, Melanie's trial commenced. The trial reached an end on 23rd April and she was convicted of first-degree murder, along with perjury, desecration of human remains and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. She was sentenced to life in prison at the age of 34.