Twenty years on, the question remains - who killed 6-year-old US pageant queen JonBenet Ramsey?


The case

The Ramseys at Christmas

The Ramseys at Christmas (Photo: Rex Features)

The Ramsey family had enjoyed a Christmas with all the trimmings.

That night, John, 56, mum, Patsy, 39, their son, Burke, 9, and daughter, JonBenet, 6, went to bed happy and satisfied.

But the next day, Boxing Day 1996, JonBenet Ramsey was found wrapped in a blanket in the basement of the family’s home. A rope was fastened tightly around her neck. She was dead.

Today, police are no closer to catching her killer than they were two decades ago.

And in 2015, the police chief who led the investigation made a startling admission. His officers had mishandled the case…

So JonBenet Ramsey’s killer remains free, her brutal death one of the most baffling of recent times.


The crime scene

The Ramsey house

The Ramsey house (Photo: PA Photos)

The little girl with the unusual name had been spoilt rotten that Christmas.

JonBenet deserved it.

Her mum, Patsy, had been mad on beauty pageants growing up, so she wanted the same for her own little girl.

That year alone, JonBenet had won Little Miss Colorado, America’s Royale Little Miss, National Tiny Miss Beauty, Colorado All-Star Kids Cover Girl…

JonBenet wins a title

JonBenet wins a title (Photo: Rex Features)

But then her father found her body in the basement of their home.

Her arms were pulled up over her head, tied at the wrists. A paintbrush had been used to tighten a garrotte around her neck, her mouth fastened closed with duct tape. She’d been wrapped in a white blanket.

There were signs of sexual abuse. But the cause of death was asphyxiation, as a result of strangulation.


The random note

A segment of the ransom note

A segment of the ransom note (Photo: PA Photos)

That morning, the Ramseys had been up at the crack of dawn. They had a long journey ahead of them, flying to visit relatives in Michigan.

Patsy had been up at half five and had gone down to the kitchen to get the breakfast started.

That’s when she’d found it. On the staircase. The ransom note.

The three-page letter from the kidnappers demanded the Ramseys cough up the huge sum of $118,000 (roughly £80, 000) to get their daughter back.

If they told the police, JonBenet would be killed immediately.

Straightaway, Patsy and John did the right thing. They called the police. A search was mounted for the little girl.

Soon after the police arrived, John Ramsey had gone to search for his daughter in the basement of the house. He found a broken window.

Then, he found his little girl’s corpse.


The suspects

John and Patsy

John and Patsy (Photo: PA Photos)

As JonBenet was killed in her own home, police initially focused on her parents and brother.

An accident gone wrong?

But then there was the DNA of an ‘unknown male’ found on JonBenet’s underwear.

That ruled out her family, they were exonerated.

And it opened a whole new line of investigation.

There was Bill McReynolds. He was a local man who’d played Santa at a kids’ party in the Ramsey home a few days before.

Or Gary Oliva, a convicted sex offender who lived locally and had been seen lurking around the Ramsey house.

Or Chris Wolf, a local journalist who would have had access to information about John’s massive Christmas bonus.

Yet no real evidence could be found against any of these men, and they were all eventually ruled out.

But then, eight months later, in August 2006, a confession…


The false confession

** FILE ** In a file Photo American John Mark Karr is pictured after his arrival at passenger lounge to board a flight to Los Angeles at Bangkok international airport in Bangkok, Thailand Sunday, Aug. 20, 2006. The former suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey killing left jail Thursday, OIct. 4, 2006, after a judge dismissed child pornography charges against him, saying prosecutors didn't have enough evidence to take the case to trial. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel)

John Mark Karr (Photo: PA Photos)

John Mark Karr, 41, was being charged by police for child porn in California.

Out of nowhere, he confessed to killing JonBenet, saying he’d drugged and assaulted her.

But the police weren’t convinced. No drugs had been found in JonBenet’s system. And Karr couldn’t give the police any details about the crime other than publicly known ones. His DNA didn’t match the DNA found on JonBenet Ramsey, either, and he wasn’t charged.


The family

JonBenet's grave

JonBenet’s grave (Photo: Rex Features)

Sadly, 10 years after her daughter died, Patsy, then 49, herself passed away from ovarian cancer.

JonBenet’s brother, Burke, has stayed out of the public eye.

But her dad, John Ramsey has never been far from it. In 2004, he ran for a position in local government in Michigan, where he now lives. And in 2011, he married Las Vegas fashion designer, Jan Rousseaux.

The couple had their big day in the lakeside city of Charlevoix in Michigan. The city where, 17 years before, in 1994, JonBenet had won Little Miss Crown.

The year her dad remarried, JonBenet Ramsey would have turned 21. Instead, she lies buried at the Saint James Episcopal Cemetery.

In the grave next to her is her mum.

When they were alive, Patsy dreamed JonBenet would one day be famous for her beauty and the pageants she’d won.

Now, JonBenet is famous – because of the brutality of her death, and the baffling mystery that still surrounds it.


JonBenet (Photo: Rex Features)