Iceman, Scientist Seen as Latest Victim of
April 20, 2005
He had lain in his icy tomb on an Alpine glacier in northern Italy for 5,300 years, a perfectly preserved Stone Age warrior, complete with fur robes, leather shoes and bow and arrow.
But since being found 14 years ago, five of the people who came in close contact with Oetzi the Iceman have died, leading to the inevitable question: is the mummy cursed?
Konrad Spindler, head of the Iceman investigation team at Innsbruck University, died on Monday, apparently from complications arising from multiple sclerosis. But that has not stopped his name being linked to a string of strange deaths related to the mummy.
He had spent years studying the remains of the frozen warrior, who was discovered in the melting Similaun glacier, on the border between Italy and Austria in 1991. The 66-year-old scientist had been aware of curse theories, built around the supposition that the Iceman was angry at having been disturbed after 53 centuries, and used to joke: "The next victim could be me."
The other "victims" of the mummy include the forensic expert Dr Rainer Henn, who placed the cadaver in a body bag with his bare hands, and who died in a road accident on his way to a conference to discuss his famous subject.
The Alpine guide Kurt Fritz organised the transportation by helicopter of the mummified remains, and was killed by a snowslide in an accident in the mountains, in an area he knew well. He was the only one of a party of climbers to die.
Then there was journalist Rainer Hoelz, who filmed the recovery of the Iceman, and who died of a brain tumour.
The fourth death was that of Helmut Simon, the German tourist who spotted the Iceman in 1991 while on a walking trip with his wife. He became bitter that he was not recognised or financially compensated for his discovery.
Last October he failed to return from a mountain hike and was found dead eight days later, the victim of a 300ft fall. Local newspapers recorded that his body was found frozen, under a sheet of snow and ice.
A possible sixth victim has also been named, that of Dieter Warnecke, the man who helped find the missing 69-year-old and who died of a heart attack after attending his funeral.
Like all good curse theories, natural death, accidents and sheer bad luck have been compressed into a single sinister hypothesis and with all this doom and gloom, there is only one piece of good news. Visitors to the museum in the Italian town of Bolzano specially constructed for the Iceman, where he is on display in a hi-tech refrigerated casket chilled to a glacial -6C, are expecting an increase in curious visitors.