Criminals who mysteriously vanished

It's one thing to be a criminal. You live your life on the wild side and dance with the devil in the pale moonlight. Or you just get caught at some point and watch your criminal empire come crashing down. But then there are the ones who escape justice, those who are never caught. No matter how small or large their crimes are, the fact that they managed to outrun the cops for any period of time is impressive. Here are some infamous criminals who were on the lam for years at a time. Johnny Law couldn't catch up with them because they were brilliant hiders or sometimes just dead.

Szilveszter Matuska

Few people are as sick as Szilveszter Matuska. He claimed at his trial that he liked seeing people die, to the point of getting sensual gratification from it. But killing just one person at a time wasn't enough, so he engineered train wrecks. That way he could see lots of people die at once. Told you he was sick.

According to Crime Magazine, he had the background to make it happen. Born in 1892, he trained as a mechanical engineer and may have even been an explosive specialist in the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I. Then he went on to mining. But by the 1930s he had realized his true passion was derailing trains.

He succeeded in blowing a few up before he was finally caught and charged for his crimes. Matuska fully admitted to what he had done, even the fact that he got off on it, and said God had told him to. He was sentenced to death, but it was commuted to life in prison. He spent a while inside before World War II made it possible to escape. After that, no one knows what happened to him.

Matuska may have worked as an explosive expert for the Russians at the end of the war, and there were rumors he fought with the Chinese during the Korean War. Whatever he ended up doing, all we have are whispers. He was never captured again.

Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar

If you want to become a millionaire, tipping the police off to the whereabouts of Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar wouldn't be a bad way to do it. This gangster has rewards out on his head over $25 million as of 2017. And he's worth a pretty penny himself. According to the Birmingham Mail, he is the second richest criminal to ever live, after Pablo Escobar. He's rolling in illicit dough amounting to $6.7 billion. And he's got 21 aliases, but mostly he goes by The Don.

In this case the apple did fall far from the tree since his father was a policeman. Meanwhile Kaskar has a "global crime empire" called D Company that wraps around the world with property in 16 countries on five continents. While no one knows for sure where he is, the U.N. thinks he's in Pakistan. He even has a place there called the White House because why be subtle when you're The Don?

But Kaskar is wanted for some bad stuff. He could have links to Al Qaeda and may be behind a series of bombings in Mumbai in 1993 and 2008. He's said to be a big cricket fan, but of course he had to be all gangster about it and is wanted for fixing some big games.

The U.S. officially declared him a global terrorist in 2013. Until he is caught, he'll keep up with his other hobbies of drug trafficking and counterfeiting.

Rocco Perri

The USA wasn't the only country to go through Prohibition. Canada also went through a dry spell and it meant that, starting in 1916, some people who were willing to break the law could become rich with bootleg liquor. At one point, bootleggers were making about $1 million a month — even in 1920s dollars. One Italian immigrant found a niche for himself, and the Canadian "Whiskey King," Rocco Perri was born.

According to the CBC, Perri's job was not without dangers. When his wife, who was heavily involved in the business, tried to expand into the narcotics area, she was murdered and Perri was distraught (although some people think he might have had something to do with her killing).

Perri himself would go down in history as the Canadian Jimmy Hoffa. He was there one day and then just gone. If he was killed, no one ever found the body, and if he walked off into a new life he did an amazing job of it. The Hamilton Spectator says it happened one day in 1944. He was visiting his cousin when he decided to walk off a headache. He planned to be back in time for lunch, but lunch came and went and he never returned. Seventy years later no one knows for sure what happened to Perri, but his biographer likes to think he was tipped off about a plot to kill him and used his connections to flee to the U.S.

Joseph Shexnider

Depending what kind of lifestyle you lead, your family and friends may not be that concerned if you suddenly disappear for 27 years. This is what happened to poor Joseph Shexnider, whose past resume, according to the Telegraph, literally included "running off to join the circus." ABC News says he also joined the National Guard at one point, so when he disappeared in 1984, his mother thought he was on another one of his "rendezvous."

While only 22 at the time, Shexnider did have good reason to run off — if the long arm of the law scares you, that is. He was expected in court relating to charges of possessing a stolen vehicle and he just didn't bother showing up. His parents assumed he was on the lam, which is why they never reported him missing even after almost three decades of not hearing from him.

But in 2011 the question of where their son had gone was answered. A bank was blowing out a chimney to renovate the second floor when a very decomposed body was found inside. DNA testing proved it was Shexnider. While the police described it as "not your typical case," they refused to believe that this kid crawling into a bank via the chimney and wearing gloves was planning on robbing the place because he "didn't have a bag." His family was happy to have closure on what had happened to this criminal, even if it was tragic.

Matteo Messina Denaro

Matteo Messina Denaro is still an Italian crime boss in the classical sense. He was the head of the Mafia family that was depicted in the Godfather books and movies. In 2014, a Guardian article asked how much longer he could evade capture, but the answer was at least a few years since the police were still tearing up Sicily for him according to a 2017 article by Sky News.

When you're only 55 years old and you've been wanted by the police since you were 31, your life has pretty much been a crash course in running from the cops. That's what Denaro, who got the cool nickname "Diabolik" has been learning for the past 24 years. So what does it take to stay in hiding that long? It helps to be completely off the grid. He used the age-old "pizzini" method, writing his orders on little pieces of paper and hiding them under a rock on a farm.

Despite being on the run he's said to enjoy fast cars and womanizing and killing just so many people. So he's not the Robin Hood hero he supposedly sees himself as. But he is very good at hide-and-seek, that's for sure.

Omid Tahvili

Omid Tahvili was a good actor. According to The Globe and Mail, he was dressed as a very convincing janitor as he calmly strolled out of a $49 million prison in 2007. It helped that he had bribed a guard with $50,000 to open some doors for him. To keep up the disguise for the 100 security cameras that were watching him literally walk out of the place unmolested, he would stop and mop the floor from time to time.

Acting had helped him get away with his biggest scam as well. He looked like a stout, respectable Iranian businessman while he ran a car rental shop in British Columbia. But Iranian.com says he was secretly a scam artist the whole time, calling up elderly citizens and telling them they'd won or were close to winning a lottery. They just had to hand over some cash to him in order to secure their winnings. Of course, those winnings were totally imaginary. But he was also charged with crimes like kidnapping, unlawful confinement, assault with a weapon, sexual assault, threatening, and use of an imitation gun. Tahvili was not a nice guy.

As of 2018, he's still at large, meaning he's been on the run for more than a decade. Has anyone checked on Broadway?

The three Alcatraz escapees

One of the most famous prisons in the world has to be Alcatraz. Situated in the middle of the freezing cold San Francisco Bay, it was known as the place you put people if you wanted them to stay put. Over the course of 30 years there were 36 escape attempts. They mostly went very badly. Twenty-three were immediately caught, six were killed during capture attempts, and another two drowned. But three guys might just have made it, and if they did they're some of the most successful escapees ever.

According to CBS News, their names were John Anglin, Clarence Anglin, and Frank Morris. They did their planning well. They used information from the library to learn how to build rafts. To make sure no one missed them on the night they tried to escape, they built papier-mache heads that were painted skin color and had real human hair on them. The heads must have worked because the guards didn't notice anything was wrong until the next morning. They squeezed through a cement wall and used pipes to make it up onto the roof. Then they shimmied down a smokestack. They made a raft using 50 raincoats and grabbed driftwood for paddles.

It's possible they left at just the right time and took advantage of the tide, making it ashore easily. Others think they succumbed to hypothermia. Whatever the case, they were never seen again.

Abbie Hoffman

It's one thing to be a criminal on the run. It's another thing to be known as "America's most accessible fugitive." But that was the nickname Abbie Hoffman got for himself on the years he was on the lam.

According to the Washington Post, Hoffman was wanted for jumping bail and dealing drugs. They might not sound like the worst charges ever, but they carried a possible life sentence. He was on the run from the authorities for six and a half years before he decided to give up. In the meantime, he managed to do interviews with everyone from the Associated Press to Playboy to local gossip columnists. He would call up journalists to complain any time he didn't like a story written about him. Just before he finally surrendered to the police, he chatted with Barbara Walters.

But no one knew where he was the whole time. It was pretty much settled he lived in upstate New York somewhere, but the feds could never find him. He called himself "Barry" and kept busy. He even testified before Congress about water issues and took a picture with a senator who had no clue he was a wanted man. He also claimed to have toured the FBI as his alter ego. It helped that he had probably had plastic surgery, but Hoffman was still blatant.

By 1980 when he turned himself in, the excesses of the hippie movement didn't seem so bad, and he only served four months in jail.

Aribert Heim

When you get the nickname "Dr. Death," you know you haven't been a saint in life. Aribert Heim worked as a doctor in concentration camps during World War II, where he earned the sobering moniker. Unfortunately, he managed to escape after the war ended. But he was such an evil dude that he was the most wanted Nazi war criminal still believed to be alive and in hiding.

The crimes he was wanted for were disturbing. According to the New York Times, he was accused of taking organs out of perfectly healthy "donors" and leaving them to die on the operating table. He was known to inject poison into the hearts of living victims. And since he was so proud of the stuff he was doing, Heim took at least one skull as a memento of his work. When you're among the worst of the Nazis, that's pretty bad.

Heim was thought to be located in Latin America, but until the 1960s he managed to live a decent life in Germany itself. Once the cops were closing in on him, he fled to Egypt. There he converted to Islam and walked 15 miles a day to keep busy. Neighbors knew him as Tarek Hussein Farid, the guy who would never let anyone photograph him. He died in 1992 and was never captured.

D.B. Cooper

Perhaps one of the most infamous missing criminals of all time was known as D.B. Cooper. No one knows who he actually was, and he's officially been on the run for more than 45 years. It wasn't until 2016 that the FBI finally stopped looking for Cooper after one of the longest active searches in its history.

According to the New York Times, Cooper was cool as a cucumber when he pulled off a hijacking in 1971. He was wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase when he bought a one-way ticket at the Portland airport. While he waited for the plane to take off he ordered a drink. Once in the air he handed the flight attendant a note saying he had a bomb in his briefcase. He wanted a parachute and $200,000. What he didn't want was hostages, so he let everyone off once they landed in Seattle. He got what he wanted, then told the pilot to fly to Mexico City but never to go higher than 10,000 feet. Somewhere along the way, he took the parachute and the money and jumped out of the plane. As far as the authorities know, he was never heard from again.

In 1980, a young boy walking near the Columbia River found a bunch of $20 bills whose serial numbers matched the ransom money. Nobody was ever found, and no one knows what happened to Cooper or the rest of the money.