The European Space Agency Will Send Its First Mars Rover to One of These Two Mysterious Sites


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The European Space Agency Will Send Its First Mars Rover to One of These Two Mysterious Sites

Yesterday 3:55pm

Image: ESA/ATG medialab

Mars rovers are great for many reasons, most importantly, because they allow us to live vicariously through a hunk of metal exploring the Red Planet. NASA’s currently working on a yet-to-be-named rover mission slated for 2020, and is in the process of narrowing down a landing location. Similarly, the European Space Agency (ESA) has just announced that it’s debating two locations for its 2020 ExoMars rover, which will search for signs of ancient life.

“While all three sites under discussion [by ESA] would give us excellent opportunities to look for signatures of ancient biomarkers and gain new insights into the planet’s wetter past, we can only carry two sites forward for further detailed analysis,” Jorge Vago, ESA’s ExoMars rover project scientist, said in a press release. “Both candidate sites would explore a period of ancient martian history that hasn’t been studied by previous missions.”

Texture map for Oxia Planum. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University; analysis: IRSPS/TAS-I

The two sites in question, Oxia Planum and Mawrth Vallis, lie just north of the equator, and are both feature geologic deposits that are thought to have formed under wet conditions at some point in Mars’ distant past. Besides the fact that places preserving a history of ancient oceans are a solid choice for alien hunting, both locations are relatively low in elevation, which will afford ExoMars enough atmosphere to help it slow down during its parachute descent.

Mawrth Vallis. (Image: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin)

Oxia Planum is thought to have beds of clay-rich minerals, as it’s believed that about 3.9 billion years ago, several streams of water flowed into this region. Just a few hundred kilometers away, Mawrth Vallis exhibits similar clay-rich deposits, according to observations from orbit. The ESA expects to have a finalized decision about the landing site a year before the big launch.

The ExoMars rover is part of a series of Martian missions by the ESA and Russia’s Roscosmos State Corporation. Last year, the ExoMarsTrace Gas Orbiter reached Mars’ atmosphere, which it’ll soon begin to scope out for methane and other atmospheric gases that could reveal some sort of biological activity, past or present. This next installment will get down and dirty on the surface of the Red Planet itself, and beam information back to Earth via the Trace Gas Orbiter. That’s assuming, of course, that the ExoMars 2020 rover landing goes more smoothly than ill-fated Schiaparelli landing attempt this past fall.

With all this impending Mars exploration, someone better find something good on that planet. No pressure, though.

[ESA]

This Elusive Giant Octopus Snacks on Giant Jellies


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This Elusive Giant Octopus Snacks on Giant Jellies

A female Haliphron holding an egg-yolk jellyfish in her arms. (Image: MBARI)

The giant deep-sea octopus Haliphron is so rare that marine biologists have seen it just three times in 27 years. Using a robotic sub, scientists have finally caught video footage of this animal at mealtime—revealing its distinct preference for gelatinous sea creatures.

A new study published in Scientific Reports is providing the first observational evidence of Haliphron atlanticus, a normally camera-shy giant deep-sea octopus, feasting on gelatinous prey. Previously, scientists had argued that jellies lack nutritional value, but these latest findings are forcing a reevaluation.

Despite its size, very little is known about this deep-sea octopus. It’s rarely seen in the wild, so much of our knowledge has been gleaned from specimens found in fishing nets. Prior to the new study, marine biologists weren’t even sure what it ate.

This animal is sometimes referred to as the “seven-arm octopus” because of the way the male tucks one of its eight arms into a sac underneath its eye. The males are diminutive, just 12 inches (30 cm) long, but the females are giants, measuring 13 feet (4 meters) in length and weighing as much as 165 pounds (75 kg). It’s one of the more extreme cases of sexual dimorphism in a species.

Using a remotely-operated vehicle (ROV), marine biologists Henk-Jan Hoving of GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel and Steve Haddock of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) observed Haliphron in action. On a recent expedition to the Monterey Submarine Canyon off the California coast, their robotic sub spotted the octopus with a large jellyfish cradled in its clutches.

Image: MBARI

Taking advantage of its large size, Haliphron had managed to grasp and hold the entire jelly, estimated to be about 11 inches (30 cm) in width, within its webbed arms. It then used its beak to bite through the “bell” of the jelly, gaining access to the digestive cavity and the food inside, and to reach the more nutritious parts. By this stage of the meal, the jellyfish was dead, but its bell and its outer fringe remained intact. Incredibly, Haliphroncontinued to hold on to these body parts after it had finished its meal. The scientists suspect this was for defensive purposes or to capture more prey; the jellyfish’s stinging tentacles are still active even after it’s dead.

This field observation inspired the researchers to revisit archived footage ofHaliphron. When they did so, they noticed at least one Haliphron specimen holding onto what appeared to be a gelatinous sea creature. To corroborate these observations, the researchers analyzed the stomach contents of five specimens caught in trawling nets. All of the bellies contained traces of gelatinous zooplankton. In addition, three of the five octopuses had stomachs full of jellyfish, one contained a siphonophore (jellyfish-like floaters), and one a salp (a snake-like gelatinous blob).

Haddock and his colleagues believe that gelatinous sea creatures are an unappreciated food source for marine animals—this despite the fact that other animals, such as ocean sunfish, leatherback sea turtles, tuna, and other large fish, also eat jellies. It’s generally thought that these organisms lack nutrients, but given that the animals who feast upon them tend to be large, this idea doesn’t, ahem, hold water. In the new study, the biologists argue that the weight of a jelly translates to significant biomass, and therefore calories.

Haliphron, like so many other creatures in the ocean, follows a very simple, but effective, strategy: move and eat slowly—but grow large.

[Scientific Reports]

$100 Million in Artifacts Shipped from Egypt & Turkey to US in 2016


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$100 Million in Artifacts Shipped from Egypt & Turkey to US in 2016

Flying Through Auroras: Airline Carries Passengers into Southern Lights


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Flying Through Auroras: Airline Carries Passengers into Southern Lights

Why One Woman Had Oil in Her Lung for Decades


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Why One Woman Had Oil in Her Lung for Decades

This Heart in a Jar Could Make Heart Transplants Safer


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This Heart in a Jar Could Make Heart Transplants Safer

3/11/16 3:59pm

What looks like a prop from a steampunk movie is actually a partially decellularized heart in a bioreactor. And this heart has the potential to save the lives of heart attack patients, and, one day, people who need heart transplants too.

In a new paper in Circulation Research, scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital describe a process that was first tested on rat hearts and those of large mammals, and is now being applied to human organs. The process involves stripping away the muscle cells in the heart, leaving the rest of the structures intact, and then rebuilding the heart with new muscle cells. That sounds redundant, but it could provide people with “patches” that replace damaged tissue, and save heart transplant patients from rejecting their new organs.

The process starts with hearts from organ donors. A special detergent strips away the muscle cells, but leaves the proteins and blood vessels. This decellularization gets rid of not just muscle cells, but also of human leukocyte antigens (HLAs). HLAs are the proteins that the body uses to know which cells to sic the immune system on. They’re passed down from parents to children, which is why siblings are the best possible donors for patients in need of kidneys or livers. The wrong HLA markers will cause a patient to reject organs. Stripping the HLAs will help transplant patients accept foreign tissue.

But before that happens, the team has to rebuild the tissue. They started with pluripotent stem cells, which they induced into forming cardiac muscle cells. The cardiac cells were grown in a tissue culture for several days, and then injected into the decellularized hearts. The hearts were put in a bioreactor—a device that supplies nutrients to the cells and sometimes gently moves the organs to encourage cell growth. After two weeks, the team found cardiac cells that, through immature, could contract like regular cardiac muscle tissue.

Recreating an entire human heart is still a few years away. The immediate next step are “myocardial patches” that will allow people who have suffered heart attacks to replaced badly damaged muscle tissue—without worrying about rejection.

[Circulation Research]

The World’s Smallest Pacemaker Can Be Implanted Without Surgery


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The World’s Smallest Pacemaker Can Be Implanted Without Surgery

4/07/16 1:03pm

Image: Medtronic

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved an injectable pacemaker that doesn’t require wired leads, which often lead to complications.

Image: Medtronic

The one-inch long Medtronic-built device, called the Micra Transcatheter Pacing System, is about a tenth the size of traditional pacemakers—making it the smallest in the world.

It’s intended for patients with atrial fibrillation (an irregular or rapid heart rate) and other dangerous arrhythmias, including bradycardia-tachycardia syndrome. The FDA approved the device in light of a Medtronic clinical trial involving 719 patients who were implanted with the device. After six months, around 98 percent of the patients experienced adequate heart pacing. A small fraction (7 percent) of patients experienced major complications, such as cardiac injuries, device dislocation, and blood clots.

Conventional pacemakers, which are surgically implanted, require wired leads that run from the pacemaker to an implant located just below the collarbone. These leads run through a vein directly into the heart’s right ventricle, delivering electrical impulses to treat irregular or stalled heart beats. The problem with these wires, aside from the clunkiness of it all, is that they sometimes malfunction. They can also cause problems when infections develop in the surrounding tissue, requiring a surgical procedure to replace the pacemaker.

Image: Medtronic

Micra doesn’t use wired leads at all. The device latches onto the heart using small hooks, where it delivers electrical pulses that keep the heart beating more regularly. The device is implanted through a thin 41-inch-long (105 cm) tube inserted into a vein in the patient’s groin. It travels through the vein, making its way to the heart’s right ventricle. Micra only paces the lower chamber of the heart, so it can’t be used for patients who need pacing in both the upper and lower chamber.

“As the first leadless pacemaker, Micra offers a new option for patients considering a single chamber pacemaker device, which may help prevent problems associated with the wired leads,” noted the FDA’s William Maisel in a press statement.

The FDA said it shouldn’t be used for patients who already have implanted devices, as they could interfere with pacemaker function. It also can’t be used for people who are severely obese, or who are intolerant to materials in the device or the blood thinner heparin.

[FDA, Medtronic]

George is a contributing editor at Gizmodo and io9.

Scientists Demonstrate Method of Turning Spinach Leaves Into Human Heart Tissue


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Scientists Demonstrate Method of Turning Spinach Leaves Into Human Heart Tissue 

Today 12:59pm

GIF: WPI

Spinach has long been understood to be good for your heart. But researchers have demonstrated that some day spinach could actually be your heart. Specifically, it could be used to repair damaged tissue by giving human heart tissue a plant-infused vascular system.

Scientists have previously fabricated human tissue with 3D printing, but the tiny blood vessels have proven to be a more difficult prospect for duplication. A team of researchers from several American universities has gone back to nature to solve that problem and their results are extremely encouraging.

Spinach leaves have fine veins that transport water and nutrients to the plant’s cells. The process that’s outlined in a new paper published inBiomaterials shows that the plant cells can be removed, leaving behind only the cellulose structure that keeps those cells in place.

The authors of the study write:

Cellulose, which is the most abundant component of plant cell walls, is a well-studied biomaterial for a variety of clinical applications. Cellulose is biocompatible and has been shown to promote wound healing. Furthermore, cellulosic tissue engineering scaffolds derived from decellularized apple slices have shown the ability for mammalian cell attachment and proliferation and were found to be biocompatible when implanted subcutaneously in vivo.

From there, they were able to seed live human cells onto the spinach scaffolding. Once the human tissue had grown around the network of veins, they were able to show that blood cells could flow through the system by pumping fluids and microbeads into it.

For patients with damage to their cardiac muscle tissue, this could be a game changer. New heart matter could be generated by using the altered plant veins as replacement blood vessels to deliver oxygen to the tissue.

We’re not nearly to the point that this could be implemented in surgery but the authors of the paper believe that it’s a viable first step towards “a new branch of science that investigates the mimicry between kingdoms, e.g. between plant and animal.”

I, for one, welcome a future in which I become part-plant, part-human.

[Biomaterials via National Geographic]

10 Cursed Lottery Winners


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10 Cursed Lottery Winners

SAM DUNSMORE MARCH 21, 2017

http://listverse.com/2017/03/21/10-cursed-lottery-winners/

Many people dream about winning the lottery; they believe that the money will solve all of their troubles. Unfortunately, the windfall can bring more problems than it solves. Most people do not know how to deal with their newfound wealth, and many of the winners go bankrupt.

Unfortunately, the money often attracts greedy people, who believe that they are entitled to some of the winnings. Family, friends, even strangers have no problem requesting small fortunes. Many become angry if they are not given exorbitant amounts of money.

The following people each had their lives—and their families’ lives—ruined by winning the lottery.

 

10Abraham Shakespeare

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Abraham Shakespeare won $30 million in the lottery, and he took a lump sum amount of $17 million. He was insistent that the money would not change him. Shakespeare had always been a kindhearted man, who helped those in need, and he intended to stay that way.

Unfortunately, Shakespeare’s kindness became common knowledge. People would walk up to him on the streets and bombard him with their hard-luck stories. He could not resist helping them. Shakespeare was equally generous with his friends, and his kindness was rapidly depleting his bank account.

He met a woman, Dorice Moore, who offered to help him manage his money. Moore opened an account with Shakespeare’s money. She spent $1 million on expensive cars and lavish vacations.

It was not enough; Moore wanted all of his money. She shot Shakespeare twice in the chest, and she buried his body in a field. She told his friends and family that he had left town, wanting to escape the people who kept asking for money.

Moore pretended that Shakespeare was alive for months. She sent Shakespeare’s son gifts; she sent messages from Shakespeare’s cellphone; she staged sightings of Shakespeare; she even hired someone to pose as Shakespeare to call his mother.

Shakespeare’s family was not fooled by Moore. They reported him as missing. Police soon found his body, and they immediately suspected Moore. She was arrested, found guilty, and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

9Urooj Khan

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Urooj Khan was delighted with his million-dollar win ($425,000 as a lump sum after taxes). He planned to put the money back into his business, and he wanted to make a donation to a children’s hospital.

Khan attended a press conference where he received an oversized check. Then he went home and had a traditional Indian dinner with his daughter, his wife, and his father-in-law. Khan was not feeling well after the meal, and he went to bed early. He woke up in agony, and he collapsed when he tried to stand. His wife dialed 911, and Khan was rushed to the hospital. He died the next day.

The medical examiner determined that Khan had died of natural causes; his death was attributed to a type of cardiovascular disease. No autopsy was performed.

Khan’s brother was suspicious of the sudden death. He asked the medical examiner to reinvestigate his brother’s body. This time they found a lethal amount of cyanide in Khan’s blood.

Police have searched for the murderer, but they have been unsuccessful so far. The case remains open.

 

8Andrew J. Whittaker Jr.

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Andrew Whittaker won $314.9 million; after taxes and a lump sum deduction, he received $113.4 million. He considered himself blessed. Whittaker immediately began donating money to charity. He gave millions to his church, and he created his own charity to help people find jobs, buy food, or get an education.

People soon started to ask for money. People sent him so many letters, that his charity had to hire three people to open them all. They spent more than eight hours a day just opening the letters.

Some people were not willing to wait for a donation. Several visitors showed up at his house every day to complain about their financial problems. A few of them became angry when he rejected them, and they threatened his family.

People started to sue Whittaker. He spent over $3 million fending offhundreds of lawsuits, nearly all of which were bogus.

Whittaker became stressed with the newfound attention. He started treating himself to frequent visits to strip clubs, and he started participating in high-stakes gambling. While he was at a strip club, he opened a briefcase that contained $545,000. Someone drugged him and stole the briefcase. The money was recovered, although the incident publicized his bad habits.

Although he was publicly disgraced, Whittaker was still adored by his family. He was especially close with his sole grandchild, Brandi. He had helped raise Brandi: her father was dead, and her mother, Whittaker’s daughter, had cancer.

He gave 15-year-old Brandi whatever she wanted, and Whittaker would randomly give her thousands of dollars. The cash attracted drug dealers, and she soon became addicted. He sent her to rehab, but it was unsuccessful.

Two years later, Brandi went missing. Her body was discovered wrapped in a plastic tarp. The cause of death was listed as unknown, although there wereillegal drugs in her system.

Brandi’s death put a strain on Whittaker’s family. He and his wife divorced; they had been married for 42 years. The next year his daughter—his only child—died.

Whittaker now wishes that he had torn the lottery ticket up.

7Jeffrey Dampier

7a

Jeffrey Dampier and his wife won $20 million in the lottery. They soon divorced, and each took half of the winnings. Jeffrey began dating Crystal Jackson. The couple moved to Florida, and they brought Crystal’s two sisters with them. Jeffrey supported the three women completely.

Victoria, Crystal’s sister, called Jeffrey and invited him to her home. When he arrived, he was confronted by Victoria and her boyfriend, Nathaniel. Even though Jeffrey supported Victoria, she and Nathaniel wanted more.

Nathaniel pulled a gun on Jeffrey. He ordered Victoria to bind Jeffrey’s wrists with shoelaces. They searched Jeffrey, and they found several thousand dollars in his pockets. It was not enough.

Nathaniel pointed his gun at Jeffrey and forced him into his van. Victoria drove while Nathaniel threatened Jeffrey with the gun. Nathaniel struck Jeffrey in the head multiple times while demanding more money. Victoria pulled over.

Nathaniel handed the gun to Victoria, and he told her “Shoot him or I’ll shoot you.” She shot and killed Jeffrey. Victoria and Nathaniel left. They were later arrested, and they both received multiple life sentences.

6Renné Senna

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Brazilian Renné Senna was not having a good life. He had worked in a butcher shop, but he had to quit when diabetes caused both of his legs to be amputated. Senna had to sell goods on the side of the road to survive. His wife could not take their new life. She took the kids and left.

In 2005, Senna’s life changed when he hit the lottery. He won R$52 million ($16.8 million). Senna quickly started dating another woman, Adriana Almeida, who was 25 years younger than him. They had been acquaintances for years; however, she started showing interest in him after his lottery win.

They were soon married, and Almeida became the administrator of herhusband’s estate. She convinced Senna to remove his 11 siblings from his will. He wrote a new will that left half of his money to Almeida.

Almeida had access to his bank accounts. She took R$1.8 million ($580,000) from their joint account and placed it into her own bank account. Senna was furious when he found out that she had used the money to buy a penthouse. He thought that she was having an affair—she was—and he confronted her. Senna warned Almeida that he would remove her name from his will. Almeida ran from the house.

A few days later Senna went to his favorite bar. Two armed men on motorcycles rode up and ordered Senna to hand over his money. They shot him four times in the head before they fled.

Police discovered that Almeida was behind the murder, and she was arrested. Almeida was found guilty, and she was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

 

5Lee R. Kost

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Lee Kost was happily retired when he won $250,000 on a lottery ticket. The money quickly caused him problems. His home was broken into multiple times; he lost a few thousand dollars and several pieces of expensive jewelry.

The win also introduced new people to Kost’s life. He met a teenaged woman, Porche Sweet. They pair decided to have dinner one evening, and Sweet went home with Kost.

Unfortunately, Sweet was planning to rob Kost. She left the front door unlocked, and she texted three friends that she was in his home. The trio took a cab to Kost’s home. They went upstairs to his bedroom—where Kost and Sweet were.

One of the thieves—Terrence Maya—began to pistol-whip Kost. He demanded to know the PIN to his credit cards. The other robbers looked around for Kost’s credit cards and money. After they found Kost’s valuables, Maya fatally shot Kost.

The group stole Kost’s Jaguar and fled. They were quickly pulled over for speeding. Police noticed the gun in the car, and the robbers were all arrested. Three of the robbers will each serve at least 23 years; Maya will be imprisoned for life.

4Craigory Burch Jr.

4a

Craigory Burch Jr. was stunned when he won $434,272 in a lottery drawing. Unfortunately, the windfall soon led to problems. Burch started to receive calls and text messages that warned him to be careful because people were planning to rob him.

Two months later the warnings became reality. A shotgun blast blew open Burch’s door, and several masked people stormed into his home. Burch was terrified: he was surrounded by his family, and he was holding his two-year-old. The robbers pointed their guns at Burch.

He begged them for mercy, and he offered them his bank card. Burch took off his pants and threw them at the robbers. They could not find his wallet. The robbers became angry, and they shot him in both legs before they left. However, they soon returned. The robbers shot Burch again before they left for good.

Fortunately, the robbers had spared Burch’s girlfriend and his children. His girlfriend ran to get help, but it was too late for Burch, who had died.

The robbers were caught, and seven people were charged in his death.

3Maria Lou Devrell

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David and Maria Lou Devrell were thrilled when they won $5 million. They hired their friend of 20 years, finance manager Peter Kelly, to help manage their money. The Devrells gave him power of attorney: he was given control over the couple’s spending, bank accounts, and bills. Peter was also allowed to take money from their accounts to pay himself for the financial assistance.

Peter did not approve of Maria’s spending habits. He stopped by the Devrell’s home to talk to her about her financials. The conversation quickly turned into an argument, and Peter and Maria started shoving each other.

Peter angrily left the house and went to his car. He returned with a rubber mallet that he had wrapped in plastic. Peter hit Maria over the head multiple times, and then he smothered her. He staged a robbery and then left.

Maria’s body was found later that day, and Peter was arrested two weeks later. He said that their argument began when he confronted her aboutspending the winnings too quickly. However, the court showed that Peter had caused the Devrell’s money troubles. Peter had invested the couple’s money poorly, and he had lost nearly $1 million. Maria had questioned Peter’s financial advice, and Peter did not want to lose control over the Devrell’s money.

Peter was sentenced to 13-18 years in jail.

2Arturo Eufemia

2a

Filipinos Arturo and Leticia Eufemia hit a P$19.6 million ($390,000) jackpot in the lottery. They kept P$5 million ($100,000) in cash, and they deposited the rest into their bank account. The couple tried to keep the win a secret, but they were unsuccessful.

Arturo started to have nightly drinking parties with his friends, whichannoyed his wife. Leticia and their daughter went to stay with relatives for a few days. Arturo continued to host his drinking parties.

One night, after all of his friends had left, a group of armed men confronted Arturo. They demanded money. Arturo became angry, and he pulled out his gun. He managed to shoot one of the robbers before they shot and killed him.

The thieves raided the Eufemias’ home. They took all the money they could find, and they left in the Eufemias’ new van. By the time the police arrived, the thieves were long gone.

Police managed to find the van, which was parked in front of the home of one of the robbers. Eventually, they arrested more than ten men. One of the thieves was Arturo’s cousin, Mayorico Guatno. It had been his idea to rob the Eufemias. He was angry at Arturo because Arturo had refused to lend himP$400,000 ($8,000).

1Bazil Thorne

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In 1960, Bazil Thorne won £100,000—over $1.5 million today—in a lottery. He and his family were featured on the front pages of newspapers: the articles included the family’s photo, names, address, and the prize amount.

The publicity drew the attention of Stephen Bradley, who wanted some of their winnings. Bradley decided to kidnap the Thorne’s eight-year-old son, Graeme, and hold him for ransom. Bradley watched the family, and he perfected his plan.

Graeme waited on the corner of a street for a family friend, Phyllis Smith, to pick him up for school. Unfortunately, Bradley got to the boy first. Bradley lured Graeme into his car, drove to a deserted street, and drugged Graeme. The boy lost consciousness.

Meanwhile, Phyllis was surprised that Graeme was not waiting for her. She went to talk to his mother, who became concerned. She called the police, and an officer stopped by the Thorne home. A few minutes later, the phone rang. Bradley said that he had Graeme, and he wanted £25,000 ($400,000 today) to return him.

Bradley called again twelve hours later. He told them that the money should be put into two paper bags, but he hung up before leaving any further instructions. Bradley was panicking because he had accidently over-druggedGraeme. The boy had died.

Several days passed, and there was no contact between the Thornes and Bradley. The police eventually discovered Graeme’s body in a deserted field. They were able to match the cypress tree twigs, and pink mortar found on Graeme’s body to Bradley’s home.

Bradley was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Astronaut in Space Sees Mount Etna Volcano Eruption (Photo)


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Astronaut in Space Sees Mount Etna Volcano Eruption (Photo)