Black dahlia murder
© Getty
The victim, who was nicknamed the Black Dahlia by the press, was an aspiring actress living in LA.
There's no doubt the beautiful, raven-haired young actress would have attracted attention as she arrived at the swanky Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles one cold day in January 1947.

But poignantly Elizabeth Short only realised true fame through her horrifying murder - which went on to become one of the most notorious unsolved cases in US history.

On the morning of January 15th that same year and one week after she was last seen alive at the Biltmore, the 22-year-old's naked and mutilated body was discovered abandoned on a grassy verge in a lonely corner of LA.

She had been cut in two neatly at the waist - and drained of blood with frightening precision.

The case was quickly dubbed The Black Dahlia, a play on the title of film noir classic The Blue Dahlia starring Veronica Lake which had been released the previous year - and reference to Short's jet-black hair, dark lacy clothes and mystery surrounding her short life.

Her grisly death has fascinated America ever since - and she has inspired everything from the name of a death metal band to video games, television shows and a major film based on a best-selling book about the case.

But despite the obsession, countless theories, more than 50 suspects and many bizarre confessions, 70 years later the case remains unsolved.

Until now...

A new book by British author Piu Eatwell, Black Dahlia Red Rose: America's Most Notorious Crime Solved For The First Time, claims that Short's life and horrible death were far removed from the legend that flowered up around her.

Eatwell said: "I lived and breathed the case for more than three years and based on the huge amount of evidence I've uncovered, I feel confident I've finally solved it...

"I felt very strongly that Elizabeth Short deserved some sort of justice."

While many at the time theorised the murder was a date turned violent or that Short had hitchhiked home one night and simply got into the wrong car, Eatwell has come to a strikingly different conclusion.

She trawled through thousands of official documents and previously unseen files obtained by a grand jury investigation to directly link Short's death to the seedy underbelly of 1940s Los Angeles, where gangsters, corrupt cops and powerful businessmen mixed in the same circles - and exploited vulnerable women.

Short was just such a vulnerable woman, Eatwell says, despite her being imagined as a film noir femme fatale.

As an aspiring actress she was irresistibly drawn to the City of Angels from the East Coast but then found herself frequently homeless and alone.

Just four years before her brutal murder she had been arrested for underage drinking while working as a clerk at a US army camp.

Her mutilated body was identified from fingerprints dating back to that arrest.

Indeed, the details of Short's death do not make easy reading.

Her body was discovered by Betty Bersinger, who was walking her young daughter along a barely developed street in the then-planned neighbourhood of Leimert Park when she stumbled across what she thought was two halves of a tailor's mannequin.

It was not. It was the corpse of Short who had been cut in half.

Her intestines had also been removed and and her mouth slashed from ear to ear tocreate a terrifying clown-esque smile on Short's once doll-like face.

Her body had then been washed clean of evidence before being dumped but a post-mortem still found Short had been tortured before she was killed.

But just who was the sick culprit?
murder investigation

Detectives examined evidence after the body was found, but the case remains unsolved.
Believed to have been grieving after the death of a man she fell in love with, Short reportedly befriended many men while frequenting popular jazz clubs in the city, making it nearly impossible to pin down who she could have been with before she died.

Eatwell begins her own hunt for the killer by homing in on the Aster Motel in downtown LA.

On the frosty morning of January 15th 1947, owner Henry Hoffman made a spine-chilling discovery when he went to check cabin 3 and found the room resembled a slaughterhouse, with blood and faeces spattered on the floor of the bedroom and all over the bathroom.

He then discovered that in neighbouring cabin 9 someone had left a bundle of women's clothes wrapped up in brown paper, also stained with blood.

While most people would immediately report these horrifying discoveries to the police, ex-con Hoffman had been arrested for beating his wife just four days earlier - so he set about cleaning up the mess, soaking and later burning the blood-stained sheets rather than coming under suspicion of the cops.

Incredibly, he didn't even say a word when detectives visited his motel later that week to make enquiries about the body of Short, which had been found nearby on the very morning of his own gruesome find.

Thanks to Hoffman police continued to follow hopeless leads and crucial evidence was destroyed.

Eatwell said: "Police went on record to the Press and said, 'She was a tramp, she was a slag - why do you all care?'

"They thought she was just another young female casualty of their corrupt world and the case would eventually blow over."

It was only a chance remark by the mother of a suspect that led the police back to the motel - and the likely site where Short's body was mutilated, believes Eatwell - when the case was reinvestigated two years later in 1949.
Leslie Dillon

Leslie Dillon, pictured at 27, was one of the key suspects in the grisly case.
But just how did the glamorous, aspiring actress come to meet her grisly fate at the rundown Aster Motel?

Tragically by January 1947, naive Short was penniless and all she had going for her was her youth and her looks which brought her to the attention of a wealthy Danish businessman Mark Hansen - who had connections with the mob.

Hansen allowed young women to stay in his house behind a nightclub he owned. Short stayed there on two occasions but their relationship was stormy and Hansen eventually threw her out.

She apparently refused to go quietly and Eatwell's theory is that Hansen then asked a low-life associate called Leslie Dillon to get rid of her, not realising he had put her in the hands of a sadistic psychopath.

While Hansen's name came up early in the murder inquiry he was one of countless suspects.

In fact, just about anyone who had come to the cops' attention was dragged into the sorry case. Even folk singer Woody Guthrie was briefly considered as suspect as he had previously attracted police interest because of his communist sympathies.
George Hodel
© Getty
George Hodel has also been named as one of the suspects in the notorious case.
In her book, Eatwell makes a compelling case that Short was murdered by Dillon at the Aster Motel, with or without the knowledge of Hansen.

The aspiring writer had previously worked as a mortician's assistant, where he learned how to bleed bodies before the embalming process.

Not only had Dillon admitted to wanting to write a "true detective" piece about the case, he also showed an interest in sadism and sexual psychopaths.

But despite a mass of evidence identifying him as the most likely culprit Dillon escaped trial.

Cops were by turns incompetent and corrupt by trying to protect powerful Hansen - who had seemingly used and discarded vulnerable Short.

One of the few people who got close to the truth was the then city editor of the Los Angeles Examiner, Jimmy Richardson, who wrote Short was: "a pitiful wanderer, ricocheting from one cheap job to another and from one cheap man to another in a sad search for a good husband and a home and happiness."

Indeed, police records reveal by the time of her murder, her teeth were falling out and she was filling cavities in her mouth with candle wax, a grim detail that exposes the real truth behind the Black Dahlia obsession.

Eatwell said: "Elizabeth remains an elusive figure who we'll never know much more about.

"But what needs to be made clear is that she didn't, as the police tried to suggest, deserve this death. Nobody deserves this.

"The case is the ultimate true-crime mystery and I hope my book places her back at the center of the story and reminds people that she was an innocent woman whose life was savagely extinguished."

Officially the case remains open but like the 19th Century killings by Jack the Ripper in London, Short's murder continues to bring forth new theories.

Recently Steve Hodel, a former homicide detective, claimed his physician father George was the killer - and also responsible for other notable American murders.

Meanwhile, another author who examined the case found that rather than the Biltmore's, many talkative Los Angeles barmen claimed their joint was, in fact, the last place Short was seen alive.

Today, The Biltmore Hotel bar serves a Black Dahlia cocktail of vodka, kahlua and black raspberry liqueur.

It tastes, fittingly, bitter.

Want to read more about unsolved cases?

This is the terrifying mystery of the child found in a cardboard box... whose identity remains unknown 60 years later.

And here are Britain's most notorious murders that have left cops baffled.