Professor Travels with Two Heads…In Designer Handbags


Composite image by Anderson Graphics.

Hunter Doxtater, Staff Reporter

Gianfranco Stevanin was a serial killer in Italy who killed six women, and was finally was caught between 1993 and 1994. Italy wanted him gone so badly they asked a professor at the University of Dundee to help them out. 

Professor Sue Black is a forensic anthropologist, anatomist and academic. She is highly respected in the United Kingdom. But whilst in Italy she was given two human heads to study back at her lab in Scotland, using a technique unavailable to Italian authorities at the time.

When it was time for Sue to go back to Scotland, there probably would have been a little concern carrying two human heads through airport security. [Can you imagine being the guy operating the x-ray scanner?] So Italy gave her a note in English and Italian so she didn’t have to get tackled to the ground and be put in handcuffs on the spot.

“So what they decided they would do was to put each of the heads into white buckets that you could seal,” she said. Then put the buckets into designer Italian bags so it didn’t look obvious. 

Once on the plane, Black gave the stewardess the letter. The airline employee was completely and utterly horrified, but then put the professor into business class…by herself. “…which I thought was very nice,” Prof. Black told the BBC.

Going through security in the UK, the security guard at Heathrow airport asked her what was in the bags. She did not hold back. She gave him a detailed description of what he would find in the bag, two heads in a state of decomposition. 

“He sort of turned a bit green and went ‘Nah you can go’,” she remembered. 

Prof. Sue Black used this story in an interview to promote her new memoir called Written in Bone, a follow up to her other book All that Remains.