In one of history’s most famous cases of body-snatching, two men steal the corpse of the revered film actor Sir Charles Chaplin from a cemetery in the Swiss village of Corsier-sur-Vevey, located in the hills above Lake Geneva, near Lausanne, Switzerland, on this day in 1978.
After a five-week investigation, police arrested two auto mechanics–Roman Wardas, of Poland, and Gantscho Ganev, of Bulgaria–who on May 17 led them to Chaplin’s body, which they had buried in a cornfield about one mile from the Chaplin family’s home in Corsier. That December, Wardas and Ganev were convicted of grave robbing and attempted extortion. Political refugees from Eastern Europe, Wardas and Ganev apparently stole Chaplin’s body in an attempt to solve their financial difficulties. Wardas, identified as the mastermind of the plot, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years of hard labor. As he told it, he was inspired by a similar crime that he had read about in an Italian newspaper. Ganev was given an 18-month suspended sentence, as he was believed to have limited responsibility for the crime. As for Chaplin, his family reburied his body in a concrete grave to prevent future theft attempts.
– History.com Staff