Ira Samuel Einhorn, nicknamed the ‘Unicorn’ as his surname translates to ‘one horn’ in German, spent 16 years on the run after murdering his girlfriend Helen ‘Holly’ Maddux in 1977 in Philadelphia, America. Einhorn’s case is unique in that while his crime was a grisly one, it is often overshadowed by the events leading up to his imprisonment, and is regularly cited as an example of the conceptual differences between the American and continental European legal systems. The American murderer became a cause celebre for human rights in France where he was initially arrested.

Einhorn was born into a middle-class Jewish family but developed into a bona fide left wing radical by the time he was in his twenties. He was a symbol and a prominent figurehead of the youth-driven movement in the sixties that stood in opposition to America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Instantly recognisable as ‘Philadelphia’s head hippie’, he was a large burly man with electric blue eyes and an unkempt beard, and he seldom washed or bathed.

However, he was a master of rhetoric and he had networking skills that drew many important and famous people to the cause of freedom and peace that he preached. The self-styled ‘Prince of Flower Power’ and ‘Guru of Peace and Love’ was revered and admired by many of the leading intellectuals of Philadelphia and America. A brilliant student at the University of Pennsylvania, he counted as friends many of the authors of the Beat generation, such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac; he hobnobbed with celebrities including Isaac Asimov, Peter Gabriel and Uri Geller; and hung out with the Yippie (Youth International Party) crowd, including their founders Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. Pot-smoking, LSD-popping, free-loving Einhorn was the toast of Philadelphia.

Strangely, he also endeared himself to the corporate set, who were entranced by his convincing predictions of future trends of anything from computer science to quantum physics to New Age management. He was intelligent, a voracious reader and his ability to influence people was magnetic. He sold blueprints of the future to Fortune 500 company CEOs, convincing them that their money could save the world through ecological awareness. He was a speaker at the inaugural 1970 Earth Day rally in Philadelphia and was reportedly its creator, although its organisers disputed this claim. In 1977, he even held a fellowship at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Einhorn had been going out with Holly Maddux, his beautiful and gracefully delicate girlfriend, for five years when she disappeared in 1977. Originally from Tyler, Texas, Maddux was a blue-eyed former cheerleader, had been a brilliant student at Bryn Mawr College and had then turned her energies to the women’s liberation movement. She was drawn to Einhorn as one of the political icons of their day. However, although an advocate of peace and non-violence, the hulking Einhorn treated her poorly, as he had with previous girlfriends. His behaviour extended to physical abuse, smashing a soft drink bottle on one girlfriend’s head and even attempting to strangle another.

Tiring of his violence, Maddux moved to New York where she began a relationship with a kind and gentle man named Saul Lapidus. She called Einhorn from New York to sever their relationship. He flew into a temper and commanded her to return to Philadelphia to collect her belongings, which he threatened to throw out into the street. Maddux left for Philadelphia on 9th September 1977 and was never seen alive again.