Jennifer Fergate died from a gunshot wound to the head. But the question is, who pulled the trigger? Her death was ruled a suicide, but as the mystery surrounding her death unfolded, questions were raised about how she really died.
Fergate was found in an Oslo Hotel room, dead from a gunshot wound and holding a gun in her hand. On its surface, the case appeared to be a clear-cut suicide. But the mystery deepened the further investigators looked into the case.
“Death in Oslo” is the second episode of Netflix’s Unsolved Mysteries Volume 2. The new season is released Monday, October 19, 2020, at midnight Eastern time.
Here’s what you need to know:
Jennifer Fergate Checked Into the Oslo Hotel Using a Fake Name & Said She Was With a Husband, Lois
The woman found in a Norway hotel identified herself as Jennifer Fergate, but investigators quickly discovered she had given a fake name when she checked in, according to VG. In fact, she had lied about several things. She checked in giving a birthdate that would make her 21, but an autopsy found she was about 30. And, she checked in as though she was part of a couple – Jennifer and Lois Fergate – leading investigators on a hunt for a husband named Lois.
Fergate’s body was found by the head of security at the Oslo Plaza hotel shortly after 8 p.m. on June 5, 1995. Fifteen minutes earlier, hotel guests heard a gunshot. The security guard saw the woman lying on the bed, called out and heard no answer. He closed the door and waited for police, who arrived 30 minutes later. The door was doubled locked, he said, according to Dark Ideas.
The mystery deepened as police investigated the crime scene. There was no identification in the room, the window was open, there were no labels on her clothes and a skirt was missing.
There Was No Gunshot Residue or Blood Found on the Hand Holding the Gun
One of the major contradictions in the case revolves around the lack of blood and gunshot residue on Fergate’s hand, but crime scene experts say a person will not necessarily have a positive test result for GSR in a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Fergate was shot in the head with a Browning Hi-Power, commonly issued to the military, according to Dark Ideas. It was a common gun in Europe following the start of the Balkans War in the early 1990s. The serial number on the gun was removed with acid, and 34 rounds of ammunition were also collected into evidence.
A second shot was fired into a pillow, which investigators described as a “test shot” before turning the gun on herself. No fingerprints could be retrieved from the gun, and investigators told VG the surface made fingerprint transfer difficult.
The “test shot”, additional ammo and obliterated serial number added to theories about Fergate’s identity and the true way she died. A forensic pathologist found there was blood splatter on the wall and ceiling, but not on her hand. Investigators were perplexed by the lack of blood on the hand she would have used to pull the trigger, and the lack of gunshot residue, especially if she fired two shots.
Bernd Karger, a senior physician and lecturer at the University of Munster’s Institute of Legal medicine who has written papers on distinguishing between homicide and suicide, told VG’s Lars Wegner the lack of blood and GSR indicate she did not kill herself but do not prove it.
“Theoretically you would find both blood and gunshot residue, but in practice you don’t always,” he said. “For me the two negative findings are an indication that she did not shoot herself, but not proof… it is something that should be treated as a problem in the investigation.”
So, can you fire a gun and have no gunshot residue on your hand? It’s common for gunshot residue to no longer be present on a suspect’s hands between the time a gun was fired and the time a person’s hands are tested for GSR. After about six to eight hours, investigators won’t expect to find gunshot residue due to handwashing and other activities. But Fergate was clearly not washing her hands in death.
Crime Scene Investigator Network details misconceptions about gunshot residue evidence.
“A common misconception is that a negative GSR result is proof that a person did not actually fire a weapon. There are several mechanisms as to why someone who fired a gun could test negative for GSR,” the Crime Laboratory Division Missouri State Highway Patrol writes.
A person might have gunshot residue on their hands but have a negative test result because of particle detection limits, police explained. The tests require a certain amount of GSR to be present, and the residue particles may be below the detectable amount. In addition, blood or other moisture can make it difficult to produce an accurate test.
“Furthermore, blood or other moisture can defeat the adhesive on the kit collection stubs so that GSR present on the hand may not be effectively transferred to the stubs,” the article continued. “With this reasoning, a negative result can occur when the wound was self-inflicted.”