On December 5th, 2021, the historically wealthy Windsor family returned from their annual lake trip to find their ancestral home had burned the ground. The family patriarch Maxim Windsor seemed shocked and deeply upset – unlike his daughter Laura, who always acted calm and collected. Maxim immediately called the police to report a possible arson, although it was not clear who could have started the fire, since the house staff had also been away on vacations of their own.
Upon close inspection of the ruins of the home, the police found several clues to suggest that the fire may have been started intentionally. None of the nearby forest and greenery that surrounded the home were set alight. Additionally, there were traces of butane (a highly flammable substance) discovered in both the kitchen and the living room of the grand property.
When the police interviewed the Windsors, Laura was the first to suggest that Maxim had started the fire. She told the police that the family had a crushing debt of over $50 million, and none of them had a job to pay it off. Moreover, the family could not simply sell their assets to cover the debt since these assets were obtained illegally, including many stolen paintings and historical artifacts. On the other hand, the family home carried a fire insurance policy valued at over $50 million.
Rebecca admitted to the police that Maxim had recently purchased butane, with the explanation that he would be using it for their lake picnic barbecue. While Maxim did in fact handle the barbecue, the receipt for his purchase showed that he had bought far more butane than would be needed for the picnic. On the other hand, Rebecca also noted that she had found a brand new lighter in Laura’s room, which was odd because Laura didn’t smoke or own any candles.
Did Maxim start the fire? Try mapping out the evidence on both sides using the puzzle links above!
1. If you were the police, what questions would you ask Maxim Windsor?
2. What questions would you ask Laura Windsor?
3. What scientific tests would you run in order to learn more about how the fire started or who started it?
4. Does mapping out the evidence on each side of the case help you think through it more clearly?
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