jonbenet ramsey
John (R) and Patsy Ramsey MARIO TAMA/AFP/Getty Images

It is one of America's most famous cold cases that is shrouded in mystery: the death of JonBenét Ramsey. The murder of the six-year-old child beauty queen in 1996 has recently made headlines after several documentaries on US network CBS aired in September, sparking a media storm around the unsolved investigation.

Following the appearance of Burke Ramsey, the victim's brother, on The Dr Phil Show where the 29-year-old openly discussed his sibling's murder – with a smile across his face the whole time – another CBS television show further delved into the murder in a two-part series called The Case Of: JonBenét Ramsey.

In the series, former FBI special agent Jim Clemente and his team appeared to come to an agreement about who they believed killed the beauty queen 20 years ago – her brother Burke, then nine years old.

They hypothesised that it was accidental rather than intentional, claiming that Burke had already struck his sister with a golf club after "losing his temper" – leaving her with a scar on her face a year before her death. They believed he had hit JonBenét on the head with a flashlight after she ate some of his pineapple before their parents covered up the crime.

Both Burke and his parents, John and Patsy, deny having anything to do with JonBenét's death.

When JonBenét was found dead in the basement of the family home in Boulder, Colorado, her mouth was covered by duct tape and the results of the autopsy revealed that she had been killed by strangulation and a skull fracture.

John Ramsey speaks out

John Ramsey has now broken his silence in the wake of last month's television special about his daughter's death, giving a rare interview refuting the allegations made during the programme.

jonbenet ramsey
A woman places a note on the grave of JonBenet Ramsey August 16, 2006 in Marietta, Georgia Barry Williams/Getty Images

He told Meshel Laurie, host of Australian radio station KISS 101.1: "It's kind of a mixed blessing — on the one hand it brings up emotions again, but on the other hand it keeps the case alive, which is important. I don't want it to be forgotten." He stated that the family are "still hopeful that we'll get a resolution" two decades on.

Referring to the claims made against the Ramseys, Laurie remarked that she could understand how a parent would want to protect their child if they had accidentally killed a sibling.

"I don't think it would even make you a bad person," she said.

John replied: "Well that's just nonsensical. The CBS show that came out, it was disgraceful. We will sue them. Let's assume that Burke accidentally hit JonBenét, accidentally or intentionally, as this CBS show claims.

"What would you do as a parent? Would you say, 'OK, let's strangle her, let's write a three-page ransom note and fake the whole thing?' No, you'd have said, 'Let's get her to the hospital immediately'. To think that a parent would do that doesn't pass the common sense test. It's nonsense, and I don't know how to respond to that," he added.

John went on to declare that his son Burke was aware from a young age about the public suspicion that he was responsible for his sister's death.

burke ramsey
Burke Ramsey speaks about his sister's murder on The Dr Phil Show Dr Phil Show

He continued: "Keep in mind, Burke was a nine-year-old child who weighed 60 pounds. This was a very brutal, savage murder. We tried to shield Burke from the tabloid headlines, but I'm sure Burke knew it was 'out there' by the time he was 12 or 13."

Discussing his son's awkward smiling during the Dr Phil Show (read the IBTimes UK's exclusive body language verdict on this), John explained: "I was with Burke a couple of days ago, and I was watching him when he was talking. He naturally smiles when he talks — that's just Burke."

Laurie then asked John to recount the series of events following his daughter's disappearance, and later the discovery of her with a blanket on top of her in the basement of the family home. John recalled that he was in the upstairs bathroom early on Boxing Day 1996 when he heard his wife Patsy scream his name.

He went on: "She'd found a ransom note on the stairway. I checked JonBenét's room at the same time, and we immediately called the police."

JonBenét Ramsey was murdered at the age of six CBS

On discovering JonBenét, he said: "We opened the door to the wine cellar and immediately saw JonBenét lying there. It was a rush of relief — I said, 'Thank god, I've got my child back' — but I quickly realised it wasn't good."

John carried his daughter's lifeless body upstairs and laid her on the floor. He said: "I just screamed. I guess I didn't want to admit she wasn't alive — I thought I could revive her or get her medical help. I quickly realised that wasn't going to happen."

Referring to the mounting suspicions of the family during the murder investigation, John said: "We have a good friend who is a former district attorney. He said, 'you need to get the best defence lawyers you can get'. This was within a couple of days after the murder.

"The police attitude is, 'You don't need a lawyer if you're innocent.' Well, that's not true at all. If you're innocent and you're dealing with the police, you'd better have a very good lawyer."

He claims that he and wife Patsy – who died from ovarian cancer in 2006 – became public scapegoats for the crime.

JonBenet Ramsey
Patsy Ramsey answers a reporters question as her husband John Ramsey listens during a press conference in Atlanta where they released the results of the independent lie detector test in May, 2000 Reuters

John added: "Even hardcore criminals wouldn't harm a child. It's a horrible crime and people want an answer — so the easiest answer is, 'Well it must've been the parents'. They don't want to accept that someone could come in your home, take your child from your bed, and murder them. I never expected that."

New theories

However, the JonBenét murder theories are still stirring the pot as the sensational documentary suggested that her parents could be heard asking "What have you done?" after making a 911 call.

JonBenet Ramsey
Six-year-old JonBenet Ramsey was found murdered in her upscale Colorado home the morning after Christmas in 1996. WikiCommons

CBS investigators claimed that they deciphered six seconds of audio after the victim's frantic mother made an emergency call to the police – using modern technology to interpret the muffled voices.

They claim that a woman can be heard saying "What did you do? Help me, Jesus," while JonBenét's then nine-year-old brother Burke answered: "What did you find?"

The show also analysed the bizarrely long ransom letter that the family found in their home, and looked into another theory concerning Michael Helgoth, whose family owned a junkyard in the city.

Since the documentary aired, the Ramsey family have threatened to sue the CBS network – with the family lawyer, L. Lin Wood, claiming that the show's accusation against Burke "is a false and unprofessional television attack". She warned that the family will sue for libel.

Cold case facts

JonBenét was found dead in the "wine cellar" of the family home with a nylon cord around her neck and her wrists tied above her head on Boxing Day 1996.

The official cause of death was asphyxiation due to strangulation associated with craniocerebral trauma – and there was no evidence of conventional rape.

Results of the autopsy revealed that the little girl had eaten pineapple only a few hours before her death – and photographs of the home taken on the day she was found show a bowl of pineapple on the kitchen table with a spoon in it.

No one has been charged with her murder and the case remains unsolved.