Most famous assassins haven’t bothered with disguises, but the ones who did are perhaps the most interesting to learn about.
For instance, in 2013, a group of Mexicans dressed as clowns assassinated Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix, a member of the Arellano Felix drug cartel family. While he was attending a children’s birthday party, the ‘clowns’ shot him, once in the thorax and once in the head.
Often called a terrorist rather than an assassin, Carlos the Jackal, born Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, was a killer for hire. Trained in guerrilla warfare, weapons and sabotage, Carlos also gathered information on people he felt were worth kidnapping or assassinating. He was a bold, merciless killer, often walking into a place, shooting or throwing a grenade, then calmly walking out again. It might be surprising that it took so long for authorities to catch him, but then, he was known as a master of disguise and used fake documentation to authenticate each disguise. It’s thought that, due to this, many murders he didn’t commit were blamed on him. In 1985, he was so famous that no one would hire him, and was finally apprehended in 1994. Responsible for the deaths of more than 80 people, in 1997 he was eventually sentenced to life imprisonment.
In 1973, ETA – Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, or Basque Homeland and Freedom – operators posed as sculpture students and rented an apartment along Prime Minister Luis Carrero Blanco’s driving route. From the apartment, they dug a tunnel across the road that Blanco travelled weekly. That done, they filled the tunnel with explosives and, on the day, disguised themselves as electricians, waited for Blanco’s car to pass by, and detonated the explosives, killing Blanco. It just goes to show that disguises don’t need to be complicated – as long as you don’t look out of place or suspicious, any old uniform will do, and people tend to not notice the face behind the uniform.
Perhaps the easiest – and most devious – disguise was that of Bolivian painter Benjamin Mendoza Flores. In 1970, Flores disguised himself as a priest and stabbed Pope Paul VI at the airport. Though the pope was badly hurt, he survived the attack.
Potential victims, too, can effectively use disguises, as President Lincoln has shown. In 1860, on his way to be inaugurated, a close friend uncovered an assassination plot against Lincoln, so he disguised himself as a frail old woman, complete with a dress, shawl and walking cane, thus foiling the assassination plot.