Friday 31 August 2012

Serial  killers  (Part 1)

It seems that most people believe that Jack the Ripper was the first known serial killer who killed five prostitutes and possibly more in London, England but in fact, whoever he was, no one knew who he really was and he certainly wasn’t the first known serial killer. There were obviously serial killers many centuries ago but the first recorded instance of a serial killer took place in the fifteenth century when Gilles de Rais popped into the world in 1404.  By the year 1427, he fought the English alongside of Joan of Arc. It wasn’t until 1440, that it was learned by the authorities that he had sexually abused, tortured, mutilated and finally murdered at least 37 boys whose bodies were discovered in his castle but it is believed that he murdered many more than the number of young boys. For his crimes, he was hanged on October 21, 1440.

 A serial killer is traditionally defined as an individual who has killed three or more people over a period of more than a month, with down time (a cooling off period) between the murders, and whose motivation for killing is psychological gratification of some sort or another. The FBI has disregarded the three or more criteria, and defined the term ‘serial killer’ as someone who has committed a series of two or more murders, which were committed as separate events, usually, but not always, by one offender acting alone. Serial killers are not the same as mass murderers. nor are they spree killers who commit murders in two or more locations with virtually no break in between.

 Many serial killers generally have faced similar problems in their childhood development as other killers have. The child's environment (either their parents or society or both) can be a dominant factor in whether or not the child's behavior escalates into homicidal activity. This doesn’t necessarily mean that if a child is brought up by rotten parents, he or she will automatically be a killer later in life. Most children who have lived with these kinds of parents have grown into being responsible and law-abiding adults. Further, some children who grew up in a home with loving and caring parents turned out to be killers later in their teens or when they were adults. Obviously there are other factors that come into play that helps to generate a normal child into being a killer and even a serial killer.

 Nearly half of the known serial killers had experienced some type of physical and sexual abuse and even more had experienced emotional neglect. The neglect of the child by his or her parents leads to the lowering of their self-esteem and helps develop a fantasy world in which they are in control.  If a child receives no support from those around him or her, then he or she is unlikely to recover from the traumatic event in a positive way.

 Children who do not have the power to control the mistreatment they suffer from sometimes create a new reality to which they can escape. This new reality becomes their fantasy that they have total control of and becomes part of their daily existence.

The child can become sociopathic because the normal development of the concepts of right and wrong and empathy towards others is retarded because of the child's emotional and social development that occurs within his self-centered fantasies. A person can do no wrong in his own world and the pain of others is of no consequence when the purpose of the fantasy world is to satisfy the needs of one person. Boundaries between fantasy and reality are lost and fantasies turn to dominance, control, sexual conquest, and violence, eventually leading to murder of one human being and in many cases, more human beings.

 Sociopaths when they were children were likely to express their anger and feelings of inadequacy in aggressive acts towards younger and/or smaller children and also against small animals. They will have despised authority figures and may have even sought attention by setting fires or breaking windows. Some of them acted this way because they were brutalized by their parents when they were children.

 Contrary to popular belief, deprivation of love and attention isn’t confined exclusively to impoverished families. Children born in homes of splendor can also suffer from the loss of love and attention from their parents. If children are deprived of emotional sustenance and no one shows an interest in them other than catering to their basic material needs, they may grow up lacking empathy and compassion and see human beings as objects instead as people who have feelings. But even if their home life is comparatively normal, if they are bullied at school, their emotional development can be stunted.

 Empathy for others is a trait that almost everyone has but sociopaths do not have any empathy for anyone at all. Imagine having no conscious at all, no feeling or remorse, and no feeling of guilt for what you have done to another human being.  That is the description of a sociopath. They are selfish, immoral, have no shame at what they have done to others by being harmful to others. In other words, they are completely free from any kind of emotional restraints that would normally govern the rest of us.

 The ability for serial killers to appreciate the mental life of others is severely compromised, thereby leading them towards their dehumanization of other fellow human beings. In other words, they are completely free from any kind of emotional restraints that the rest of us are subjected to.

 In addition, sociopaths have a greater need for stimulation which results in them taking greater risks that a normal person would take such as continuing to commit a series of murders even when apprehension is close at hand. Further, to them, the hunt is just as exciting as the kill.

 As a group, sociopaths are cunning, prone to lying to get what they want and have the ability to charm their victims into following them to the place where they will be murdered.

 Here are some frightening statistics. One in twenty-five people are sociopaths and some of them are capable of turning into serial killers if the opportunity arises. They know the difference between what is right and what is wrong but they don’t care. Terrorists who randomly kill innocent persons are sociopaths because they don’t care what they do to their fellow human beings.

 Determining who is a sociopath is extremely difficult to say the least. Just because a neighbour is grouchy all the time and a nuisance to his neighbours doesn’t necessarily make him a sociopath. And just because a neighbour acts like a saint doesn’t necessarily mean that he isn’t a sociopath.  Further, just because a neighbour doesn’t appear to have a conscience, doesn’t necessarily mean that he is a sociopath. Many people don’t appear to have a conscience and yet, they don’t turn into serial killers. In the day-to-day course of events in our lives, we are generally unable to determine if a person is a sociopath or not one.

 People who don’t have a conscience have an uncanny sense of who will be vulnerable to a sexual promise so it follows that seduction is one of a sociopath’s tools at getting his or her victims to go with them to their doom. Sexual seduction is only one aspect of their forte. They have developed the skill of acting to such a degree that they convince the victim that they have an intense interest in the victim’s problem so that the victim unknowingly places all his or her trust into the hands of the sociopath. 

 Generally people are susceptible to another’s behavior if that person appears to be benevolent, caring or sympathetic. This is the time when our guard is down. And often the serial killer doesn’t look like a serial killer at all. Ted Bundy, for example was extremely handsome to such a degree that even after he was convicted and sentence to death for the murder of so many women, there were other woman writing him telling him that they wanted to marry him.

 Serial killers are malignant narcissists who are cold, ruthless, sadistic and cynically calculating and yet, they are skilled at concealing their aggressive intent behind the façade of normalcy.

 Some sociopaths strive for fame and in a society where there is pressure to succeed, they will go out of their way to be more violent and brutal than others of the same ilk. 

Often serial killers who are well organized are intelligent and they plan their crimes quite methodically, usually abducting victims, killing them in one place and disposing of them in another. They will often lure the victims with ploys appealing to their sense of sympathy. For example, Ted Bunday would put his arm in a fake plaster cast and ask women to help him carry something to his car, where he would beat them unconscious with a tire iron, and carry them away. Others specifically target prostitutes such as Robert Pickton who are likely to go voluntarily with a stranger. (Both will be written about in later articles)  They maintain a high degree of control over the crime scene,  and usually have a solid knowledge of forensic science that enables them to cover their tracks, such as burying the body or weighing it down and sinking it in a river. More often than not, an organized serial killer is intelligent enough to find work so that he or she will appear normal to his neighbours and friends. 

Disorganized serial killers, on the other hand, often have average to below average intelligence, with a mean IQ of 92.5. They are usually far more impulsive, often done with a random weapon available at the time, and usually not attempting to hide the body. They are likely to be unemployed, a loner, or both, with very few friends. They often turn out to have a history of mental illness and their modus operandi or lack thereof is often marked by excessive violence and sometimes necrophilia (having sex with dead bodies) and/or sexual violence.

Oddly enough, the most successful serial killers (those who aren’t caught for a very long time) tend to be opportunists who attack lone women and children in secluded places where these unfortunate victims happen to be.

 Some serial killers have a pathological interest in the power of life and death. Some feel that in killing their victims, they are assuming the role of God. Ted Bundy explained his thoughts in this when he said, “You feel the last bit of breath leaving their body. You’re looking into their eyes. A person in that situation is God.”

 Other serial killers are attracted to medical professions or acquiring such a job. These kinds of killers are sometimes referred to as angels of death or angels of mercy. Some medical professionals will kill their patients for money, for a sense of sadistic pleasure, for a belief that they are "easing" the patient's pain, or simply because they can do it. One such killer was nurse, Jane Topan, who admitted during her murder trial that she was nsexuallyt arroused by death.  She would administer a drug mixture to patients she chose as her victims, lie in bed with them and hold them close to her body as they died.

 Female serial killers are rare. They tend to murder men for material gain, are usually emotionally close to their victims, and generally need to have a relationship with the victim, hence the cultural image of the Black Widow.  (That spider eats its mate) Victims are not confined to males/husbands, as one analysis of 86 female serial killers from the U.S. found that the victims tended to be spouses, children or the elderly.

 Sex is the primary motive of lust killers,  whether or not the victims are dead, and fantasy plays a large role in their killings. Their sexual gratification depends on the amount of torture and mutilation they perform on their victims. They usually use weapons that require close contact with the victims, such as knives or hands. As lust killers continue with their murders, the time between killings decreases or the required level of stimulation increases, sometimes both

 Kenneth Bianch,  one of the two Hillside Stranglers murdered women and girls of different ages, races and appearance because his sexual urges required different types of stimulation and increasing intensity.Jeffrey Dahmer searched for his perfect fantasy lover—beautiful, submissive and eternal. As his desire increased, he experimented with drugs, alcohol, and exotic sex. His increasing need for stimulation was demonstrated by the dismemberment of victims, whose heads and genitals he preserved, and by his attempts to create a "living zombie" under his control (by pouring acid into a hole drilled into the living victim's skull). Dahmer once said, "Lust played a big part of it.

 The primary motive of some serial killers is to be a thrill killer and as such, induce pain or terror in their victims, which provides stimulation and excitement for the killer. They seek the adrenaline rush provided by hunting and killing victims. Serial killers who are thrill-killers murder only for the thrill of killing an innocent victim. Generally their slaughter of their victims is not necessarily prolonged, and there is no sexual aspect. Usually the victims are strangers to them although the killer may have followed them for a period of time. Thrill killers can abstain from killing for long periods of time and become more successful at killing as they refine their murder methods.  Many attempt to commit the perfect crime and believe they will not be caught. In one of his letters to San Francisco Bay Area  newspapers, the Zodiac Killer wrote, “[killing] gives me the most thrilling experience it is even better than getting your rocks off with a girl.”

 Henry Lee Lucas, an American serial killer once said that killing to him became the same thing as having sex. Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper said, “Killing prostitutes had become an obsession with me. I could not stop myself. It was like a drug.”  Albert Fish, an American serial killer of children and a cannibal to boot said, “I have always had the desire to inflict pain on others and to have others inflict pain on me. I seem to enjoy everything that hurt. The desire to inflict pain—that is all that is uppermost.”

 Strangely enough, most serial killers are or were living in the United States and that is where they killed their victims. I have a list of over 200 serial killers who committed murder in the United States alone. That is probably because the US has over three hundred million people living in it. It has been estimated that there are between 35-50 active serial killers in the United States at any given time.  If that is so, then why haven’t most of them been apprehended?  The reason is probably because the police haven’t yet connected the murders to individual sources.

 It is scary when you think about it. The person you are sitting next to in a streetcar or on a bus may very well be a serial killer looking for his or her next victim. The motorist who offers you a ride may have just killed a victim an hour ago. Alas, this is the risk that all of us take when we step out of our homes. To paraphrase an old cliché, “It is the luck of the draw.” 

One thing you can be sure of is that it is rare indeed that serial killers paste newspaper clipping of their crimes on a wall or keep a drawer full of souvenirs from their victims.  They know that if anyone is snooping in their room, the serial killer will be discovered. 
I have written this brief explanation about serial killers so that when you read about various serial killers in future articles in my blog, you will have an understanding as to what may have motivated them to commit their horrendous crimes. 

 As an appendage to this article, I wish to add something with respect to capital punishment. For many decades I have been against capital punishment and my speech at a UN conference and earlier my paper read by the members of the Canadian parliament  in 1976 pointed out the dangers of executing innocent people. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said that this was a big problem they had to deal with.   For example, in the United States alone, there were as many as 140 persons who were on death row who were later released as the DNA evidence was proof enough that they hadn’t committed the crimes they were accused of having committed. I did however emphasize that I felt then and still do now that there are certain kinds of murderers who should be executed once it is established that they are truly guilty. I am speaking of terrorists, torture killers, people who make snuff films, mass killers and serial killers. The money keeping these horrible human beings alive in prison can be better spent elsewhere.

 In my next article on Serial Killers (Part 2), I will tell you about a serial killer in Russia who killed many children and evaded capture for many years before the police finally discovered who he was and where he lived.

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