Monday, 27 April 2015

Serial killer (Part 4)

In this article, I am going to explain to you as to what makes a serial killer want to murder innocent people. But first, I should point out to you that in the 1970s, I studied abnormal psychology at the University of Toronto for nine months as part of a four-year program on criminology. I also did group counselling with mentally ill prisoners for a year. One of my papers on the effects of alcohol on the human mind is required reading at McMaster University’s Anthropology program. This didn’t make me an expert in psychology or psychiatry but it did give me some understanding of the human mind.

A serial killer is a person who has murdered three or more people over a period of more than a month, with down time between each of the murders. Sometimes these murders are committed by two people who are committing the crimes as a team. They can be husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, or part of a homicidal cult.

Most victims are not robbed of valuables because the killers don’t want that kind of evidence to be found in their possession. The victims are for the most part strangers although there have been instances when the killers knew the victims. Between 1800 and 1995, 70 percent of 326 male serial killers studied killed only strangers.

The motivation for serial killing is usually based on some form of psychological gratification. Most serial killings involve some form of sexual contact with the victim however their motives can also include anger, a thrill, financial gain, and attention seeking. The murders may be attempted or completed in a similar fashion and the victims may have something in common such as race, appearance, sex, or age group, For example, Ted Bundy chose his victims who were white, whose hair was parted down the centre, who were women and were young. Some serial killers will only choose women that are older and who remind them of their mothers whom they hate. 

Serial murder is not the same as mass murder which generally occurs in one location nor is it spree killing, in which the murders are committed in two or more locations in a short period of time. Serial killings can occur over a period of weeks or years. Some commonly found characteristics of serial killers include the following: killers who are mentally ill to some degree and may have psychotic breaks that cause them to believe they are another person or are compelled to murder by other beings such as the devil or people from space. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are all insane. Although they are often described as inhuman monsters or babbling lunatics, they for the most part look quite normal when they first meet their victims.

Psychopathic behavior that is consistent with traits common to some serial killers include sensation seeking, a lack of remorse or guiltimpulsivity, the need for control, and predatory behavior. Unlike people with major mental disorders such as schizophrenia, psychopaths’ behavior can seem normal and often quite charming that will mask insanity.

Serial killers were often abused emotionallyphysically and/or sexually by a family member. This does not mean that anyone who has suffered from these abuses will automatically become a serial killer. Millions of people have suffered from these abuses and they do not turn into killers or even ordinary criminals.

Serial killers may be more likely to engage in fetishism which refers to any sexually arousing stimuli such as a woman’s panties, or has an abnormal interest in a woman’s breasts etc. However nearly everyone has special interests in certain parts of the human body and that isn’t abnormal It is when those interests then go to extremes that the fetishism becomes abnormal.   

Other serial killers engage in some form of partialism which involves a strong uncontrollable desire to engage in varying levels of fantasy by focusing on certain body parts or the anatomical physicality of the human body such as breasts, buttocks, feet etc.  Paraphilia is that which excites some people and certainly some serial killers with having an unusual sexual interest in the inner parts of a human being’s sexual organs.  A disproportionate number of serial killers exhibit one, two, or all three of this triad of predictors of their violent behavior.

Power has always been the center of a serial killer's thinking. These people are obsessed with being in a position of power, sexually and in general life as well. They thrive on the feeling of being in charge and they will go to any extent to make sure they are in control.

Statistically speaking, serial killers are usually males in their twenties or thirties and are for the most part, intelligent. They take great steps to not be caught by the police.

The question that seems to crop up a great many times is whether or not a serial killer became one because of him or her being born that way or because he or she as a child grew up that way. Scientists searched and found what is believed to be hard evidence, that genetics is the key role in determining who becomes a serial killer unlike criminologists and psychologists who argue that generally events in the home such as abuse and abandonment create the setting and foundation in which serial killers grow into sadistic killers. As I see it, at present a serial killer's psychology lies far beyond the grasp of normal human understanding.  But there are certain factors in a serial killer’s childhood that cannot be ignored when trying to focus on the causes of serial murder in a human being.

Criminologists and social behavioral psychologists argued that childhood experiences and repeated psychological trauma, during the early stages of growing up can cause a child to seek relief through activities of violence such as killing small animals.

Sociologist Arnold Arluke compared the criminal records of one hundred and fifty three animal abusers with one hundred and fifty three non-animal abusers and what he found in his study is that those who were animal abusers were five times more likely to commit acts of violence such as assault, rape, and murder against others. What he learned from this study is that serial killers in their childhood would resort to killing animals because they felt powerless against their parents who had control over them. Since these children did not have control in the household, they resorted to killing small animals in which they could exert their dominance and power over to do anything that pleased them. I knew a man who had these problems in his childhood years and when he was in his teens, she shot squirrels and birds with a rifle but it was primarily for the challenge of hunting them. He never grew up as a violent person who would harm a human being. Every child grows up as a child without having power over their parents and almost all of them don’t become violent killers of human beings.

This means that something else must be prompting serial killers to hunt and kill other human beings.

Eric Hicky a criminologist found that, forty eight percent of serial killers had been rejected as children by a parent or some other important person in their lives. However, many children grew up this way and they didn’t turn into killers. Though this happens to many children, it certainly represents a turning point for those who become serial killers. Once rejected, many of these killers begin to dive into their self-indulgences and are unable to understand how and who they are when going through puberty. The social experiences which make people dangerous violent criminals are the significant experiences rather than the trivial ones in their lives.

Victims of abuse and rejection, serial killers find comfort in their fantasies and dreams that take them into a realm that only they can control. Psychokillers take their fantasies and make them a reality by living their dreams. Growing up Jeffrey Dahmer (a serial killer) had felt rejected by his parents and in turn kept his violent homosexual thoughts inside of him. Dahmer fantasized of having a male sexual partner but in his thoughts he received pleasure not only by having intercourse with his sexual partner but also killing his partner.

Most sex murders demonstrate both the need for, and the terror or, engulfment by a figure onto whom ones primary attachment needs have been projected. The need to kill fulfils this sexual desire of many killers by turning their fantasies into a controllable reality. Without a proper relationship to model after in the household, many of these killers do not understand that they must truly interact with each other and coexist peacefully. Serial killers are violent humans and the only way to stop their killing sprees many argue is to put a stop to domestic violence in the household. That would certainly help but as we all know, there is domestic violence everywhere and yet very few children in such families turn into serial killers.

Understanding how and why serial killers commit such horrific crimes is an important step to stopping the homicidal rampages these sociopaths go on. At present, it isn’t known for sure as to what specifically triggers them from being normal persons to being serial killers. Is it an anomaly in part of their brains or is a combination of that anomaly and their upbringing as a child?

Almost everywhere in the world there are serial killers and at least six or more cases of serial killings are reported to the police every year.  There are probably as many not yet detected. Strangely enough, the incidents of serial killingsare less prevalent in the Third World than in the more advanced nations. The killings are increasing as the years progress. That could be because of the increase in populations.

Some serial killers finally stop killing people because they have been arrested either for those crimes or other crimes, they die of old age, they commit suicide or are simply burned out and don’t want to kill people any more.

However, serial killing appears for the most part to be incurable. Time or confinement in a prison or a mental institution doesn’t really relieve the need of the killer to kill—when the opportunity crops up, they will kill again. That is why I think serial killers should never ever be released from prison nor be released from a mental institution even if they appear to be cured.

In Toronto, Canada, 17-year-old Peter Woodcock murdered two boys and a girl and was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He was placed in a hospital for the insane. When he was fifty-two years old in 1991, he was given a three-hour pass to go into town and buy a pizza and return to the institution. He never left the grounds. He murdered a fellow inmate by knifing him to death in a bushy area of the grounds and sodomized his body. Woodcock would later explain that the treatment program served only to make him more adept at manipulating others. After having spent 53 years in custody, the majority of that time at Oak Ridge mental institution, Woodcock died there on March 5, 2010 on his 71st birthday.

Arthur Shawcross murdered two children and was soon apprehended and imprisoned. He served only 14 years in prison before he was released. He then killed eleven women in a twenty-one month period before he was caught again.  Shawcross complained of a pain in his leg on the afternoon of November 10, 2008, his date of death. He was taken to Albany Medical Center, where he went into cardiac arrest. Shawcross died at 9:50 p.m.

While living in the former Soviet Union in 1980, Dzhumagaliev is one of the most prolific serial killer cannibals that country has ever seen. Called "Metal Fang" for the set of white, metal teeth which had replaced his own chompers (making himself a sort of hybrid between Lecter and Jaws from James Bond), Dzhumagaliev is said to have killed and eaten somewhere between 50 to 100 women. and even served a few portions to his unknowing friends. Can you believe it? After being sentenced to a mental institution in Uzbekistan and escaping once, the government decided that less than 10 years of rehabilitation was enough for this serial killer and simply let him go. Very little is known of Dzhumagaliev's current whereabouts, though he is said to be living with his relatives in Eastern Europe. However, being a free man and all, he can travel anywhere he pleases. Perhaps he lives in aa place where almost no one has heard of him. Like your community, for example.

In 1980 when I was addressing a UN crime conference in Venezuela, I told my fellow conferees that a Peruvian serial killer had admitted to killing 360 women and children and that the most time he would get in prison would be twelve years. I was right. He was released after serving only twelve years. 

And now, I will give you an example of a serial killer.

Dennis Nilsen

Between 1978 and 1983, Nilsen is known to have killed a minimum of 12 men and boys, and to have attempted to kill seven others. He would initially confess in 1983 to having killed 15 victims. That means he was proud of what he had done. The majority of Nilsen's victims were homeless or homosexual men, although others were heterosexual individuals whom he would typically meet in bars, on public transport, or on one occasion outside his own home. All of Nilsen's murders were committed inside the North London addresses where he alternately resided in the years he is known to have killed his victims. These unfortunate men would be lured to these addresses through guile—typically the offer of alcohol and/or shelter.      

Once inside Nilsen's home, the victims were usually given food and alcohol, then strangled—usually with a ligature—either to death or until they had become unconscious. If the victim had been strangled into unconsciousness, Nilsen would then drown the victim in his bathtub, his sink, or a bucket of water, before observing a ritual in which he would bathe, clothe and retain the victims' bodies under the floor boards  inside his residences for several weeks or, occasionally, months before he would dismember the corpses. Each victim killed between 1978 and 1981 at his Cricklewood residence would be disposed of by burning their corpses upon a bonfire in his backyard.  The victims killed in 1982 and 1983 at his Muswell Hill residence would be retained at his flat, with their flesh and smaller bones flushed down his toilet. The latter form of disclosure is what tipped off the police that they had a serial murderer in their community.                                                  

Although Nilsen later admitted to masturbating as he viewed the nude bodies of several of his victims, and to have engaged in sexual acts with six of his victims' bodies, he was adamant he had never penetrated any of his victim’s anuses.  From that, I have to presume that he placed his penis in the mouths of his dead victims.  In any case, that is where he was acting as a    necrophiliac (a person who has sex with dead bodies).  

There was an opportunity for the police to put an end to this man`s murderous conduct on 11 October 1979. Nilsen attempted to murder a   student from Hong Kong named Andrew Ho, whom he had met in a St. Martin's Lane pub and lured to his flat on the promise of sex. Nilsen attempted to strangle Ho, who managed to flee from Nilsen`s flat and reported the incident to police. Although Nilsen was questioned in relation to the incident, Ho decided not to press charges. If Nilsen was convicted of attempted murder, he will have been sent to prison for many years and those men he killed before he was caught would have been alive instead of their bodies being burned or flushed down the toilet.   

Douglas Stewart testified at Nilsen’s later trial that in November 1980, he had awoken in Nilsen's flat to find his ankles bound and Nilsen strangling him as Nilsen straddled him. He successfully overpowered Nilsen and escaped. Upon leaving Nilsen's residence, Stewart had reported the attack to police, who in turn questioned Nilsen. Noting conflicting details in accounts given by both men, police had dismissed the incident as a lovers' quarrel. This time it was because of the fault of the police that those men who were later murdered by Nilsen died at his hands.

On the 25th of October 1983, the court heard testimony from two further men who had survived attempts by Nilsen to strangle them.

As I mentioned earlier, Nilsen’s murderous activity was discovered after he began flushing the flesh of his victims down the toilet.  Nilsen's murders were first discovered by a Dyno-Rod employee named Michael Cattran, who responded to the complaints made by both Dennis Nilsen and other tenants of 23 Cranley Gardens regarding the drains of the property being blocked on the 8th of February 1983. Opening a drain cover at the side of the house, Cattran discovered the drain was packed with a flesh-like substance and numerous small bones. Cattran reported his suspicions to his supervisor, Gary Wheeler. However, no assessment was made until the following morning, by which time the drain had been cleared. This aroused the suspicions of the drain inspector and his supervisor. Cattran had discovered some scraps of flesh and four bones in a pipe leading from the drain which was linked to the top flat of the house.

To both Cattran and Wheeler, the bones looked as if they originated from a human hand. Both men immediately called the police who, upon closer inspection, discovered further small bones and scraps of what looked to the naked eye like either human or animal flesh in the same pipe leading from the drain. These remains were taken to  Hornsey  Mortuary,  where pathologist  Professor David Bowen advised police that the remains were indeed human, and that  he concluded that one particular piece of flesh had been from a human neck bearing a ligature mark.

Upon learning from fellow tenants of 23 Cranley Gardens that the tenant of the top floor flat from where the human remains had been flushed was one Dennis Andrew Nilsen. Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay and two colleagues opted to wait outside 23 Cranley Gardens until Nilsen returned home from work. When Nilsen returned home, DCI Jay introduced himself and his colleagues; explaining they had come to enquire about the blockage in the drains from his flat. Nilsen asked why the police would be interested in his drains and also if the two officers present with Jay were health inspectors. In response, Jay informed Nilsen the other two individuals were also police officers and requested access to his flat to discuss the matter further.

In an interrogation conducted on the 10th of February, Nilsen confessed there were further human remains stowed in a tea chest in his living room, with other remains inside an upturned drawer in his bathroom. The dismembered body parts were the bodies of three men, all of whom he had killed by strangulation—usually with a tie. 

A further search for additional remains at 23 Cranley Gardens on that same day in February revealed the lower section of a torso and two legs stowed in a bag in the bathroom, and a skull, a section of a torso, and various bones in the tea chest. The same day, Nilsen accompanied police to Melrose Avenue, where he indicated the three locations in the rear garden where he had burned the remains of his victims. Investigators would later discover over 1,000 fragments of bone from the garden at Melrose Avenue, many of them blackened and charred by fire.

At 5:40 pm on the 11th of February, Nilsen was formally charged with the murder of Stephen Sinclair—one of Nilsen’s many victims.

Dennis Nilsen was brought to trial on the 24th of October 1983, charged with six counts of murder and two of attempted murder. He was tried at the Old Bailey, before Judge Sir David Croom-Johnson. The trial began with Nilsen being asked by the chief administrator of the court whether he entered a plea of guilty or not guilty in relation to each charge. In response to each charge, Nilsen entered a plea of not guilty. Upon completion of his pleas, the jury was sworn into the courtroom.

The primary dispute between the prosecuting and defence counsels was not whether Nilsen had killed, but his state of mind before, during and after he had killed. The prosecuting counsel, Allan Green, argued that Nilsen was sane, in full control of his actions and that he had killed his victims with premeditation, The defence counsel, Ivan Lawrence, argued that Nilsen suffered from diminished responsibility, rendering him incapable of forming the actual intention to commit murder, and should therefore be convicted of manslaughter as opposed to murder.

Diminished capacity is a legal defense used in some criminal cases to argue that the defendant was less mentally capable than a normal person of having the required mental state for the offense. The wrongful intent required for a criminal conviction is called mens rea (criminal intent).  Diminished capacity does not amount to insanity, but is rather a condition that affects a defendant's ability to process information or to reason. It is also referred to as diminished mental capacity and partial responsibility. Diminished responsibility covers all the activities of the mind. Abnormality of the mind does not have to be connected with insanity. That is why such a determination can result in a conviction for manslaughter.

Back in 1965 when I was the investigator for Ontario Legal Aid, I was called upon by a lawyer to investigate an alleged murder of a prostitute by the lawyer’s client who knew her and invited her to his apartment which was downtown in Toronto. He told her to enter his home after midnight via his kitchen window as the front door buzzer didn’t work. He was pretty drunk by the time she tried to climb into the kitchen by the window. The man forgot that he told her to come into his apartment via the window after midnight and thought she was a burglar trying to sneak into his apartment. He began choking her at the window and then realized he had strangled his friend to death. He pulled her body into his living room and then he called the police who didn’t believe his story and then charged him with capital murder saying that he strangled her in his living room. When I interviewed the accused while he was in jail, he told me that he heard a voice call out in the alley that ran alongside the building his apartment was in at the time he was choking her. I was able to find a witness who during that early morning had walked into the alley to take a pee and saw the altercation at the back window. Subsequently, the charge of capital murder was withdrawn and he was charged with manslaughter for killing the woman because he was too drunk to realize who was at his window. Later he was convicted of manslaughter. He was sentenced to five years in prison and released for good behavior after serving four years in prison. I suppose one could say that when he was choking the woman, he was acting with diminished capacity.

Peter Sutcliffe, the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ pleaded diminished responsibility to 13 charges of murder. The medical reports were unanimous in suggesting that he was a paranoid schizophrenic. The judge decided that it was in the public interest for the jury to decide on the matter. The jury brought in verdicts of murder. This reflects public reaction rather than any clear cut rule of law and it illustrates rather well that in practice, medical evidence alone may not be sufficient to ensure the defence of diminished responsibility. However he couldn't use that form of defence because he was drunk and being drunk doesn't totally absolve someone from a crime. 

 Following the closing arguments of both prosecution and defence in Nilsen’s trial, the jury retired to consider their verdict on the 3rd of November 1983. The following day, the jury returned with a majority verdict of guilty upon six counts of murder and one of attempted murder, with a unanimous verdict of guilty in relation to the attempted murder of Paul Nobbs. The judge sentenced Nilsen to life imprisonment with a recommendation that he serve a minimum of 25 years' imprisonment. Following his conviction, Nilsen was transferred to  Wormwood Scrubs prison to begin his sentence. As a Category A prisoner (prisoner in need of protection), Nilsen was assigned his own cell, although he was able to mix freely with other inmates. In December 1983, Nilsen was attacked with a razor blade by an inmate named Albert Moffatt, who inflicted wounds to Nilsen's face and chest which required 89 stitches to heal Following this attack, Nilsen was briefly transferred to Parkhurst prison, before being transferred to Wakefield Prison, where he was to remain until 1990. The following year, Nilsen was transferred to a vulnerable-prisoner unit at HMP (Her Majesty’s Prison) Full Sutton upon concerns for his safety. He was to remain at Full Sutton until 1993, when he was transferred to Whitemoor Prison, again as a Category A prisoner, and with increased segregation from other inmates.

Now you are wondering if that means he may be released after serving only 25 years. Well, it doesn’t mean that in his case. The law was changed that states whereby a particular prisoner who has been or is to be sentenced to life imprisonment  is ordered by the court to serve that sentence without any possibility of parole.  That being as it is, Nilsen will never be released from prison prior to his death. Canada has a similar law and many of the American states also have that law. Of course this only applies to terrorists who kill, serial and mass killers or otherwise extremely violent persons who are considered too much of a risk to set free,

I hope in reading this article, you have a better understanding of what makes serial murderer’s brains function in the way they do. At a later date, I will give you more incidents where serial murderers have committed these horrendous crimes. 

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