We serial killers are your sons, we are your husbands, we are everywhere. And there will be more of your children dead tomorrow" -Ted Bundy
The area of crime which has been chosen for this report is that of serial murder. The main reason for this choice is the media attention and the apparent public fascination in to this area of crime. The aim of this report is to conduct an in depth study of this phenomena with the use of psychological theories such as biological, psychiatric and personality. The use of specific known cases of serial murder will be used in order to test these theories and establish if there is indeed a link. Within this report various psychological and abnormal behaviour theories will be evaluated and applied to this particular crime problem.
Nature and extent of problem
For the interest of this report it is vital to define murder ans serial murder. A generally accepted definition of murder which is also referred to as homicide would be The unlawful killing of another human being especially with premeditated malice. However the definition of murder may differ between countries. However serial murder is slightly more difficult to define and if ; and is often the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) define serial murder as the murder of three or more victims in separate events with an emotional cooling off period between homicides.
The term serial killer and mass murderer are often used synonymously, however it is important to note that criminologists distinguish the two. A mass murderer, is an individual who kills several people in a single event. Similarly a spree killer kills in a series of closely connected events e.g. Thomas Hamilton who killed 16 school children and their teacher at Dunblane in 1996. Levin and Fox (1985) suggest that mass murderers are often suffering from a mental illness that may be associated with childhood trauma, sexual and/or physical abuse. Serial killers, in contrast to this, may show little evidence of mental disturbance, and outwardly they appear quite normal, despite the horrendous crimes they have committed. In the UK, Harold Shipman who was probably responsible for the deaths of over 300 of his patients, is a classic example of this type of serial killer.
It is often recognised that serial killers possess certain characteristics, which has lead to the development of typologies. It has been recognised that serial killers can be placed in two categories- organised and disorganised. An organised killer is usually profiled as processing good intelligence and social skills, (charismatic in some cases such that of Ted Bundy). They are more than likely to plan their murders , chose victims that are unknown to them, force submission from their victim and usually use some form of vehicle in the process of the crime. (Coleman & Norris, 2000)
On the other hand, disorganised killers possess lower intelligence, poor social skills, make no attempt to hide the victim's body leaving an untidy crime scene, and usually living in the vicinity of the crime scenes. It is also proposed that there are three indicators with regards serial killers, which are present within their childhood years, known as the McDonald Triad – pyromania, extreme cruelty to animals and excessive bed wetting which continues into the teenage years.
Holmes and Holmes (1998) developed their typology which involves four different types of serial killer, follows is a brief definition of each:
Visionary- tend to hears voices or sees hallucinations that tell them to kill, often said to be psychotic. Missionary- tends to see themselves on a mission to eradicate particular groups with society such as prostitutes, homosexuals drug dealers etc ... Hedonistic- the group consists of three subcategories, lust, thrill and comfort killers, tend to take pleasure from killing, but also gets some profit or personal gain from it.