Serial killers in the news — Real and imaginary

Serial killers hold a unique fascination for many people, as evinced by the extraordinary number of documentaries about them found on YouTube.

Serial killer John Gacy poses with First Lady Rosalynn Carter.

One of the most annoying females ever to plague Britain’s leading soaps breathed her last breath on Thursday when Emmerdale’s aspiring serial killer Cameron Murray aspired. This was his third victim, his previous two were both men, but no one can now complain about the lack of diversity.

Alas, not everyone was pleased to see the end of Gennie’s wittering, because the episode is said to have received a record number of complaints.

Entertaining though a fictional murder may be, in real life they are generally anything but. Murder is a crime of which most of us are capable, and few indeed in number are the men - or women - who haven’t wanted to throttle someone at some time, be it a spouse, the boss, or simply an annoying shop assistant. Serial killers are in a different class though; these are men – and very occasionally women – who kill for pleasure, or simply because they can. Sadly, they are never out of the news, but this month three extremely notorious such fiends are back in it: two from recent and one from not so recent history.

According to The Australian, Jack The Ripper was the world’s first known serial killer. Not even close, dude, or perhaps that should be dude-ess; Kate Calacouras has obviously done no homework at all, has she not heard of Mary Ann Cotton or Gilles de Rais? Her nonsense is part of a review of Ripper Street, a series that has gone Down Under from the streets of London. The real fascination of Jack The Ripper is probably that he was never caught; we cannot even be absolutely certain of how many murders he committed, but the best evidence suggests five, beginning with Mary Ann Nichols on August 31, 1888 and ending with Mary Kelly on November 9, who was not simply ripped, but torn to pieces.

If Miss Calacouras has not heard of the Ripper’s ugly precursors, she has surely heard of Ivan Milat. Being both a young country and a small one (population-wise), Australia has relatively few villains of any kind, but Milat is as bad as they come, and although nowhere near as infamous as Jack The Ripper, claimed no fewer than seven victims. Now, an eighth has been confirmed, a young man named Peter Letcher. There is no suggestion that Milat will be charged with this murder, but he will certainly never see daylight again whatever happens.

Also back in the news earlier this month is John Wayne Gacy, who was expunged from the face of this planet in May 1994.

Gacy murdered 33 young men and boys in the Chicago area. If you have not heard of this fiend you will find some excellent though disturbing documentary footage on YouTube. Most of his victims were buried under his house, in the crawl space, but not all were identified. As well as a murderer, Gacy was a sexual predator who took delight in torturing his victims to death. One of the missing was teenager Michael Marino. A body was identified as his from dental records, which prior to the advent of DNA profiling back in the 1980s was the primary method of identifying decomposed bodies. But Michael’s mother had always believed the body so identified was not her son, and now this has been confirmed. This recent, shocking development has raised three new questions: how many other bodies may have been misidentified - in this and other cases; was Gacy assisted by others; and where is Michael Marino?

The recent Cleveland captives case proves that miracles do sometimes happen, but that seems extremely unlikely here.

Serial killers continue and probably will continue to make the news; it remains to be seen if anything will be able to combat this bizarre and sickening phenomenon; contrary to what many so-called experts claim, they are not mentally ill in the conventional sense, unless one considers evil to be an illness. Like the rest of us, they have free will, and the free will not to murder other human beings is one that is exercised by 7 billion people every day.

[The above article was first published July 30, 2013.]

Back To Digital Journal Index