Whether you think they are evil, disturbed, or just mental you are part of a society that exhibits both a repulsion and fascination with the lives and minds of serial killers. Who are these serial killers and what motivates them? We really don’t know. But when we can skillfully create torture devices meant to inflict the most pain on another individual, we are afraid to know the answer. These are the 25 of the most evil serial killers of the 20th Century.
Known as the Son of Sam or the .44 Caliber Killer, David Berkowitz carried out a series of shootings in the summer of 1976. Using a .44 calibre Bulldog revolver, he shot 6 people dead and wounded 7 others. Berkowitz sent a series of taunting letters to police and the press promising further shootings, terrorising the people of New York City. Eventually captured in August 1977, Berkowitz confessed to all of the killings and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for each murder, to be served consecutively and is unlikely ever to be released.
Known as “The Co-ed Killer”, Edmund Kemper is an American serial killer and necrophile who carried out a series of brutal murders in California in the 1970s. He murdered his grandparents when he was 15 years old then later killed and dismembered 6 female hitchhikers in the Santa Cruz area. He then murdered his mother and one of her friends before turning himself in to police days later. He was found guilty in November 1973 of 8 counts of murder. He asked for the death penalty, but instead received life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Larry Bittaker and Roy Norris
Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris, nicknamed ‘The Tool Box Killers’ are two American serial killers who together murdered 5 young women in California in 1979. Luring victims into their van and driving them to secluded areas where they both raped and tortured them horrifically with a number of tools before murdering them. In 1981 Bittaker and Norris were charged with murder, kidnapping and rape. Bittaker was sentenced to death and remains on death row to this day.[update] Norris was spared execution in return for his testimony against Bittaker and sentenced to 45 years in prison.
Ian Brady and Myra Hindley
Ian Brady and Myra Hindley killed 5 children between 1963 and 1965, in Greater Manchester, England. Aged between 10 and 17 years old, their victims were sexually assaulted before being brutally murdered. Three of the victims were discovered in graves dug on Saddleworth Moor and the last victims body found at Brady’s house, the whereabouts of the fourth victim, Keith Bennett remains unknown. Both Brady and Hindley were later sentenced to life imprisonment. Hindley dying in prison in 2002. Brady has since been confined in the maximum security Ashworth Hospital where he remains on hunger strike to this day.
Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono (The Hillside Stranglers)
Between late 1977 to early 1978 cousins Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono carried out a reign of terror in California, kidnapping, raping and killing 10 girls aged between 12 and 28 years old, strangling each victim in the hills above Los Angeles which led to them being known as ‘the Hillside Stranglers’. Bianchi attempted to plead not guilty by way of insanity but was found to be faking mental illness, so instead agreed to plead guilty and testify against Buono. Both were sentenced to life imprisonment. Buono died of a heart attack in his cell in 2002.
Dennis Rader (the BTK Killer)
Dennis Raider murdered 10 people in Sedgwick County, Wichita, Kansas between 1974 and 1991. Obsessed with notoriety, Raider sent taunting letters to police under the name BTK which stood for ‘Bind, Torture, Kill’. Rader stalked his victims before breaking into their homes, then binded their limbs before strangling them. Having disappeared in 1988, BTK remerged 2005 when he sent a floppy disc to the press which was to be his downfall. Tracing him via the floppy disc, Rader was arrested and charged upon which he immediately confessed. He is serving 10 consecutive life sentences with an earliest possible release date of February 26, 2180.
Donald Henry Gaskins
In 1969, Gaskins began killing a series of hitchhikers he picked up while driving around the coastal highways of the American South, torturing and mutilating his victims. He claimed to have killed eighty to ninety people. He was arrested in 1975, when a criminal associate confessed to police that he had witnessed Gaskins killing two young men. He was convicted of 8 murders and was sentenced to death which was later commuted to life imprisonment without parole. Remarkably Gaskins went on to commit a further murder within the high security prison, killing a fellow inmate. He is the only man to have ever killed an inmate on death row.
An American-born Scottish serial killer known to have killed 9 people across southern Scotland between 1956 and 1958, Manuel is suspected of having killed as many as 18 people. Police were unable to prove his guilt until his final murders, when some banknotes Manuel had been using to pay for drinks in Glasgow pubs were proven to be stolen from one of his victims. He confessed to these murders after his mother confronted him at the police station where he was being held. Manuel was hanged at Glasgow’s Barlinnie Prison for his crimes in July 1958. He was one of the last prisoners to be hanged in Scotland before they ended capital punishment.
John George Haigh
Known as the “Acid Bath Murderer” John George Haigh was an English serial killer during the 1940s. He was convicted of the murders of 6 people, although he claimed to have killed 9. A professional conmen, he targeted wealthy individuals and charmed them into believing he was a successful businessman. He lured his victims to a derelict warehouse before shooting them. He then dissolved their bodies in sulphuric acid before forging papers in order to sell their possessions and collect their life savings. Traces of human remains were found and there was sufficient evidence to convict him. In 1949 he was sentenced to death and hanged at Wandsworth Prison.
Fred & Rose West
Between 1967 and 1987 Fred West and his wife Rose tortured, raped and murdered at least 11 young women and girls, many at the couple’s homes at 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester which was later nicknamed the house of horrors. The pair were finally apprehended and charged in 1994 after police obtained a search warrant and located several human bones buried within the garden and under the floor boards. Having been arrested and during his trial, Fred West hanged himself in his prison cell prior to being convicted. In 1995 Rose West was jailed for life having been found guilty on 10 counts of murder. Their house at Cromwell Street was demolished in 1996 to discourage souvenir hunters.
Known as the Genesee River Killer, Shawcross first killed in 1972, sexually assaulting and murdering a 10-year-old boy after luring him into a wooded area in Watertown, New York then raped and killed eight-year-old girl, for which he was captured and convicted of manslaughter. Serving 14 years imprisonment he was released in 1988 and went onto brutally kill 12 female prostitutes aged between 22 and 59 years old. Eventually captured at the scene of his last murder, Shawcross confessed to all 12 murders and was sentenced to 250 years imprisonment, though died in prison of cardiac arrest in 2008.
Peter William Sutcliffe is a British serial killer known as “The Yorkshire Ripper”. In 1981 Sutcliffe was convicted of murdering 13 women and attempting to murder seven others. He targeted prostitutes in Leeds and Bradford area causing a climate of fear across northern England. When arrested in January 1981 for driving with false number-plates, police questioned him about the killings and he confessed. At his trial, he pleaded not guilty to murder on grounds of diminished responsibility, but his defence was rejected by the jury. He was sentenced to serve life imprisonment without patrol and remains in Broadmoor Maximum Security Mental Hospital to this day.
Ricardo Leyva Muñoz Ramírez was an American serial killer and Satan worshipper who terrorised Los Angeles between 1984 and 1985. Nicknamed the Night Stalker Ramirez broke into the homes of many of his victims, shooting, stabbing, raped and mutilating his victims who ranged between a 9 year old girl and a married couple aged in their late sixties. Notably he smeared pentagrams on the walls of the crime scenes. Captured in 1985, Ramirez was sentenced to death and remained on California’s death row for 23 years until he died in his cell in June 2013.
Known as the Milwaukee Cannibal, Jeffrey Dahmer was an American serial killer and sex offender who raped, murdered and dismembered 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991. He also committed necrophilia and ate parts of his later victims, dismembering and cooking parts of their bodies within his home. Dahmer was eventually caught after a would-be victim managed to overpower him and alert police. In 1992 Dahmer was convicted of 15 of the murders and sentenced to 15 terms of life imprisonment. However just two years into his sentence he was beaten to death by a fellow inmate at the Columbia Correctional Institution.
The British equivalent of Jeffrey Dahmer, Dennis Nilsen was a homosexual killer who murdered 15 gay men within home in London, England between 1978 and 1983. He retained his victims’ bodies before dissecting their remains and disposing of their bodies by burning or flushing the remains down the toilet, which led to his capture when human flesh was discovered in his sewage system. Nilsen was convicted in 1983 of six counts of murder and two of attempted murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He remains imprisoned at Full Sutton maximum security prison in Yorkshire, England without the chance of release.