Serial killings or serial murders are the most dreaded and publicized crime in Australia and the USA. Although the occurrences of serial killings have become less in the past twenty years than in the 1980s and ’70s, these still remain the most notorious form of crime. Serial killers are usually hard to recognize in society and are highly intelligent and organized. They grow up in dysfunctional family settings and were emotionally, physically, or sexually harassed as children, which activates some psychological triggering, making them feel worthless, causing them to seek out their own heinous form of release through violence. The victims are usually the under-privileged, who have high-risk lifestyles and can be influenced easily, the more being women and children. Serial killings are less prevalent in Australia than in the USA. The social setup and the cultural context of American society have increased the frequency of serial murders. The ability of law enforcement agencies has prevented the occurrence of many more serial murders in Australia. Further, the fact remains that Australia possesses a better and more centralized policing and law enforcement system that can handle and solve cases better. The inculcation of the National Homicide Monitoring Program during 1989 has proved effective. Perhaps, the main similarities between Australian and American serial murders could be in terms of the underlying distinct psychopathic malaise and the deliberation, regularity, and cooling off period which characterizes these genres of murders in both countries. The main difference is that the US has a higher serial crime rate of 15% compared to Australia. States need to enact robust laws that would discourage murderers to commit crimes in one place, dispose of bodies in remote areas and then move to another place to commit similar kinds of murders or serial killings in another location.
specifically for you
for only $16.05 $11/page
Over the years, serial killings have been defined in many ways all over the world. “In 1998, a federal law was passed by the United States Congress to formalize a definition of serial murder through legislation, titled: Protection of Children from Sexual Predator Act of 1998. This law includes a definition of serial killings:
“The term ‘serial killings’ means a series of three or more killings, not less than one of which was committed within the United States, having common characteristics such as to suggest the reasonable possibility that the crimes were committed by the same actor or actors” (Serial murder n.d.). But, this was only a criterion to assist the Law Enforcement for investigation and, to a certain extent, prevent the occurrences of serial killings.
Serial killings are deliberate, organized crimes and commonly have a sexual element. Serial murderers are different from typical homicides. In most cases, the victims are total strangers to the offender. Serial killings or serial murders are the most dreaded and publicized crime in Australia and the USA. Although the occurrences of serial killings have become less in the past twenty years than in the 1980s and ’70s, these still remain the most notorious form of crime.
The main issue in the Australian context is that serial killing forms a distinct pattern as found on a global level, including the fact that on some occasions, the victims remain untraceable, and thus the genre of crime is not known. Serial killings are also difficult to predict because they may sometimes lack a major factor – motive. Normally, murders are committed for material gains, sexual gains, or psychological gains. A serial killer could rape and murder his victim without apparent motive, stemming from his diseased and depraved mind, which seeks to establish control and wield power over his victims. For instance, such kinds of killings may even transcend race, culture, creed, or color. “Similarly, in a study of 494 serial killers across the US, almost two-thirds were motivated by the thrill of power or sexual sadism.” (Mouzos & West 2007, p.2).
Perhaps, one of the most important reasons for difficulties for law enforcement to catch up with serial killers is that there may not be any apparent motives for the crime, except sexual lust, or brutality. Although the pattern may be similar, including modus operandi of killing and the victims (usually young attractive women), the victims are strangers and besides perhaps the sexual angle, or gruesome kind of murder, the killers may not leave evidence of incriminating nature. Serial killings without a sexual angle may be bereft of important clues also. The time frame between crimes and other individualistic characteristics, like dismembering the bodies, digging up corpses of victims for sexual abuses, raping dead victims, and other depravities are important distinctiveness of these genres of killers.
Characteristics of Serial Killers in Australia and USA
Serial killers are usually hard to recognize in society and are highly intelligent and organized. They grow up in a dysfunctional family setting and were emotionally, physically, or sexually harassed as children, which activates some psychological trigger, making them feel worthless, causing them to seek out their own heinous form of release. These people were abused and neglected in their childhood and suffered from poverty and unemployment. They suffered from frustrations and had less adaptability. But, not all serial killers are social criminals. Many of them have a strong married life with kids.
100% original paper
on any topic
done in as little as
Serial killers usually have an above average intelligence quotient. They pre-plan their murders in great detail including the place and time of murder and ways of disposing the bodies. They get a good control over the victim before murder. Another type of serial killers does the crime impulsively. These people are low in intelligence and are psychotic in most cases. They involve in more gruesome murders, cannibalism and necrophilia. These people tend to travel widely which provides them more zones to operate (Results type of crime 1985).
Alcoholism, drug abuse and depression can also nurture serial killers. Serial killers can stop their killing spree over time and such killers often escape the law enforcements. There may be many reasons for them to give up killing. The victims are usually the under-privileged, who have high-risk lifestyles and can be influenced easily, the more being women and children.
There are some common characteristics in serial killers in Australia and USA.
- Serial killers are more commonly males. Female serial killers have been reported in both countries over the years, but are rare.
- Serial killers work alone or in pairs. The killings are planned in detail and best efforts are made to hide them.
- They are usually middle-aged from late twenties to early forties.
- Male serial killers harass their victims physically and sexually and victims are strangulated or beaten to death.
- Female serial killers tend to use poisons as their weapon and physical abuse is less.
- They try to use similar locations for their crime and change locations of the bodies. ‘In most cases they dispose of the body in remote locations.’ (Makkai, 2009).
- Serial murderers can be people who appear to lead a normal social life with family; they are often overlooked by law enforcement and the public (Headline achieve n.d.).
In USA, serial killings are more connected with a sexual element, the victims being prostitutes – male and female, young females who are vulnerable and rich and old women. Charles Albright, a serial killer from Dallas, Texas, killed three prostitutes in 1990-91. All the three victims were found to be sexually assaulted and their eyeballs removed. (Hickey 2003).
Serial killer Terry Blair was convicted for raping and killing seven young women by strangulation (Daily record and the Kansas City daily news-press 2008).
Jeffrey Dahmer murdered boys of Asian and African descent involving torture, forced sodomy, dismemberment and cannibalism (America’s famous serial killers 2009).
The offenders are not always white and murderers are usually intra-racial. The American society is a mixture of various cultures and classes. This triggers a lot of frustrations among people who grow out to be serial killers. Serial killers are born from a class of socially excluded and insecure people. Serial murderers in USA come under four characteristics – adopted, illegitimate, institutionalized as a child or mother married three or four times. Such family backgrounds are breeding grounds for serial killers. (Coleman & Norris n.d.).
In Australia, serial murderers are young males, who belong to a wage earning category, and usually commit murders for a need to dominate over person/persons. The victims are usually strangers and have no connection with the murderer. A majority of them are illicit drug users and have a criminal record.
Ivan Milat of the famous Backpacker murders – a series of murders that occurred in New South Wales, Australia in the 1990’s had been convicted for several crimes and abduction of two women before he started his killing spree (Hickey 2003). During the year 1996, a road worker named Ivan Robert Marko Milat was formally charged and convicted of killing seven hitchhikers between years 1989 -1992 in New South Wales and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was arrested and tried on the basis of several testimonies provided by a hitchhiker who had managed to escape from his murderous clutches and other evidences. (Hickey 2003).
It is believed that his early childhood and youth was in criminal company and his families were not of good repute. It is believed that there were other associates to his heinous crimes but were perhaps not caught or tried.
John Wayne Glover, notoriously known as “the granny killer”, killed six elderly women between 1989 and 1990. He was also involved in theft of their properties after the murders (Kidd 2009).
The Motives for serial killings
It is hard to generalize the motives of a serial killer. No clear relationships have been found in various serial killings in both countries. Some murderers are found to have a clear hatred towards prostitutes (men and women), women and children, and homosexuals. For some, the strong belief in existence of a ‘super-race’ is a reason. Power and financial gain have also been the motive for many famous serial killings.
Motives can be classified into four categories. But, a serial killer usually has one or more categories as their motive.
- Visionary: People who kill with a belief that they are driven by God, Angels, Devils or demons. These killers strongly believe in putting an end to lives of sufferers. Charles Cullen was convicted of murder of 45 patients over sixteen years during his period as a nurse in several hospitals in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He killed patients with chronic illness to end their sufferings (Ramsland 2009).
- Mission Oriented: These are people who believe in eliminating certain types of people from the world as they find it unworthy for them to live. The victims may be prostitutes, blacks, Jews etc. They are not psychotic and see killing as their mission to change the world. Ronald Dominique, from Louisiana, raped and murdered twenty three men, who, he believed were gay prostitutes, is an example for mission oriented motives. (Montaldo 2009).
- Hedonistic: These are the worst category in which the person finds a thrill in killing. Hedonistic killers are three types – thrill killers, lust killers and comfort killers. Thrill killers kill people just for enjoyment. They assault the victims physically which excites the killer. Sexual element is not usually present in thrill killings. Lust killers focus on sex, before or after killing. They usually use stabbing or strangulation as their method of killing. Comfort killers find satisfaction in killing. It may be to dispose of family members, close associates etc. Revenge, hatred, compassion etc can be the driving elements for such murders. Usually, female murderers are found to be comfort killers who resort to poisoning as their weapon for murders. Jeremy Dahmer killed 17 men and boys. His murders were particularly gruesome, involving rape, torture, dismemberment, necrophilia and cannibalism (JET magazine 1994).
- Power or Control: This is to achieve power or dominance over people. Such killers prolong the killings, finding a sense of power in inducing pain and killing. (Makkai 2009). Almost all the four types of killer motives are found in both Australia and USA, usually involving more than one motive in a killer. The Snow town murders in South Australia, which took the life of 12 people between 1992 and 1997, is an example of all the motives found in a single killer group. Their victims consisted of homosexual men, intellectually challenged kids, relatives and even family members whom they disliked. All victims were physically assaulted and brutally killed. The bodies were stored in acid filled barrels in a disused bank vault (Mason 2007).
The number of victims of serial killing is much larger in USA than in Australia over the last 20 years. A good amount of the victims in Australia are women, young, influential and vulnerable. The victims are of all races. The victims are taken to a remote location and their bodies are usually buried. Young victims are stabbed with a sharp weapon, whereas the elderly are killed of strangulation.
In USA, the victims are an equal mix of males and females. The popularity of male prostitution in USA and its varied cultural contrasts accounts for more male victims in serial killings. Male victims are either shot dead or fatally stabbed. Since killing for power and control is more in USA, poisoning the victims and the degree of physical torture is more.
100% original paper
written from scratch
specifically for you?
Highway serial killings have increased in USA over the years. Bodies of victims are left on the main highways across the country, the victims usually being females. The victims are females who are involved in drug abuse or prostitution and lead an unsafe lifestyle. The murderers may be long-haul truck drivers or cross country travelers. The mobile nature of the killers and lack of witnesses make such cases difficult to solve for the law enforcement (Headline achieves: high way serial killings: new Initiative on an emerging trend n.d.).
Notorious Serial Killers in the past years
USA has a long list of some of the most notorious serial killers in history. The major ones in the past twenty years were Herbert Richard, who was suspected of killing and burying more than ten men in his estate in early 90’s.
- Terry Blair, convicted of raping and killing at least seven women from 1982 – 2004;
- Robert Charles Browne, who was found guilty of two murders, but he confessed to have committed forty eight till 1995;
- Andrew Philip Cunanan, who murdered five men including a famous designer;
- Jeffery Dahmer, who raped, dismembered and killed about thirty Asian and African males.
- The notorious Australian serial murderers of the last 20 years are:
- John Wayne Glover also known as the “granny killer” killing six elderly women.
- Ivan Milat, who is notorious for the backpacker murders;
- John Bunting, Robert Wagner, Mark Haydon and James Vlassakis, were convicted of the murders of 11 people between 1992 and 1999. These murders became known as Snow town murders.
Serial killings are less prevalent in Australia than in USA. The ability of law enforcement agencies has prevented the occurrence of more serial murders in Australia. Also, killers give up their murdering instinct after one or more killings or they are convicted at an early stage and are prevented from committing more murders. The social set-up and the cultural context of the American society have increased the frequency of serial murders. Although serial killings are rare in Australia, the murders like the Snow town murders are more gruesome than those found in USA. Further, the fact remains that Australia possesses a better and more centralized policing and law enforcement system that is able to handle and solve cases better. The inculcation of the National Homicide Monitoring Program during 1989 has proved effective and has gone a long way in tackling homicide cases, including serial killings. Perhaps the main similarities between Australian and American serial murders could be in terms of the underlying distinct psychopathic malaise and the deliberation, regularity and cooling off period which characterize these genres of murders in both countries. Again, missing victims are common to both countries, without which formal investigations may be hampered, since technically speaking a person is not dead until the body is recovered. In the absence of body, only a formal investigation for missing person could be made, and criminals cannot be identified, proceeded against, and brought before the due process of law.
The contrast between non-Australian and Australian systems could be that while in US, majority of victims were males, in Australia, the victims were females.
“The majority of serial murder victims in Australia were female (n=33; 63%), which is in contrast to the general pattern of homicide where males outnumber females as victims. “ (Mouzos & West 2007, p.4).
Other differentiating aspects regarding the Australian and other models would be in terms of the fact that in Australia, serial killing has not been as widespread a problem like in other counties. While it is true that the Backpaper murder in New South Wales and Snow town murders have attracted wide public concern, it is not as large an issue like in other countries of the world. It could be said that between the periods July 1989 to June 2006, there were 5,617 victims for homicide in Australia, out of which only 52 victims could be said to be of serial killing variety. Thus, as far as Australia is concerned, it represents less than 1% of the total homicide victims.(Mouzos & West 2007).
Whereas, if one were to take the statistics of the US, it is seen that 15% of murders referred to as “stranger murders” (Godwin & Canter 1997, P.24) could have been caused by serial killers.
Thus, it is seen that there are major differences between US and Australia with regard to crime statistics, and methodology of serial killers and their modus operandi.
It is necessary that in order to reduce homicide in countries, an effective and robust jurisprudential and law enforcement system should be in vogue, which could continually upgrade crime data and statistics, make necessary researches and work towards a speedy and crime free society. For this, it is also necessary that the general public also contribute their might towards preventing crime and restoring peace and sanity in our society. Again, the legal system needs to undergo reforms not only in terms of speedy dispensation of justice, but also by setting uniform and centralized Federal divisions that could address criminal justice and its implementation in a more cohesive and purposeful way. States need to enact robust laws that would discourage murderers to commit crimes in one place, dispose off bodies in remote areas and then move to another place to commit similar kinds of murders or serial killings in another location.
America’s famous serial killers 2009, Dir Journal Info Blog.
Coleman, C & Norris, C n.d., Introducing criminology, ISBS.c.Book News Inc.
Daily record and the Kansas City daily news-press 2008.
Godwin, M, & Canter, D 1997, Encounter and death: the spatial behavior of US serial killers, An International Journal of police strategy and management, vol. 20, no.1, pp. 24-38, MCB University Press. Web.
Headline achieve: serial murder: new reports highlights views of experts n.d., Federal Bureau of Investigation. Web.
Headline achieves: high way serial killings: new Initiative on an emerging trend n.d., Federal Bureau of Investigation. Web.
Hickey, EW 2003, Encyclopedia of murder and violent crime, SAGE.
JET magazine 1994, vol. 87, no. 7, ISSN 0021-5996, Johnson Publishing Company.
Kidd, PB 2009, John Wayne Glover: the granny killer, Tru TV Crime Library Criminal Minds and methods. Web.
Makkai, T 2009, An examination of serial murder in Australia, Australian Government: Australian Institute of Criminology. Web.
Mason, G 2007, Hate crime as a moral category: lessons from the snowtown case, The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, vol.40, no.3, pp.249-271. Web.
Montaldo, C 2009, Serial killer Ronald Dominique, About.com: Crime/ Punishment.
Mouzos, J, & West, D 2007, An examination of serial murder in Australia, Australian Government: Australian Institute of Criminology. Web.
Mouzos, J, & West, D 2007, An examination of serial murder in Australia: review of the literature: characteristics of serial killers, Australian Government: Australian Institute of Criminology. Web.
Mouzos, J, & West, D 2007, An examination of serial murder in Australia: victims, Australian Government: Australian Institute of Criminology. Web.
Serial murder: multi-disciplinary perspectives for investigators: Behavioral analysis unit national center for the analysis of the violent crime n.d., Federal Bureau of Investigation. Web.
Ramsland, K 2009, Charles Cullen: healthcare serial killer, Tru TV Crime Library Criminal Minds and methods.