Are there common features between serial killers

Serial killer

Serial killers, mass murderers, drug killers

Up until the 1980s, statisticians did not differentiate between shooters and serial killers like Fritz Haarmann, who murdered at least 26 young men in Hanover from 1918 to 1926 and sometimes drank their blood. Today the definitions are clear.

Mass murderer, including those who run amok, kill four or more people during an act in the same place. Serial killer murder at least three people, whereby the acts are clearly delimited by different places and times. However, this does not rule out the possibility of a serial killer killing several victims during one crime.

A third category is the so-called Drug killerwho kills at least three people in different places but at short intervals.

Intoxicating and mass murderers usually do not select their victims specifically, while serial killers usually have a rough victim scheme in mind (for example young women or little boys) or even select a specific person.

Six murders before arrest

There is no such thing as a typical serial killer. Because of this, finding them is usually extremely difficult. Sometimes the investigators do not even realize at first that the same perpetrator is behind several crimes, because the "modus operandi", as the crime pattern is called in professional circles, does not match.

For example, some perpetrators intentionally change weapons to make it more difficult for investigators to identify a connection. Or they change the types of victims.

To make matters worse, the perpetrator did not know the victim in eight out of ten cases. In addition, many serial killers are socially isolated or are cleverly hiding their actions from friends and family.

All of this means that an average of three and a half years pass before the police can catch a perpetrator. According to statistics from Chief Detective Stephan Harbort, a serial offender can commit an average of six murders in this period.

Psychological perpetrator profiles should help with the search. Investigators try to determine the character of the murderer through the behavior at the crime scene. The Federal Criminal Police Office uses the VICLAS database system ("Violent Crime Linkage Analysis System") developed in Canada to quickly track down series of murders.

For every crime, the investigators fill out a questionnaire with 168 questions about the perpetrator, victim, sequence of events, weapons or vehicles used. The system should recognize a connection between individual acts and ideally expose an already known or recidivist serial killer.

Male, German, childless

Even if the typical serial killer does not exist, one can basically distinguish between two types: One perpetrator plans the murder precisely, spies on his victim in advance and takes appropriate weapons with him.

The other kills spontaneously because the situation tempts him to do so. It could be a quarrel or a young girl who happened to be cycling alone along a piece of forest.

Stephan Harbort has been dealing with serial murders for many years and has statistically recorded all known cases in Germany from 1945 to 2000. Thus, although each murderer stands for himself, some common characteristics can be determined.

Three out of four perpetrators are male Germans, between 18 and 39 years old, single or divorced, childless and below average or average intelligence. Most of them only have a special or secondary school certificate, work as craftsmen or are unemployed. They are considered social outsiders and have a criminal record or are known to the police.

However, Harbort points out that this perpetrator profile usually also applies to simple murderers. This, however, distinguishes the personality structure and the motive from the serial killer.

Almost all serial killers have a pronounced personality disorder. They are emotionally unstable, irresponsible, self-centered and suffer from feelings of inferiority. As children, many were victims of emotional coldness, violence or abuse themselves and have never been able to come to terms with these experiences.

However, not every traumatized child develops into a serial killer, and not every serial killer has a childhood trauma. The chain of factors is as individual as every person.

However, there are similarities when it comes to the question of why it doesn't just remain a murder. According to Harbort, the psychological, sexual, emotional, financial, social, or other problems that drive the perpetrator to murder are only temporarily alleviated by the act. Basically, however, they remain unsolved and therefore provoke a new murder.

Sex killers, robberies, relationship killers

There is also no general answer to the question of motives. However, you can get closer to it if you take a look at the five different types of serial killers:

Sex killer form the largest group within the serial killers. 75 percent of serial murders are sexual. The perpetrators, almost exclusively men, can only get satisfaction if they rape and ultimately kill their victim.

Usually they were abused as children themselves and tortured animals or were noticed as arsonists from an early age. Sex murderers commit their first murder on average between the ages of 16 and 24 - often in the aftermath of being raped. As a rule, they cannot lead normal relationships.

The Robbery his victim is simply in the way. His goal is to enrich yourself, even if a person has to die for it. He doesn't care about the feelings of the victims and loved ones because he has a very low level of empathy.

Relationship killer only kill in their immediate vicinity. You murder your own husband, mother-in-law, daughter. The reasons for this are complex: the perpetrators want to secure the inheritance early, the husband disrupts the wife's new relationship or the mother-in-law complains too much.

Relationship murders are particularly common among women who put poison in food or suffocate their victims. Relationship killers can only solve interpersonal problems one way: by killing.

Mind killers and disposition killers

Mind killers have ideological or religious motives. They do not get any personal advantage from the murders, but believe that they are doing their fellow human beings or something higher. This group includes doctors and nurses who kill, or “redeem”, as they say, their patients.

Mind killers are particularly difficult to convict because their murders sometimes show no pattern. In addition, doctors and nurses often do not suspect anything, since many people die in a hospital, especially in an intensive care unit. Attitude killers can kill an average of 17 times before the police find out about them.

Are just as difficult Predisposition killer because their actions are not directly related. You don't have just one motif, but several. Sometimes they need money, sometimes they want revenge, sometimes someone is just annoying.

"When I had a problem, I solved it my own way," said a predisposition murderer Stephan Harbort in an interview. This group also includes contract killers. They kill for a fee.