Rudyard Kipling once said that the female of the species is far more deadly than the male. Female serial killers more than prove that theory, yet they have always been something of an anomaly in criminology and a puzzle for law enforcement.
These are the 'quiet killers', every bit as lethal as their male counterparts, but we are seldom aware of one in our midst because of their low visibility. Most female crime is hidden. Kelleher & Kelleher (1998) argue that female serial killers are more successful, careful, precise, methodical, and quiet in committing their crimes. They examined 100 cases since 1900 and found an average duration of 8 years before being caught -- double that of the male serial killer.
Statistically, females usually account for about 15% of all violent crime and 28% of all property crime. However, there has been about a 140% increase in the number of crimes committed by women since 1970, and the upward trend is steady. For homicide, one of the most frequently-cited facts is a Justice Department study in 1991 which found females who were incarcerated for murder were twice as likely as men incarcerated for murder to have killed someone intimate (husband, boyfriend, or child).
Female serial killers account for only 8% of all American serial killers, but American females account for 76% of all female serial killers worldwide. The female serial killer also has different methods and motives for killing. [Yes, the total is over 100 - some overlap] Methods include:
Poisoning - 80%
Shooting - 20%
Bludgeoning - 16%
Suffocation - 16%
Stabbing - 11%
Drowning - 5%
Control - 13%
Enjoyment - 11%
Sex - 10%
Drugs, cult involvement or to cover up feelings of inadequacy - 24%
There are few researchers of female serial killers. The best book on the subject is by Michael and C. Kelleher (1998) "Murder Most Rare". Kelleher & Kelleher suggest a typology, one based on whether...