What makes a serial killer?
Reported incidents of multiple murders committed by an individual, who are now known to us as ‘serial killers’, have increased in notoriety since the 1870s. Although almost unknown at that point in time, they did exist. Mary Ann Cotton was Britain’s first acknowledged serial killer. Mrs Cotton spent roughly eight years killing her victims, most of which were her family members. However, when the notorious ‘Jack the Ripper’ began his reign of the Whitechapel region of London in the 1880s, the public became aware that such disturbed and sadistic people were living in their midst. (Jones, 2008 p 12.) However, serial killers are not so unheard of nowadays. The media also play a big part in how society views serial killers. No other story is quite as sensational as those in which serial killers are at large. The ‘Jack the Ripper’ case was the beginning of a media tradition; the case moved faster than any other previous case and was also of interest in America. No-one knows for sure if the letters received by the police department were written by ‘Jack the Ripper’, (Appendix One) although it is evident that ‘Jack the Ripper’ and his letters were the beginning of a long tradition of extensive media coverage that include news stories, television documentaries, websites, films and books. The term ‘serial killer’ itself is very commonly used worldwide when describing someone who has killed more than three victims. Since the 1800s, there have been thousands of convicted serial killers, excluding those who have yet to be caught, or those who have managed to evade capture (Murray, 2009 p 7). People commit multiple murders all over the world, and many of them have very different reasons for doing so. Some professionals blame it on the childhood or early family life of the individual, whereas others believe it to be psychological. Throughout this piece of writing, numerous sources will be used to analyse and establish a brief possible answer regarding the potential reasons behind a serial killer’s actions. In order to complete this research project, the use of several journals, online articles and books, including, ‘Talking with Serial Killers’ by Christopher Berry-Dee, and ‘British Serial Killers’, by Martin Fido. These two books, combined with others will provide this research project with certain characteristics that the general public assume will run similarly throughout most, if not all, of the world’s serial killers. This research project will aim to investigate the factors in which become acquainted to a serial killer and what people associate with them. It will explore specific characteristics that people tend to associate with serial killers and the reasons for this. As well as studying specific murderers, this project will look into both male and female serial killers and identify in what way they differ. Chapter one will discuss the factors deemed to be surrounding the cases of most serial killers before continuing to examine what contributes to the making of a killer. This chapter will analyse the stereotypes of this particular category and whether particular facts only count towards particular people. A brief study in to whether or not the past of the serial killer could be the cause of the main issues will be carried out within the chapter itself. After discussing both male and female murderers and the differences between the two, the evidence will be reviewed to conclude the chapter. Chapter two will research and describe in depth two serial killers. Namely ‘Jack the Ripper’ (1880s) and Dr. Harold Shipman (1990s). The two murderers are of a very different nature and are from completely different time frames. Each murderer will be thoroughly evaluated and their actions will be explained in order to compare and contrast the dissimilarities between the pair. The attitudes of each killer will be looked at and it will be decided whether or not they are alike in any way at all....
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