Serial killer

A serial killer is typically a person who murders three or more people,[1] usually in service of abnormal psychological gratification, with the murders taking place over more than a month and including a significant period of time between them.[1][2] Different authorities apply different criteria when designating serial killers.[3] For example, while most authorities set a threshold of three murders,[1] others extend it to four or lessen it to two.[3] The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines serial killing as "a series of two or more murders, committed as separate events, usually, but not always, by one offender acting alone".[4]

Although psychological gratification is the usual motive for serial killing, and most serial killings involve sexual contact with the victim,[5] the FBI states that the motives of serial killers can include anger, thrill-seeking, financial gain, and attention seeking.[6] The murders may be attempted or completed in a similar fashion. The victims may have something in common, for example, demographic profile, appearance, gender or race.[7] A serial killer is neither a mass murderer, nor a spree killer, although there may be conceptual overlaps between serial killers and spree killers.

Etymology and definition

The English term and concept of serial killer are commonly attributed to former FBI Special agent Robert Ressler who used the term serial homicide in 1974 in a lecture at Bramshill Police Academy in Britain.[8] Author Ann Rule postulates in her book, Kiss Me, Kill Me (2004), that the English-language credit for coining the term goes to LAPD detective Pierce Brooks, who created the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) system in 1985.[9] There is ample evidence the term was used in Europe and the United States earlier.

The German term and concept were coined by criminologist Ernst Gennat, who described Peter Kürten as a Serienmörder ('serial-murderer') in his article "Die Düsseldorfer Sexualverbrechen" (1930).[10] The earliest usage attested of the specific term serial killer listed in the Oxford English Dictionary was from a 1960s[clarification needed] German film article written by Siegfried Kracauer, about the German expressionist film M (1931), portraying a pedophilic Serienmörder.[clarification needed]

In his book, Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters (2004), criminal justice historian Peter Vronsky notes that while Ressler might have coined the English term "serial homicide" within law in 1974, the terms serial murder and serial murderer appear in John Brophy's book The Meaning of Murder (1966).[11] The Washington DC newspaper Evening Star, in a 1967 review of the book:[12]

There is the mass murderer, or what he [Brophy] calls the "serial" killer, who may be actuated by greed, such as insurance, or retention or growth of power, like the Medicis of Renaissance Italy, or Landru, the "bluebeard" of the World War I period, who murdered numerous wives after taking their money.

This use of "serial" killer to paraphrase Brophy's serial murderer does not appear to have been influential at the time.[citation needed]

In his more recent study, Vronsky states that the term serial killing first entered into broader American popular usage when published in The New York Times in the spring of 1981, to describe Atlanta serial killer Wayne Williams. Subsequently, throughout the 1980s, the term was used again in the pages of The New York Times, one of the major national news publication of the United States, on 233 occasions. By the end of the 1990s, the use of the term had increased to 2,514 instances in the paper.[13]

When defining serial killers, researchers generally use "three or more murders" as the baseline,[1] considering it sufficient to provide a pattern without being overly restrictive.[14] Independent of the number of murders, they need to have been committed at different times, and are usually committed in different places.[15] The lack of a cooling-off period (a significant break between the murders) marks the difference between a spree killer and a serial killer. The category has, however, been found to be of no real value to law enforcement, because of definitional problems relating to the concept of a "cooling-off period".[16] Cases of extended bouts of sequential killings over periods of weeks or months with no apparent "cooling off period" or "return to normality" have caused some experts to suggest a hybrid category of "spree-serial killer".[11]

In 2005, the FBI hosted a multi-disciplinary symposium in San Antonio, Texas, which brought together 135 experts on serial murder from a variety of fields and specialties with the goal of identifying the commonalities of knowledge regarding serial murder. The group also settled on a definition of serial murder which FBI investigators widely accept as their standard: "The unlawful killing of two or more victims by the same offender(s) in separate events."[16] The definition does not consider motivation for killing nor define a cooling-off period.

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Reeksmoordenaar
asturianu: Asesín en serie
azərbaycanca: Seriyalı qatil
български: Сериен убиец
Deutsch: Mordserie
Esperanto: Seria murdisto
français: Tueur en série
한국어: 연쇄살인범
Bahasa Indonesia: Pembunuh berantai
Iñupiak: Iñuaqtuqti
íslenska: Raðmorðingi
italiano: Serial killer
Lëtzebuergesch: Seriemäerder
македонски: Сериски убиец
Nederlands: Seriemoordenaar
norsk: Seriemord
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Serial qotil
Simple English: Serial killer
slovenčina: Sériový vrah
српски / srpski: Серијски убица
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Serijski ubica
svenska: Seriemördare
Türkçe: Seri katil
українська: Серійний убивця
中文: 連環殺手