We’ve all heard of them… people who commit heinous crimes and are often caught but sometimes evade detection for years or even their whole lifetime. Many people (including myself) find these people disturbing yet fascinating at the same time; there have been movies and books based on some of the worst, and often the true story is more terrifying than what Hollywood can produce.
An example of such a story where the tale of the actual killer is more macabre than the media based on them is the story of Ed Gein: despite the fact that there were four separate stories that were derived from his tale (the book Psycho and the Alfred Hitchcock movie of the same name as well as the films the Texas Chain Saw Massacre and the Silence of the Lambs), the real Ed Gein is still more bizarre than the characters of Norman Bates, Leatherface and Buffalo Bill from each of those respective tales. If you want to find out more about his story, you can check it out here: believe me, it’s creepy!
The funny thing about psychopaths is that we all have a picture in our heads about what these people look like, and they are often subjected to hyperbole in that they are depicted as ugly and ferocious monsters. In reality, however, they disturbingly look like you or me most of the time.
You may even know of such psychopaths in your closest town or city: I sure have as my closest city has been named as the Murder Capital of Australia, albeit there is a more placid name that is often thrown around to hide this sordid history. I’ll go into more detail below, but for now I’ll give you a brief tour of psychopathy.
What exactly is a psychopath?
Like I discussed in Egomania: Cult Leaders, psychopaths often display certain character traits, such as the ones mentioned below.
- Arrogant, domineering personality
- Belief of being unique
- Exploitation of others
- Envy of other individuals
- Preoccupation with success
- Requirement of excessive admiration
- Lack of empathy
- Sense of entitlement
These individuals are often antisocial in nature; however, not all antisocial people are automatically psychopaths: the vast majority of people with antisocial behaviour may simply be shy or introverted. What differentiates psychopaths apart is their lack of moral fibre, and indifference towards the people closest to them. They are high on the egomania scale I described above, with them showing at least five of the characteristics; with the lack of empathy being the key factor between those low on the psychopathy scale and those higher up. In this section, I’ll be delving a little bit into criminal law, as these individuals are often responsible for one of the highest crimes that someone can be charged with: murder.
What can drive someone to kill at least once?
There are many motivations: some of which date back to ancient times, some more recent. For some of the motivations, we all have been tempted by these feelings but have chosen not to act on them by the influence of our conscience or superego, but others are the result of pathological thoughts that the normal population have trouble even remotely contemplating. Psychopaths are likely to commit either first or second degree murder, but manslaughter is much less likely. Such reasons include:
- Money: As long as money has been around, there have been people killing for it.
- Revenge or retribution: eye for an eye
- Sexual gratification i.e. submission of the victim and/or necrophilia
- Thrill seeking
- Hiding the evidence to prevent witness testimony or out of shame
- Assassination: term is reserved for people in positions of fame and power
- Intense hatred of the victim
- Envy: either through the victim exhibiting traits that the killer wish they had or in couples, the victim is drawing the attention of the killers’ love
- Mercy: either to end terminal suffering or through euthanasia
- Lack of inhibition: through mind-altering drugs or alcohol
- Religion i.e. through jihad
- Honour: so-called protection of family’s reputation
- Self-defense (this is often labelled as manslaughter or second degree murder)
What is the difference between the different types of murder and manslaughter?
In the court system, murder is defined by killing someone with the intention of harming them, whereas manslaughter entails that the victim was killed by accident. Murder is split further into different categories and the law differs slightly in different countries, depending on the constitutional and cultural laws in place.
First Degree Murder
First degree murder is considered the worst of the lot and this sentence entails that the killer had mens rea (a vicious will) and had planned to kill their victim/s before doing so. When a person is found guilty of this charge, they are often either sentenced to death or life imprisonment, depending on the country. In Australia, where I live, the death penalty via hanging was initially carried out but was abolished in October 1964: the serial killer Eric Edgar Cooke (pictured alongside) was the last person to be executed in this manner at Fremantle Prison. These days, the maximum sentence is life without possibility of parole.
Second Degree Murder
Second degree murder differs slightly from the above charge, and often carries a lesser sentence with it; albeit a particularly malicious case or multiple charges can still lead to life or the death penalty. This type of murder still has mens rea, however the killer did not plan in advance to kill the victim (more often than not, they simply planned to maim or injure the victim, but murder came into the equation later on).
Manslaughter, depending on the country, is recognized as a singular charge or is split into two different categories: voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. The former is usually through a crime of passion and is sometimes referred to as third degree murder, whereas the latter happens either because of criminal negligence or purely through an accident that has led to someone’s death: a classic example behind a car hitting a pedestrian. This type of crime does not have mens rea attached to it, and therefore the person responsible is usually able to be freed from prison have a set time has been served.
What is the difference between mass murderers and serial killers?
Although both of these types of killers kill more than one individual, these killers both work in different manners. Mass murderers tend to kill a large number of individuals all within the one time frame, whereas serial killers usually only kill one individual at a time and spread their killings out over a longer duration, whether it be hours, days or even years.
What categories of serial killers are there?
There are individual serial killers and then there are the couples and the gangs. Individual serial killers are more often men, but there a few notable cases of female serial killers, and even more shockingly, there have been kids that have committed murder. There have been husband/wife teams that have taken multiple lives, and then there are the gangs of multiple individuals taking aim at one or multiple victims. The fact that the Murder Capital of Australia has several cases of the latter type of serial killer is the reason it is named as such, as these types of killers are relatively rare but are often seen as more shocking than the rogue, disturbed individual. I’ll go into it into more detail now.
What is the Murder Capital of Australia?
I’ll give you a clue… it is NOT Sydney or Melbourne; despite the fact that these two Australian cities are bigger than the one I’m talking about and they are more well known internationally…
The city I am referring to is also known as the City of Churches, and this brand is often paraded around in order to try and promote the city in a more civilized light. The state this city is in was the first one established by free settlers in 1836 rather than convicts as New South Wales was back in 1788. The visionary behind the city’s design was Colonel William Light (pictured alongside), and it was named after the wife of King William the IV. Despite its sordid history, it is often known internationally for its historical buildings and its festivals, although these days there are several modern projects going on at the moment within the CBD. The city and the suburbs around hold a population of approximately 1 million people.
Would I happen to know anyone from there that might give me a clue?
This area has also raised several people that have created either Australian or international records in the sporting, entertainment and scientific industries and people that have lived in Australia for a significant portion of their lives would probably be familiar with most, if not all these individuals. I’ll probably update this list once I’ve done more research, as I’m sure there are more notable individuals, but these six names came on the top of my head:
- Lleyton Hewitt: former #1 tennis player
2. Sia: singer/songwriter: has had international success with the songs ‘Wild Ones’, ‘Titanium’ and ‘She Wolf- Falling to Pieces’
3. Andy Thomas: first Australian astronaut
- John Farnham: singer, currently holds record for highest album sales with Whispering Jack at 24x platinum, former record holder of #1 singles for an individual male artist, with 5 #1s to his name
- Guy Sebastian: singer/songwriter, winner of first Australian Idol, current record holder of #1 singles for an individual male artist, with 6 #1s to his name, had international success with ‘Battle Scars’
6. Jimmy Barnes: singer, as lead singer of the band Cold Chisel, had the most #1s for a band, with 9 #1 albums to his name.
OK, enough jabbering, I might as well get on with what you’re here for…
The Murder Capital of Australia is Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia.
Throughout the history of this city, there have been murders that have happened either within the city’s walls or within Adelaide’s suburbs. Two well-known examples of criminal gangs that attacked within the Adelaide CBD are the Truro murderers and the Family murders. Like in most other cities, there are areas that you tend to avoid if you can because the neighbourhoods are fairly dodgy, and in Adelaide’s case, the area most known to fit this description is around the Elizabeth area or the northern suburbs in general. This area is also responsible for one of the most infamous gang murders in recent years: it has unfortunately made the small country town known as Snowtown infamous, despite the fact that only one actual murder was committed there and the other victims were incidentally left there by the perpetrators.
I’ll discuss all these murders in more detail in the page named Australia’s Gang Murders: The Gruesome Details.
There have also been other infamous cases that were committed within Adelaide’s borders, some of which have remained unsolved even to this day. For the first three cases, there is currently a $1 million reward on offer. A few of the notable cases that have appeared in the Australian news over the years include the following:
- The Beaumont Children kidnappings (pictured alongside): the three children, named Jane, Arnna and Grant and aged nine, seven and four respectively, were taken from Glenelg beach in 1966. From what witnesses at the scene have told police, there was a man in his mid-30s in close proximity who was tall, thin faced and had blonde hair when the children were last spotted. To this day, this case remains unsolved.
- The disappearance of Rhianna Barreau: she was walking away from home mid-morning when she vanished: it was suspected that someone with a Torana registered to a Victorian had taken her. She was last spotted at the junction of David Terrace and Acre Avenue.
- The disappearance of Kirsty Gordon and Joanne Radcliffe from Adelaide Oval in 1973. They were with their parents and were never seen again after heading to the toilets, and witnesses spotted on four separate occasions a man heading off with the children. They were last seen about 3km away from the oval.
- The murder and disposal of University of Adelaide lecturer Dr George Duncan by two Adelaide Vice Squad detectives in 1972.