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Killing sprees, how long do most serial killers last?
To work this out, I’ve chosen 50 serial-killers, spree-killers and murderers, at random, from the UK, US and other countries. These dates cover their first confirmed victim to the last and (where possible) the dates are specific, but often they are vague. I’m go through them in an alphabetical order, covering their names, a brief description, the dates, duration and what age they were during the murder.
This is a biggie, so strap in:
#1 - Aileen Wuornos (the US serial killer and abused sex-worker), she lasted just shy of one year, from 30th November 1989 to 19th November 1990, and was 33-34 years old.
#2 - Albert DeSalvo (the Boston Strangler) – lasted from 14th June 1962 to 4th January 1964, 1 year 7 months and was 31-33 years old.
#3 - Albert Fish (child-killer, cannibal and sadistic paedophile), 11th July 1924 to 3rd June 1928 or 15th December 1932**, murders which are disputed), lasted either 3 years 11 months or 8 years 5 months and was 54-58/62 years old.
#4 - Anthony Hardy, the sadistic and twisted Camden Ripper from Old London Town (“cor blimey gavna”), December 2000 to December 2002, exactly two years, he was 49-51 years old.
#5 - Beverley Allitt, dubbed The Angel of Death, but only because most journalists are too lazy to come up with a new nickname for any serial or spree killer who was once a nurse, this nickname was also given to Richard Angelo, Charles Cullen, Kristen Gilbert, Donald Harvey, Miyuki Ishikawa, SS officer Joseph Mengler, Colin Norris, Robledo Puch and Jane Toppan, she lasted from 21st February 1991 to 22nd April 1991, that’s two months, and was 22 years old.
#6 - Colin Ireland, dubbed the Gay Slayer, who lasted only three months, from 8th March 1993 to 12 June 1993, but at the time of the killings, he was on the cusp of being 40. The big 40.
#7 - Cynthia Coffman, 2 months from October to November 1986 when she was 24 years old.
#8 - David Berkowitz “Son of Sam” and a psychotic Doctor Doolittle, lasted 1 year 7 months between 24th December 1975 to 31st July 1977, when he was 22-24 years old.
#9 - Dennis Nilsen, his killing spree of 15 to 16 victims and 8 or 9 who got away, lasted 4 years 1 month between 30th December 1978 (almost happy new year) to 26th January 1983 when he was 33-37 years old.
#10 -Dennis Rader, also known as BTK lasted 15th January 1974 to 19th January 1991, 17 years, between the ages of 29-45 years old.
#11 - Donald Neilson, robber and murderer known as The Black Panther” lasted 11 months from February 1974 to 14th January 1975, he was 37-38 years old.
#12 - Dorothea Puente, 6 years estimated, 1982 to 1988, inc prison, 53-59 years old
#13 - Ed Gein, graverobber, taxidermist and murderer, possibly 5 years, 1947 to 1952 (41-46 years old)
#14 - Edmund Kemper, 8 years 8 months (inc prison), 27th August 1964 to 20th April 1973 (15-24 years)
#15 - Faye Copeland, possibly three years from 1986 to 1989, aged 72-75 years old
#16 - Fred West, Gloucester’s favourite plasterer, 19 years 11 months (inc prison) from July 1967 to June 1987* (26-47 years old) with his wife Rose
#17 - George Joseph Smith, “Brides in the Bath” – roughly 2 years, 1912 to 1914 (40-42 years old)
#18 - Graham Young, The Teacup Poisoner, 8 years 10/11 months inc prison, 21st April 1962 to February/March 1971 (14-23 years old)
#19 - H H Holmes, Chicago’s infamous “World’ Fair Killer”, he lasted 7 years 11 months, August 1886 to July 1894 (25-33 years old).
#20 - Harold Shipman – charged with 15 confirmed deaths, 257 suspected, Police still investigating up to 450, hard to prove as being the doctor he signed the death certificates and had many of the bodies cremated, he lasted from 1975 to 1998, at least 23 years, aged 29-52 years old.
#21 - Henri Desire Landru, the Ladykiller with the natty moustache, 4 years, January 1915 to 15th January 1919 (45-49 years old)
#22 - Ian Brady. Moors Murder, 2 years 3 months, from 12th July 1963 to 6th October 1965 (25-27)
#23 - Janie Lou Gibbs, poisoner, 2 years (est) 1966 to 1967 (34-35 years old)
#24 - Jeffrey Dahmer, the Milwaukee Cannibal, 13 years 1 month, 18th June 1978 to 19th July 1991 (18-31 years old)
#25 - Joel Rifkin, aka Joel the Ripper, roughly 4 years from 1989 to 1993 (30-34 years old), currently sentenced to 203 years in prison.
#26 - John George Haigh, “The Acid Bath Murderer”, 4 years 6 months, 6th September 1944 to 18th February 1949 (34-39 years old)
#27 - John Reginald Christie, necrophile, serial killer, 9 years 7 months, from 24th August 1943 to 6th March 1953 (44-53 years old)
#28 - John Wayne Gacy, killer clown and KFC manager, 6 years 11 months, 3rd January 1972 to 11th December 1978 (29-36 years old)
#29 - Kenneth Erskine, the Stockwell Strangler, 3 months, 9th April 1986 to 28th July 1986 (22/23)
#30 - Kristen Gilbert, another Angel of Death, 7 years inc prison, 1989 to 1996* (22-29 years old)
#31 - Levi Bellfield, Bus Stop Killer, 2 years 5 months, 21st March 2002 to 19th August 2004 (33-34)
#32 - Michael Lupo, the Wolfman, 5 years-ish, in the mid 1980’s (30-35-ish years old)
#33 - Myra Hindley, the other Moors Murderer, 2 years 3 months, 12th July 1963 to 6th October 1965 (19-23 years old)
#34 - Patrick MacKay, 1 year 1 month, February 1974 to March 1975 est (21-22 years old)
#35 - Peter Manuel, The Beast of Birkinshaw, 2 years, 2nd January 1956 to 1st January 1958 (29-31)
#36 - Peter Sutcliffe, The Yorkshire Ripper, 5 years 1 month, 30th October 1975 to 17th November 1980 (29-34 years old)
#37 - Peter Tobin, possibly the unsolved Bible John killer, 15 years 7 months** (still suspected of many more murders), from 10th February 1991 to 26th September 2006** (44-60 years old)
#38 - Richard Ramirez, The Nightstalker, 1 year 4 months, 10th April 1984 to 24th August 1985 (24-25)
#39 - Robert Black, Scottish serial-killer and paedophile, 5 years 7 months, 12th August 1981 to 26th March 1986 (34-38 years old)
#40 - Robert Mawdsley, dubbed Hannibal the Cannibal by tabloid hacks who can never be arsed to do their research properly, he lasted four years, inc prison, 1974 to 1978* (21-25 years old)
#41 - Robert Napper; 1 year 4 months, 15th July 1992 to November 1993 (26-27 years old)
#42 - Rodney Alcala; the Dating Game Killer, 8 years est, 12th June 1971 to 1979** (27-36 years old)
#43 - Rose West, 15 years 11 months, June 1971 to May 1987 (18-33 years old)
#44 - Stephen Griffiths, the self-styled Crossbow Cannibal only he didn’t own a crossbow and wasn’t a cannibal (twat), 11 months from 22nd June 2009 to 21st May 2010 (cusp and turn of 40 years old)
#45 - Stephen Port. Grindr Killer, 1 year 3 months** (known so far), 19th June 2014 to September 2015** (cusp of 40 years old)
#46 - Steve Wright (not that one), Suffolk Strangler, five weeks, 30th October 2006 to 9th December 2006 (48 years)
#47 - Steven Grieveson, The Sunderland Strangler, 3 years 9 months, 26th May 1990 to 25th February 1994 (19-23 years old)
#48 - Ted Bundy, the crazy lady’s favourite, 4 years, 1st February 1974 to 9th February 1978 (28-31 years old, cusp and turn of 30)
#49 - Ted Kaczynski, Unabomber, his title looks like he bombed co-star of Worzel Gummage Una Stubbs, 15 years 11 months, 25th May 1978 to 24th April 1994 (36-52 years old)
#50 - Trevor Hardy, The Beast of Manchester, “mad furrit, alright ah kid”, 1 year 9 months from 31st December 1974 (again, happy new year) to 8th March 1976 (29-31 years old, cusp of 30)
So, let’s break it down, who were the shortest? These are the spree-killers, Steve Wright (six weeks), Beverley Allitt and Cynthia Coffman (2 months), Colin Ireland and Kenneth Erskine (3 months). With the longest, excluding those who were incarcerated being Jeffrey Dahmer (13 years 1 month), Ted Kaczynski (15 years 11 months), Fred & Rose West (15 years 11 months exc Fred’s prison time) and everyone’s favourite doctor - Harold Shipman – 23 years (estimated, could be longer). As expected, most serial killers last a year to two years and those figures tail off the longer their spree continues. Although, the average across the board, says female serial killers last 8 and 11 years, only 2 years for men, I guess us guys finish too early? IT’s a common problem.
But interestingly, although the bulk of those serial killers committed their crimes in their twenties, with some into their thirties, six committed their first murder in their teens; Graham Young (14), Edmund Kemper (15), Jeffrey Dahmer (18), Rose West (18), Myra Hindley (19) and Steven Grieveson (19), with only three in their fifties; Dorothea Puente, Albert Fish and Harold Shipman, only two, the couple Faye & Ray Copeland in their 70’s, but quite a few on the cusp or the turn of a significant birthday, usually 20th, 30th or 40th birthday; these were Trevor Hardy, Peter Manuel, Steven Grieveson, Stephen Port and Anthony Hardy.
If you found this interesting? Check out the Mini Mile episodes of the Murder Mile UK True-Crime Podcast, or click on the link below to listen to an episode.
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a writer, crime historian, podcaster and tour-guide who runs Murder Mile Walks, a guided tour of Soho’s most notorious murder cases, hailed as “one of the top ten curious, quirky, unusual and different things to do in London”, nominated "one of the best true-crime podcasts at the British Podcast Awards 2018", and featuring 12 murderers, including 3 serial killers, across 15 locations, totaling 50 deaths, over just a one mile walk
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a crime writer, podcaster & tour guide of Murder Mile Walks, hailed as one of the best "quirky curious & unusual things to do in London".
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