In one of our latest crime dramas, Prodigal Son, a young Malcolm Bright calls the police on his serial killer father, Martin Whitly, who is a respected surgeon. Bright grows up to be a criminal profiler, instrumental in jailing people like his dad. In that macabre spirit, we have serial killers top of mind.
While many are familiar with the standard serial killer profile: male and Caucasian; there are naturally others who don't fit that profile.
Here, we shine a spotlight on female serial killers. According to the New Yorker, at least one in six serial killers is female, yet they tend to receive less attention than their male counterparts. But make no mistake, they are no less deadly.
In the Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology, evolutionary psychologist, Marissa Harrison writes that there are differences between men and women who kill. "We found that male serial killers more frequently act as 'hunters', stalking and killing targeted strangers in dispersed areas, while females more frequently are 'gatherers', killing those who are around them and familiar to them and gaining profit from their crimes."
Please note, graphic content follows.
Beverley Allitt from England
Serial killer name: Angel of Death.
When did the killings take place? February to April 1991.
- As a nurse, she cared for sick children. She killed a few who were in her care by injecting them with large amounts of insulin.
- Her youngest victim was a 2-month-old baby.
- In May 1993, she was sentenced to 13 concurrent terms of life in prison for four murders, three attempted murders, and attempting to cause grievous bodily harm with intent.
Belle Gunness from USA
Serial killer name: Lady Bluebeard.
When did the killings take place? 1880's – 1908.
- She immigrated from Norway to the USA in 1881. She met and married another Norwegian immigrant.
- Both her first and second husbands died under suspicious circumstances but she managed to collect the insurance money. She may have also killed her children.
- She was never convicted though she might have met a gruesome end when her home burned down. There was a headless female corpse found in the charred remains, but the identity was ever confirmed.
Juana Barraza from Mexico
Serial killer name: Mataviejitas meaning Little Old Lady Killer.
When did the killings take place? 2002 – 2006.
- She strangled older women between the ages of 69 to 74-years-old. It is believed she targeted them to rob them, but she also harboured rage towards her alcoholic mother who abandoned her when she was 12. She was left in the care of an abusive man.
- In March 2008, she was sentenced to 759 years in prison.
Aileen Wuornos from the USA
Serial killer name: None.
When did the killings take place? 1989 – 1990.
- Her story was immortalised on the silver screen with South African-born actress Charlize Theron winning an Oscar for her role as Wuornos in Monster.
- She was sentenced to death for killing men whom she claimed attacked her in her line of work as a prostitute.
- Her execution, by lethal injection, took place on October 9, 2002.
Find out more about a few of South Africa's notorious serial killers on the Carte Blanche website.
Watch Prodigal Son season 1 Wednesdays at 21:00, from 19 February, on M-Net channel 101.