You know, there are a lot of countries out there. I definitely had to limit this somehow.
I did have two great sources though – Wikipedia and Murderpedia. So what I ended up doing was just combing through those two, country list by country list.
Needless to say, there were plenty of entries, but what I found was that if a particular entry took up at least ten pages of text (on both sites), there was a pretty good chance that we were dealing with somebody of some import. And if we were dealing with a country large enough for a couple of these folks, well the one with the most pages was the winner. All in all, it gave us a nice round two dozen.
Oh, it also helps if I’ve heard of these people before. Honestly, I know a creepy amount about this stuff.
#24 – Finland: Pekka-Eric Auvinen
Not sure how this one made it, to tell you the truth. It honestly just seems like another school shooting – depressingly so. Perhaps it’s where it happened, not exactly known for this sort of thing. That, and then this super weird picture of the perp.
#23 – New Zealand: Brenton Tarrant
If the name doesn’t sound familiar, the event probably does. Yup, this is the guy who shot up the mosques, just this year. The final death toll was 51. Other than that, New Zealanders don’t seem to be a very murderous bunch. Indeed, this white nationalist perp was actually an Australian.
#22 – Denmark: Peter Lundin
Another Scandinavian one, but this time with a definite American twist. Turns out this guy, born in Denmark but raised in the US, also committed his first murder there – of his mum, supposedly because she wanted him to cut his long hair. It was at that time that Lundin “starred” in a Danish documentary (see picture below). After serving part of his sentence, he was expelled back to Denmark, where he took up with a sex worker, then killed and dismembered her and her two children. Lots of legal, media, and even diplomatic attention were to follow.
#21 – China: Yang Xinhai
It’s a big country. There’s a lotta people there. It’s not too surprising they’re going to be on this list. Sure enough, this guy would account for 67 deaths. He specialized in wiping out whole families, usually farmers like himself. His MO would involve farm implements – axes, hammers, shovels, etc. – as well as rape. In classic PRC style, he would be executed with a shot to the back of the head.
#20 – Sweden: Thomas Quick
No, you’re right – that’s not a very Swedish name. Indeed, Quick was born Sture Ragnar Bergwall. He changed his name in the midst of a long, meandering career in and out of prisons and psychiatric institutions. In one of the latter, he confessed to over 30 murders, scattered all over Scandinavia. Based pretty much solely on those confessions, he would be convicted of eight murders over six trials. Upon withdrawing those confessions, however, he would then be released. It would all result in three books, one film, and a lingering question of, Did he or didn’t he?
#19 – South Africa: Moses Sithole
Here’s one you may have not heard of. One thing that makes Sithole stand out, though, is the body count – at least 38. Another is that his crimes merited their own name, the ready-for-prime-time “ABC Murders” (though really only after the Johannesburg suburbs he was active in). Finally, Sithole found his victims by advertising for positions in a shell charity he had set up, the ironically named Youth Against Human Abuse.
#18 – Australia: Ivan Milat
Son of a Croatian immigrant father and Australian mother, Ivan Milat was a country boy who liked to ride his ATV and go hunting. Unfortunately, his quarry would sometimes include backpackers and hitchhikers. The Backpack Murderer would be fingered by one who got away, then connected to seven bodies in the local national forest. The victims were all young people travelling about the country, and included Australians, Brits, and Germans. Milat would be known for some bizarre behavior in prison, including severing a pinkie with a plastic knife and swallowing razor blades. No shortage of movies, books, and TV for this one.
#17 – Colombia: Pedro Lopez
Ever heard of the Monster of the Andes? Well, you should have. This guy was convicted of 110 murders, and confessed to 300. He’s the second most prolific serial killer of all time. His prey were young girls in Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia. Lopez also has an unfortunate history of being released from prison, and is in fact currently at large.
#16 – Italy: The Monster of Florence
Our first unsolved! Sure enough, this unknown perp was responsible for 16 deaths in the area of Florence from the late 60s into the 80s. Notice that that was an even number. Indeed, the killer’s MO was to stalk couples making out in lovers lanes, then blow them away. Or should I say “killers’”. Yup, the Italian authorities were pretty certain it was a gang, a gang that they called the Snacks Companions (sorry, something must have been lost in translation). The book, film, and television references themselves take up a whole page in Wikipedia on their own.
#15 – Belgium: Marc Dutroux
Super creep out alert! Yup, this guy was famous for pedophilia and the murders of young girls. He and his wife, Michelle Martin, accounted for at least five teen and pre-teen girls that they abducted, tortured, and murdered. All this happened in the grittiest areas of Belgique, where Dutroux, a successful electrician, happened to own multiple rundown properties. A sensational trial, police scandals, and parliamentary involvement ensued. Hard to top this entry from Wikipedia though: “The Dutroux case is so infamous that more than a third of Belgians with the surname ‘Dutroux’ applied to have their surname changed between 1996 and 1998.”
Marc et Michelle
#14 – Canada: Robert Pickton
Hey, it’s the Pig Farmer! Robert Pickton inherited a pig farm in the city of Port Coquitlam, a suburb of Vancouver. Selling parts of the farm off to the growing city, he would become a millionaire. Pretty much giving up on pig farming except as a hobby, Pickton would divert himself by picking up hookers on Vancouver’s skid row, driving them back to his place, killing them, grinding them up with a wood chipper, then feeding them to his pigs. The final death toll was 49. The story also features plenty of police bungling and extensive court trials, and would result in the usual books, TV, and movies, but also a number of songs by punk and metal bands.
#13 – Egypt: Raya & Sakina
Yup, no last names. I guess that’s the way they did it back then. These two sisters – along with their husbands – set up quite the operation in 1920s Cairo. Basically, the two women lured local neighborhood ladies to their homes, plied them with liquor, suffocated them, then buried them beneath the tiles of their homes. A local jeweler was more than happy to fence the jewelry that they scored. Since that time, their story has fueled three movies, a play, and a TV series.
#12 – Mexico: Delfina & Maria Gonzalez
Here are two ladies that deserve to be a lot more well known. These two sisters buried more than 90 corpses on the grounds of the ranch/brothel they owned. Most of the victims were trafficked prostitutes who had lost their usefulness. The two were not, however, above offing those johns who showed up with lots of cash. Plenty of lurid details, a sensational trial, and rumors of bribes and Satanism have made this one a particular favorite. One of the sisters died mad in prison. The other somehow lived long to be released, finishing out her life in total obscurity.
#11 – Spain: Enriqueta Marqui
Kind of amazed I never heard of this one – it’s quite the story. Indeed, it’s called the “Black Legend,” and involves high society, a pedophilia ring, witchcraft, and an attractive procuress leading a double life. Let me explain … Marti, a former prostitute, set up shop around the turn of the 20th Century as a provider of children to the elite of Barcelona. During the day, she would dress in rags to find her urchins. At night, she would dress in finery, then market the ones she had cleaned up and groomed at all of the top spots in the city. To top it all off, she would dispose of her young charges by turning their remains into various potions, which she would then market to the same elite as something of a witch doctor. Wow!
#10 – Austria: Jack Unterweger
Handsome, stylish, and an author, Jack Unterweger was something of a literary and media darling. Originally convicted of a single murder, he would begin his writing career while in prison. Released after 15 years in response to pleading from the intelligentsia (including famous German author Guenter Grass), Unterweger would become a journalist and TV host. And a serial killer. Yup, he would begin a string of 11 murders in the space of about a year and spanning Europe and the US. As a journalist, he even wrote about some of the murders he committed. After a dramatic flight around the world, he was arrested, convicted, and would then commit suicide in prison.
#9 – Asia: Charles Sobrajh
Born in Vietnam, but half Indian, Sobrahj would commit his crimes all over Asia. Honestly, the guy was quite a jet setter. A classic psychopath, Sobrajh was cultured, charming, handsome, loved the limelight, and was able to attract acolytes wherever he travelled. Released after 20 years in prison in India, he would move to Paris where he would become something of a celebrity. Returning to Asia for some reason, he would be arrested and sentenced to life in prison in Nepal. Specializing in hippie chicks, Sobrajh would be known as the Bikini Killer.
#8 – France: Henri Landru
An inveterate swindler, Landru would switch from business schemes to lonely hearts scams. In particular, he would get women to hand over their savings, then lure them to two villas outside Paris, where he would kill them, then dismember and incinerate their bodies. He was convicted of killing 11, but his total may have gone as high as 72. He corresponded with 283 women in total. All this took place during WWI, when all the men were at the front (or dead) and policing was particularly light. He may have gotten away with a lot more, but was tracked down by the sister of one of his victims. A sensational and celebrated trial (with Collette and Maurice Chevalier in attendance) resulted in a guilty verdict, with Landru finally losing his head on the guillotine. The case resulted in no less than 17 books (most in French) and several films (including one by famous director Claude Chabrol).
#7 – Japan: Shoko Asahara
There’s nothing like a good cult tie-in to ensure a good place on this list. Remember Aum Shinrikyo? They were a death cult behind a gas attack in Tokyo’s subway back in the 90s. Cult members released sarin gas, accounting for 12 deaths and over 1,000 injuries. This guy was their leader. Blind from birth, he fashioned his beliefs from a mix of Hinduism, Christianity, and extreme paranoia. He also thought he was Jesus. He, and 12 other cult leaders, would swing for their crimes.
#6 - Norway: Anders Breveik
I honestly didn’t want to include this guy (too recent, too horrible), but the body count is pretty mind-boggling. Breveik would account for 77 total – 8 from a bomb in Oslo, and 69 mostly teens on an island at a summer camp. Just to make this guy even more charming, his motive was pure ethnic hatred.
Here are some interesting tidbits about this guy that don’t usually get mentioned:
- His father was a diplomat
- His mother, who raised him, was basically totally crazy
- As a teen, he was into hip-hop and graffiti
- He had cosmetic surgery
- He saw himself as the “future regent of Norway, master of life and death, inordinately loving, Europe's most perfect knight since WWII,” and “Knight Justiciar Grand Master" of the Knights Templar.
#5 – Russia: Andrei Chikatilo
When you’ve got three nicknames, you know you’re big time. Andrei Chikatilo, AKA the Butcher of Rostov, AKA the Red Ripper, AKA the Rostov Ripper, killed 50-some women and children during the 1980s. A sexual psychopath, Chikatilo might not even got away with the first one – let alone his 56th – if it weren’t for repeated police bugling. He was executed in classic Soviet style with a gunshot to the head.
#4 – Germany: Peter Kurten
Ah, yes, the Vampire of Dusseldorf. AKA the Dusseldorf Monster, Kurten committed his first murders at age 9 (he also enjoyed incest, bestiality, and arson at an early age). He would become known, however, for lustmord, and was arguably the first documented sexual psychopath killer. Accounting for at least nine murders and over 30 attacks, he would be turned in by his own wife. He would then be executed by beheading, an event he creepily would look forward to. In fact, you can see his head, split in half for your viewing pleasure, at the Ripley’s in Wisconsin Dells. Director Fritz Lang would base his classic movie M on Kurten’s story.
#3 – Hungary: Elizabeth Bathory
Just to let you know that murder is not just a modern thing, the Blood Countess was active primarily in the 16th Century. Bathory was the mistress of Čachtice Castle while her husband was away at war and then later after he died. There, and at several other properties she owned, she tortured and then killed what may have been hundreds of servant girls. Probably because of her noble connections, she was able to avoid execution, but was bricked up in a set of rooms in Čachtice. Numerous legends would be later added to her story, the most popular of which was that she bathed in the blood of virgins to keep her youth.
#2 – USA: Charles Manson
There’s a lot of competition for this one, but I don’t think anyone captured the public imagination and generated as much coverage as old Charlie. The crimes were surely sensational enough – brainwashed hippies in thrall to a cult leader murder Hollywood celebs in an exceedingly gruesome way. Add to that a surefire Trial of the Century, and it’s no wonder that the crimes resulted in the best-selling true crime book of all time (Helter Skelter), 11 documentaries, and numerous works of fiction and even band names.
#1 – UK: Jack the Ripper
Honestly, this is where it all started. Now, it wasn’t that there hadn’t been crazed murderers like Jack before. It’s just that a combination of newly literate masses, newspapers created just for them, an enormous metropolis, and a truly sensational series of crimes basically created the idea of crime journalism. It’s also the classic whodunit, with no true killer identified – though plenty of suspects, some of them risible – after 130 years. Finally, the impact of the crimes on culture and society have been incalculable. Wikipedia list 23 works of fiction, an opera by Alban Berg, Hitchcock’s first blockbuster, songs by Dylan and Morrissey, and too many movies, non-fiction books, and TV shows to count.