While the United States has popularized the idea of the serial killer in the media and remains the country with the highest number of serial killers, modern British history is littered with infamous serial killers who match the Americans in infamy and depravity.
They range from career criminals to respected professionals in their field, all of whom have demonstrated the cruelty that human beings are capable of. Here are 13 of the best-known English serial killers.
Jack the Ripper
No killer has risen higher in the public consciousness thanJack the Ripper. Jack, an unidentified man who haunted the streets of the London Borough of White Chapel, would gain infamy for the mysterious murders and mutilations of five prostitutes, as well as the many letters that were sent to the police.
It is believed that most of the letters received by the police are prank calls. However, the most infamous of these, the "From Hell" card, came with a preserved human kidney.
Jack was never caught for his crimes and speculation about his identity persists to this day. Jack is credited with killing five women, with the possibility of more victims.
Number of victims: Canonically 5, possibly more
A widow in Victorian England and perhaps the worst serial killer on this list, Amelia Dyer would gain notoriety when a baby's corpse was discovered in the River Thames, with evidence leading directly to Dyer. The police discovered that Dyer had been running a baby farm, mass adopting children for profit, but she began killing the babies she adopted.
Dyer used to strangle babies with white duct tape. On Dyer's adoption rate, some estimates put her at over 400 victims, making her one of the most prolific female serial killers.
Having been placed in and out of mental asylums over the years, Dyer declared himself insane. It took the jury just four and a half minutes to find her guilty. Dyer was hanged in the summer of 1896. In popular culture, she would be dubbed "the reading ogress".
Number of victims: 400+-
Remembering the White Chapel murders, Peter Sutcliffe would go down in English history as the Yorkshire Ripper. Sutcliffe harassed and killed the women and girls he passed on the street, later choosing to kill prostitutes because of their vulnerability.
The search for the Yorkshire Ripper would go on to become one of the greatest manhunts in English history, although it is most famous for its failures. Police would end up interviewing Sutcliffe nine times in five years without considering him a prime suspect.
Sutcliffe was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of 13 young women and the attempted murder of seven others. He would spend the last forty years of his life in prison, before dying from complications from covid-19 in late 2020.
Number of victims: At least 13
Fred e Rosemary West
In a murder spree that would shock English society, Fred West murdered twelve people over twenty years, with a particular predilection for teenagers. The most surprising thing is that he committed most of his crimes with the help of his wife, Rosemary.
The couple would gain infamy for their sexually charged crimes, which included rape, imprisonment, mutilation and murder, many of which were committed in their own home. It would be the crimes they committed against their own family that would be their undoing after Fred's daughter told the police about a tape of Fred raping her.
The investigation launched would reveal the sexual assault and murders of Fred's other daughters. Police would discover several bodies buried around West's home.
Fred hanged himself in prison for just a few months while awaiting trial. Rosemary West was sentenced to life in prison and remains to this day.
Number of victims: at least 12
A general practitioner based near Manchester, Harold Shipman would go on to become one of the most prolific murderers in the history of the modern world. Shipman would administer lethal doses of diamorphine, usually given only to terminal cancer patients, to hundreds of his patients. The vast majority of these victims were elderly women. Shipman would be nicknamed “Dr. Death” for their crimes.
Shipman was caught after he brazenly forged a new will for one of his patients, Kathleen Grundy, which excluded her daughter and grandchildren but left Shipman a large sum of money. The investigation into Grundy's death would lead to a massive re-examination of Shipman's deceased patients and signed death certificates revealing his frightening pattern of drugging healthy people to death.
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Harold Shipman later committed suicide in prison, the day before his 58th birthday. Police blamed Shipman for the deaths of approximately 250 patients.
Number of victims: more than 250
Dennis Nilsen, the Muswell Hill Killer, remains one of the most infamous serial killers in the world. A civil servant residing in north London, Nilsen developed a deadly pattern.
Nilsen attracted young men and young men to his apartment, often homeless men or other homosexuals he had met in bars. Nilsen would strangle or drown the men, then begin his chilling ritual: bathing and dressing the corpse, then keeping the body in his apartment for several weeks and often sexually abusing it.
Nilsen was exposed following a plumber's visit, where they discovered he had been pushing human remains down a clogged drain. Nilsen admitted his crimes to the police after being confronted, confessing to the murder of fifteen men and boys. He would spend the rest of his life in prison, until May 2018, when he died of a pulmonary embolism.
Number of victims: 15
Another murderer who would mirror the crimes of Jack the Ripper, Steve Wright, became known as the Ipswich Ripper or the Suffolk Strangler.
A former pub manager with a gambling addiction and a drinking problem, Wright would develop an obsession with sex workers in the early 2000s. He often frequented brothels and sex workers while his partner worked the night shift.
Matters came to a head in 2006 when small drops of blood belonging to a murder victim were discovered in Wright's Ford Mondeo. As the killer who inspired Wright's nickname, he is formally linked to the murders of five sex workers. Although, suspicion remains that their true body count is much higher.
Number of victims: 5
Ian Brady e Myra Hindley
The perpetrators of the infamous "Moor Murders", Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, were a couple obsessed with committing "the perfect crime".
Child-focused sexual sadists, Brady and Hindley would lure their victims into their car or home before assaulting them, followed by stabbing or strangulation. For some of their crimes, the couple photographed and recorded their victim's torture.
The two split up when they recruited Hindley's brother-in-law David Smith to help them dispose of their latest victim's body. Smith at first agreed, before going directly to the police and confessing to the crime he had witnessed.
The case was sensationalized in the press and the couple were branded as two of the most evil people in England. Both would die in prison, Hindley in 2002, Brady fifteen years later in 2017
Number of victims: 5
Mary Ann Cotton
Mary Ann Cotton is an early example of the modern black widow, responsible for the deaths of three of her four husbands. Ostensibly killing their husbands for insurance money, Cotton would go one step further by killing eleven of their thirteen children.
A serial poisoner, Cotton's weapon of choice was arsenic, causing a rapid decline in the health of many of her family members. Her downfall came after a parish official suspected her son's death. Local newspapers learned of how many members of Cotton's family had died of stomach fever, and the police followed him soon after.
The jury deliberated for 90 minutes before returning a guilty verdict. Cotton was hanged for her crimes in 1873.
Number of victims: 21
In 1950, a man named Timothy Evans was tried for the murder of his wife and daughter. Evans accused his flatmate, John Christie, of the crime, but Christie ended up being the star witness in the trial that resulted in Evans' execution. Later, the police would find six bodies in Christie's house: three in a corner of the kitchen, two in the garden and the body of Christie's own wife under the floorboards.
Christie committed her murders over the course of ten years. Her method involved gassing her victims, sometimes sexually assaulting them while they were unconscious, and always strangling them.
Christie was arrested after another tenant discovered the room that hid his last three victims. John Christie was executed in 1953 by Albert Pierrepoint, the same man who had executed Timothy Evans just three years earlier.
Number of victims: 8
Beverly Allitt was an English serial child killer who killed four children in 1991. She started out as a state contract nurse working in the children's ward of her hospital until medical staff became suspicious of the number of children who became violently ill, all under control. Allitt care.
Police discovered that Allitt staged an attack on thirteen children over a period of 59 days, resulting in the deaths of four. One victim has been confirmed to have intentionally overdosed on insulin. Allitt was tried and sentenced to life in prison with thirteen separate life sentences, one for each victim.
Still serving a life sentence, Levi Bellfield was a serial killer and sexual predator operating in the mid-2000s. Bellfield would often drive around in his pickup truck, approach women and try to lure victims, earning him the name "the bus stop stalker ". He was motivated by sexual gratification and resentment towards female victims who refused his attention.
Kate Sheedy was a woman who survived after being run over by Bellfield in her truck. Other victims of hers, who were often found with blows to the head, did not. Bellfield was found guilty of the murder of three women and the attempted murder of Sheedy. He remains in prison to this day, serving two life sentences.
Number of victims: 3
Stephen Port, one of the more recent serial killers, gained notoriety as "the Grindr Killer". Port's method of murder involved luring men into his home through gay/bisexual dating sites, where he would administer GHB, a rape drug, before sexually assaulting them.
Port's criminal predilections changed when he began giving victims lethal doses of the drug and dumping their bodies in Barking, where he lived. In his most brazen episode, Port left one of the bodies outside his own apartment and reported the body to the police. Even after more murders were discovered, police refused to classify the crimes as serial murders, amid public outrage.
Port is confirmed to have killed four men and is linked to seven other rapes and sexual assaults. Stephen Port became a convicted murderer in 2016 and is currently serving a life sentence.
Number of victims: 4
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