How to spot a serial killer

Has the loss of his wife and child turned Chris Warner into a killer? Did Mark’s betrayal push Tania over the edge? Or is Brenda not merely stroppy, but unhinged?

These are just some of the wonderfully creative theories from viewers who think they’ve guessed the identity of the Ferndale Strangler. But just how plausible are these theories? And which of Shortland Street’s characters might possibly fit the profile of a serial killer?

To help you decide here are some of the known facts about serial killers:

Most serial killers are male. Books on the subject usually claim that around 90% are male, but more recent studies suggest that female serial killers are on the increase, and that the figure today is more like 70% male. It has also been argued that female serial killers tend to be more successful, careful, precise and methodical – so they are not so easily caught.

While male serial killers more typically target random victims, the vast majority of female serial killers know their victims.

Most serial killers come from dysfunctional backgrounds and have suffered some form of physical, sexual or psychological abuse as children. There is often a direct correlation between their childhood abuse and their crimes, which compensate for feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness by giving them a sense of power and revenge for their childhood humiliation and abuse.

Serial killers are rarely insane or motivated by hallucinations or voices in their heads. They usually appear quite normal, even charming, displaying what has been referred to as “a mask of sanity”. However, opinions vary as to whether serial killers suffer from a kind of Antisocial Personality Disorder or are the result of retarded emotional development, resulting in a low (or non-existent) level of sympathy or empathy.

Serial killers can generally be classified as either “organised” or “disorganised”. The organised killers are usually highly intelligent, plan their crimes methodically, maintain a high degree of control over the crime scene and have a solid grasp of forensic science that enables them to cover their tracks. They also tend to closely follow media reports of their crimes. The disorganised killers are more likely to be below average intelligence, commit their crimes impulsively and they rarely bother to cover their tracks. While the organised killer is likely to be socially adequate (with family, friends and career), the disorganised killer tends to be socially inadequate (and often something of a loner). Interestingly, some serial killers devolve from organised to disorganised as their killings continue. In other words, they become more careless and impulsive as their compulsion takes over their lives.

Even though many serial killers have above average IQs they often do poorly at school, have a hard time holding down jobs and often work as unskilled laborers.
As children most serial killers display one or more of three early warning signs, together known as “The MacDonald Triad”.
The signs are: fire starting for the thrill of destroying things, cruelty to animals, usually for solitary enjoyment, rather than to impress peers and bed-wetting beyond the age that most children grow out of it.

Serial killers usually don’t start killing until their late 20s, 30s or even 40s. So it appears that it is not just childhood trauma that is the causal influence. On the other hand, some serial killers are as young as ten when they first kill. Many also begin fantasizing about murder during or even before adolescence.

The medical profession has produced more serial killers than any other. A surprising number have been either doctors or nurses. Typically, they tend to be either “Angels of Death” (who make judgments as to who deserves to live or die) or driven by a psychological condition known as Munchhausen’s By Proxy (through which they derive gratification from medical intervention). A report released in 2006 linked more than 2100 suspicious deaths worldwide to 54 doctors and nurses convicted of serial murder or lesser charges since 1970.

Serial killers don’t necessarily act alone. Some of the most deadly have been duos or “families”. The best-known duos include husband-and-wife killers, Fred and Rosemary West, the Moors murderers, Ian Brady & Myra Hindley, and the infamous Bonnie and Clyde. The most notorious of the “family” killers is the so-called “Manson Family” cult, who killed at the behest of their guru, Charles Manson.

Serial killers frequently operate with some kind of missionary zeal. They may believe their acts are justified because they are eliminating undesirable elements from society, such as prostitutes (Jack The Ripper) or patrons of prostitutes (Aileen Wournos). Some have religious motives, like British killer John Bodkin Adams, a fundamentalist Christian who targeted rich non-believers in order to re-distribute their wealth to the more deserving. Some even have vaguely political motives, like Ted Kaczynski (aka The Unabomber), who was motivated by a desire to warn the world of the dangers of modern technology.

Shortland Street’s writers have taken all these factors into account, so it should be possible to identify the Ferndale Strangler by applying the right set of serial killer motivations and behaviours to the right character. Then again, serial killers also go to great lengths NOT to be understood. They generally have no need or desire to explain themselves, and they enjoy the fact that their actions baffle and confuse. And when interviewed they will lie with abandon about their drives and motives.

Still& happy hunting!

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  • SHARLEY

    Well my theroy is there are 3 killers and they are JOEY , GAVIN and……………..wait for its also Lara wade the new officer on the job and they will get found out by being spotted beth does die in the end!!!! well thats what i think anywho ok lmao BYE love from the shortie fan!!xx

  • Tui

    Interesting – will have to watch Shorty and re-read this.

  • oliviatf

    this is very very interesting

  • All3ykat

    What about Justine??

  • hae evri body i no hu da seriasl killer iz T & or G can u guess hu it iz ????
    p.s i no hu dyez nxt sha nearly and mayb al i think some bad timez 4 sop 2 keep me posted lolz

  • Lesley

    OMG
    me and my frend think its joey, but we hope its not
    hes HOTT 😛
    marry me joey??
    😀

  • stace

    omg oi!! i rekon its JOEY!! i have heaps of reasons y it is!! hollah if u got other reasons stace_lilsweet@hotmail.com

  • stace

    know anything else bout it?? i rekon it JOEY!!