Killers in our midst

A tale creepy enough to freeze the blood.

SINCE 1970, more than ninety serial murderers around the world have been convicted after operating in hospitals, long-term care homes, and private residences with elderly charges. Between them, these nurses (mainly) and doctors (a few) have killed or injured over 600 people; an additional 2,600 deaths are connected to them but unproven. The caregiver killer deploys a subtle arsenal of insulin and opiates and pillows over faces. They hasten a person’s demise by doping them with already-prescribed drugs at higher doses, or they induce heart attacks or strokes. Another forty health care workers in this time period evaded conviction for lack of evidence beyond reasonable doubt. In the Gosport War Memorial Hospital, in England, for instance, a female physician presided over 456 deaths due to inappropriate prescribing of opioids between 1987 and 2001, with another 200 patients considered to be her possible victims. Although she was censured for “professional misconduct,” her licence wasn’t even suspended, much less was she prosecuted for manslaughter or murder.

What this means is that we could be talking about 130 suspected serial killers in North America and Europe—dozens of John Wayne Gacys and Jeffrey Dahmers—in the last half century. And these are only the ones known or suspected. There have been other care homes and hospitals with highly suspicious death rates that have never been fully explained. Like the red-light district and the lonely highway, institutional care settings are prime hunting grounds for the modern serial killer.

Aside from the home, these care homes and hospitals are also the main source of victims for women who kill. We don’t fully understand what separates these women from others of their gender. But more than half of health care serial killers are female, according to Southern California University nursing professor Beatrice Crofts Yorker. By that measure, there have been at least forty-five of them in the years since the FBI established its Behavioral Science Unit at Quantico, the subject of Netflix’s Mindhunter—even though the leaders of the unit declared to this author personally that all serial killers were male.

In 2015, psychologist Marissa Harrison and a group of women colleagues published a review of female serial killers that found they “tend to carry out their crimes over a longer period of time, have more victims . . . are frequently nurses or serve some other caretaker role.” They choose “victims who had little or no chance of fighting back.” The FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit may not have noticed it, but the phenomenon is hardly new. In the nineteenth century, American nurse Jane Topping confessed to thirty-one murders of patients in Massachusetts. In England, nurse Catherine Wilson was caught poisoning her frail charges in the 1850s and 1860s. In the early 1900s, Amelia Sach and Annie Walters ran an adoption business in the UK, but instead of rehoming the babies, they smothered or poisoned them; the total number of victims was thought to be in the dozens. Amy Archer-Gilligan, born one Halloween night in the late nineteenth century, murdered husbands to cash in life insurance policies that financed the nursing homes she ran, whose residents she poisoned. (In popular culture, her crime spree sparked a comedic play, Arsenic and Old Lace, which nicely sums up the difference in how we regard serial killers by gender.)

In July 2018, a British health care worker was arrested on the suspicion that she had murdered eight babies and tried to kill six others while she worked at the Countess of Chester Hospital, in northwestern England. Days later, there were reports that a Japanese nurse had been arrested on the suspicion that she’d injected disinfectant into intravenous bags, killing approximately twenty elderly patients in her care at a Yokohama hospital. So, this subgenre of serial murderer continues to flourish. The question worth asking ourselves is whether we aren’t looking for such killers because we don’t truly value their victims or because we cannot abandon the image of nurturing women.

I long ago developed something of an interest in the serial-murder aberration, and have read up on it a fair-ish bit over the years. Because of that, I knew already that the widespread perception of serial killers being almost exclusively white males afflicted with some kind of crippling sexual disorder, psychological or physical, is complete baloney. There are also vitally important distinctions to be made between serial killers, spree killers, and mass murderers which are ignored as a rule, except among homicide investigators, crime scene techs, and other folks who specialize in such dreadful matters.

The reality is that there have always been many more active serial killers prowling the land for prey than any of us would prefer to believe, and that although there are some commonalities to be found among ’em, the absence of reliably hard and fast markers such as gender, ethnicity, income, or intellectual capacity makes them extremely difficult to identify and apprehend. Which is why most of them…aren’t. It might not be entirely accurate to call the awful story of Madison, Wisconsin’s Capital City Killer* a typical one. But it wouldn’t be entirely accurate to say that it isn’t, either.

The only assumption it’s ever safe to make as to what ingredients are essential in the making of these monsters is a complete lack of empathy for the victims—an absence confirmed by the offense itself, rendered supremely useless for investigative purposes by its painful obviousness. Contrary to the common notion that serial killers are social maladroits who find normal, casual interaction with others all but impossible, they’re often quite charming and personable people. As the old saying goes: Ted Bundy didn’t have horns and a tail.

All in all, the facts paint a pretty scary picture for us. Serial killers aren’t necessarily easy to identify, which likewise makes it easier to become ensnared by them. Not all of their victims are stupid, unobservant hookers, intoxicated homeless people, or naive waifs. The escalating intensity of the urge to kill that drives a serial killer creates in them a persistence and single-mindedness when on the hunt that can sometimes be the only way to recognize and avoid them. The line between sensible caution and absurd paranoia is one the serial killer finds easy to blur or erase in their intended victims, a skill honed by a lifetime of manipulation, concealment, and deception. The penalty for failure to keep to the right side of that line is ordinarily an argument, maybe even an ugly end to a formerly treasured relationship. With a serial killer, though, the penalty for not paying strictest attention to the line is death.

* A soulless fiend identified only after an arduous forty-year pursuit by an early victims’ closest friend and fellow UW-Mad student, Linda Tomaszewski. He was never apprehended or tried mainly due to police corruption, bungling, disinterest, and intentional cover-up, and the case is still officially unresolved. The killer’s journey begins in Africa with the massacre of an entire tribal village, the bloody opening act of a nightmarish carnival of death whose decades-long run closed only after a US tour spanning the entire continent. It’s one of those stories marred by a most unsatisfactory ending: the demonic protagonist dies peacefully in his bed at a ripe old age, smugly taunting Tomaszewski with tacit acknowledgment of his guilt, unmolested by the hand of justice to the last. And yes, he was also a doctor, as it turns out. Go figure.

An aside: the book linked on the other end of the asterisk (Mad City: The True Story of the Campus Murders That America Forgot) is a meticulously-researched, somewhat scholarly account written by a former LEO and criminologist, for any of you weirdos who might share my interest in this admittedly unsettling topic. It might be a bit dry for some tastes, but to me the absence of leering prurience or melodrama is a good thing. YMMV, as always, but I really enjoyed it myself. For an even deeper dive into this darkest of pits, I also recommend the free download (in PDF) of the FBI’s seminal 2008 report Serial Murder: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives for Investigators, which is universally hailed even today as the most thorough and useful study yet undertaken on the behavior, methods, and motivations of these enigmatic predators.

(Via MisHum)

0 0 votes
Article Rating
3 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ironbear

I long ago developed something of an interest in the serial-murder aberration, and have read up on it a fair-ish bit over the years.

Likewise, only from a perspective of doing research for writing and character design for bad guys. Some in research for gaming, also, back when I used to GM.

Amazing how easily you can take some of the weirder and more bizarre serial killers and transform them into cultists for a Call of Cthulhu game, fer instance.

There are also vitally important distinctions to be made between serial killers, spree killers, and mass murderers which are ignored as a rule, except among homicide investigators, crime scene techs, and other folks who specialize in such dreadful matters.

Odd bit of trivia: One of our earlier mass school shooters was 16-year-old Brenda Ann Spencer, whom you might remember as immortalized by Bob Geldorf and the Boomtown Rats in “I Don’t Like Mondays“.

Most decidedly not a maladjusted white male as so many people have been conditioned by the Narrative to expect.

Barry

My sister, a pulmonary specialist has always said two things –

1) Never leave your loved one in a hospital on their own unless they are in perfect control of their faculties and not incapacitated.

2) Best not put your loved ones in a nursing home, and if you have to do it, check them every few days.

Nothing to do with serial murders, but a word to the wise anyway.

Ironbear

Hospitals are where sick people go to die.

And boy howdy – some nurses will go absolutely ballistic if you state that observation to their face. I have experiential evidence. 🙂

Comments policy

Comments appear entirely at the whim of the guy who pays the bills for this site and may be deleted, ridiculed, maliciously edited for purposes of mockery, or otherwise pissed over as he in his capricious fancy sees fit. The CF comments section is pretty free-form and rough and tumble; tolerance level for rowdiness and misbehavior is fairly high here, but is NOT without limit. Management is under no obligation whatever to allow the comments section to be taken over and ruined by trolls, Leftists, and/or other oxygen thieves, and will take any measures deemed necessary to prevent such. Conduct yourself with the merest modicum of decorum, courtesy, and respect and you'll be fine. Pick pointless squabbles with other commenters, fling provocative personal insults, issue threats, or annoy the host (me) and...you won't. Should you find yourself sanctioned after running afoul of the CF comments policy as stated and feel you have been wronged, please download and complete the Butthurt Report form below in quadruplicate; retain one copy for your personal records and send the others to the email address posted in the right sidebar. Please refrain from whining, sniveling, and/or bursting into tears and waving your chubby fists around in frustrated rage, lest you suffer an aneurysm or stroke unnecessarily. Your completed form will be reviewed and your complaint addressed whenever management feels like getting around to it. Thank you.

Categories

Archives

Subscribe to CF!

Support options

Shameless begging

If you enjoy the site, please consider donating:

Notable Quotes

"America is at that awkward stage. It's too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards." – Claire Wolfe, 101 Things to Do 'Til the Revolution

"There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." — Daniel Webster

“The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.” – Frank Zappa

“The right of a nation to kill a tyrant in case of necessity can no more be doubted than to hang a robber, or kill a flea.” - John Adams

"It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged." - GK Chesterton

"I predict that the Bush administration will be seen by freedom-wishing Americans a generation or two hence as the hinge on the cell door locking up our freedom. When my children are my age, they will not be free in any recognizably traditional American meaning of the word. I’d tell them to emigrate, but there’s nowhere left to go. I am left with nauseating near-conviction that I am a member of the last generation in the history of the world that is minimally truly free." - Donald Surber

"The only way to live free is to live unobserved." - Etienne de la Boiete

"History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid." — Dwight D. Eisenhower

"To put it simply, the Left is the stupid and the insane, led by the evil. You can’t persuade the stupid or the insane and you had damn well better fight the evil." - Skeptic

"There is no better way to stamp your power on people than through the dead hand of bureaucracy. You cannot reason with paperwork." - David Black, from Turn Left For Gibraltar

"The limits of tyranny are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress." - Frederick Douglass

"Give me the media and I will make of any nation a herd of swine." - Joseph Goebbels

“I hope we once again have reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts.” - Ronald Reagan

"Ain't no misunderstanding this war. They want to rule us and aim to do it. We aim not to allow it. All there is to it." - NC Reed, from Parno's Peril

"I just want a government that fits in the box it originally came in." - Bill Whittle

Best of the best

Neutral territory

Alternatives to shitlib social media:

Fuck you

Kill one for mommy today! Click to embiggen

Image swiped from The Last Refuge

2016 Fabulous 50 Blog Awards

RSS feed

RSS - entries - Entries
RSS - entries - Comments

Contact


mike at this URL dot com

All e-mails assumed to be legitimate fodder for publication, scorn, ridicule, or other public mockery unless otherwise specified

Boycott the New York Times -- Read the Real News at Larwyn's Linx

Copyright © 2021