Wanneer is iemand een seriemoordenaar?

Generally, a serial killer is someone who commits a series of consecutive murders. However, there are also mass murderers and spree killers. What is the difference between these types of killers? And what are important characteristics of a serial killer?

In this article, you can find more information about this.

Serial Killer

The FBI has adopted the following definition of a serial killer: 'Someone who murders three or more people, usually for abnormal psychological gratification, with the murders occurring over more than a month. There must be a cooling-off period in between during which the killer has had time to cool down or reflect. However, this does not always happen. Remarkably, serial killers often have a mental disorder, a negative self-image, a sexual disorder, and/or sadistic traits. This can lead a killer not to stop after the so-called cooling-off period.'

A serial killer can act based on various motives, such as anger, lust, attention, or financial gains. Serial killers can become addicted to the thrill and adrenaline associated with killing. Often, there are connections between the victims, and a serial killer follows a certain 'modus operandi' (mode of operation). Serial killers are often given a nickname.

Examples of well-known Dutch serial killers are Willem van E. ('The Beast of Harkstede') and Frans H. ('Fat Frans'). Frans H. is believed to have been responsible for the deaths of 259 demented elderly people as a nurse. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison on appeal in 1977 and died in 2006. Willem van E. has murdered at least 5 women between 1971 and 2001. He may have also been responsible for the deaths of 3 other women whose bodies were found in the Groningen area during the second half of the '90s. However, no evidence has been found.

Mass Murderer

In the case of a mass murderer, the murders are related. This includes victims who were all present at one location or are part of one family. There is no cooling-off period in this case. Mass murder can be committed by a single murderer or by an organization (such as a terrorist organization or a cult). Often, all the victims are killed in the same way and nearby.

Mass murder is a prevalent issue today. In America, there have been more mass shootings this year than there are days in the year. In the Netherlands, this phenomenon is not as common. A notorious Dutch example is the shooting in Alphen aan den Rijn, which occurred on April 9, 2011. The perpetrator, Tristan van der Vlis, shot and killed six people in the De Ridderhof shopping center and wounded 17. He then took his own life. He suffered from a mental disorder.

Spree Killer

A spree killer is somewhat similar to a serial killer. However, the murders are so close in time that they are often not considered separate crimes anymore. The killings occur at different locations. It often happens that the spree killer does not survive the act. For instance, the killer might be shot by bystanders or the police, or eventually commits suicide. There are no known cases of this in the Netherlands. The spree killer with the highest number of victims is Anders Behring Breivik from Norway. He killed 8 people in Oslo with a bomb and then shot another 69 people on the nearby island of Utøya. He survived the event. He cooperated during police interrogations and confessed his actions.

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