From the Suffolk Strangler to Jack the Ripper, these British serial killers left a grisly trail of death in their wake.
Venture across the Atlantic to meet some of the world’s deadliest killers. from the infamous Jack the Ripper to the Suffolk Strangler’s rampage in the early 2000s, these British serial killers committed vile crimes all around the British Isles.
Number of victims: 5
From October to December 2006, the city of Ipswich, Suffolk in southeastern England was gripped by a string of mysterious murders. A total of five prostitutes were found dead, but oddly, none had fallen victim to any kind of sexual assault. It seemed that a far more tactile fetish was at play -- strangulation. Regional police launched Operation Sumac in an attempt to locate the killer and it wasn’t long before they narrowed in on a forklift driver by the name of Steven Wright. In a trial that received heavy media attention, Wright was found guilty and sentenced to multiple life sentences. He became known as the Suffolk Strangler.
Fred and Rosemary West
Number of victims: At least 12
The couple that kills together, stays together? Not really. Fred and Rosemary West were a match made in hell. In a span of 20 years, they tortured, raped, and murdered upwards of 13 victims -- many in their Gloucester home. Fred was already a killer before he met Rose, and his influence was so strong that she even killed her stepdaughter (Fred’s daughter) while Fred served out a separate prison sentence for theft.
It wasn’t until police heard reports of a film of Fred raping one of his own daughters that the couple’s awful crimes were revealed. Although the rape case was ultimately dropped, it led police on an investigation that uncovered the remains of Fred’s daughter in the family’s garden. Police soon apprehended the sadistic pair. Fred hanged himself in 1995 while awaiting trial, and Rosemary continues to serve a life sentence.
Number of victims: At least 13
Claiming that the very voice of God had directed him to kill prostitutes, Peter Sutcliffe set out to do just that. Between 1975 and 1980, Sutcliffe, who came to be known as the Yorkshire Ripper, murdered 13 women, but is suspected of killing as many as seven more. Some women were only presumed by Sutcliffe to be prostitutes. He would strike his victim with a hammer, drag her to a secluded area, rape her, and then murder her. Finally, he’d rearrange her clothing, paying particular interest to her shoes and then cover her in his own coat. He readily confessed upon apprehension, but then retracted his confession on account of paranoid schizophrenia. Nevertheless, he was convicted on all counts of murder.
Number of victims: Up to 15
In 1983, Dennis Nilsen, along with fellow tenants in his London apartment building, complained that the drains weren’t functioning properly. Maintenance thought it was simply an occasional backup. In fact, the pipes were clogged with human flesh. When police traced the blockage to Nilsen’s top-floor apartment, Nilsen played dumb. But the smell of rotting flesh was heavy in the room. Once in the police car, Nilsen was asked whether the remains had come from one victim or two.
“Fifteen or sixteen, since 1978,” he said matter-of-factly.
All of Nilsen’s victims were homeless gay men. He lured them to his home, where he strangled them to death and kept their bodies around -- sometimes performing sexual acts with the corpse or simply hacking the body into pieces. Today, he continues to serve a life sentence in prison.
Number of victims: 250+
There was only one man in Britain’s history whose wrongdoings led the government to reform aspects of its healthcare system. His nickname was Dr. Death -- appropriately so, as Dr. Harold Shipman murdered a shocking amount of his own patients. Shipman, of Manchester, was found guilty of 15 murders on January 31, 2000, although the true number of victims is thought to exceed 250. His murder spree spanning the mid-1970s until 1998, Shipman targeted mainly elderly women. His method of murder? Administering a lethal dose of diamorphine (a.k.a. heroin, which has limited use as a pain management drug for cancer patients in the UK).
He was discovered when he attempted to forge a £386,000 will of the recently deceased Kathleen Grundy. The dots were connected, more murders were uncovered, and Shipman was sentenced to life in prison. He hanged himself in 2004, just shy of his 58th birthday.
Jack the Ripper
Number of victims: Unknown, historically listed as 5
His identity may never be known, but his grisly deeds live on in infamy. Jack the Ripper stalked the poor area of London’s Whitechapel district in the year 1888. A number of local prostitutes were found, their throats slit and their bodies hacked apart beyond recognition.
Authorities struggled to find a culprit. Eventually a letter surfaced, allegedly written by the killer, who dubbed himself “Jack the Ripper.” Whether the letter and the slayings were the work of just one man remains a mystery. What did arise? Over 100 theories seeking to make sense of the notorious murder mystery.