ADIR - L'altro diritto

ISSN 1827-0565

Serial Killer between law and criminology

Gianluca Massaro, 2002


The fascination of society at large for serial killers depends on the fact that they resemble the closest thing available to absolute evil: killing for the pleasure of killing, no passions or revenges involved.

This research begins explaining what serial killers are, what makes them different for instance from passion criminals or mass murderers. Having assumed a provisory notion of what a serial killer is, the research discusses a relevant set of data, mostly provided by the "European Serial Killers Data Bank", in order to quantify the phenomenon. The research discusses then the serial killers classifications made available by the contemporary criminology. Serial killers have been grouped according to their motives; according to the number of the people involved in the killings; according to the features of those killing; according to the psycho-dynamics and behavioral features of the killers and finally according to the stages of the murders.

The chapter follows with a discussion of the atypical forms of serial killing (i.e. terrorists and criminal organizations; war mass slaughter), paying attention also to women serial killers. To complete the classification the research discusses also the serial killing victimology, classifying the kind of victims favored by serial killers.

The second chapter investigates how childhood and adolescence of serial killers, how their families and social relations, could affect their homicidal behavior. Later the chapter offers a detailed discussion of the relationship between serial killings and sex. The serial killer is traditionally assumed to have sexual motives, and in fact even nowadays the 'sexual' serial killer is the most common.

After a detailed discussion of the possible investigative styles both at the national and international level, and of the legal aspects connected to trial and sentence serving in case of serial killing, the third chapter of the research provides the readers with an in-depth sociological analysis of three Italian serial killers, demonstrating among the rest that serial killing is not a strictly Anglo-Saxon phenomenon. The three cases studied (Gianfranco Stevanin, Donato Bilancia, Luigi Chiatti) have been chosen because of the outcry they caused, but also because of the relevant differences their cases present.