From making women dig their own graves to luring backpackers to the woods to be used as target practice, some of the world’s most callous serial killers were able to escape justice for years if not decades, and some indefinitely.
They are serial killers because they have not only killed many, but have continued to murder over a period of time – striking fear as they continued to escape justice and cover up their brutality, adding more victims to their body count.
Some like Jack the Ripper are never caught but others make key mistakes that mean they are finally brought to justice, the brutality of their crimes laid bare. Paul Simpson, author of the Serial Killer files , reveals four of the most callous but lesser known murderers of the last 40 years whose horrendous crimes came to light once they were finally snared.
The black magic killer Suradji who sucked the saliva out of women in his quest for eternal life
The murders committed by Suradji in some ways can be likened to Psycho – when Norman Bates claimed that ‘Mother’ made him commit the horrific crimes at the Bates Motel.
For Indonesian serial killer Ahmad Suradji the terrible slayings he committed were in some way down to his father – or his words at least.
Suradji’s father was a practising sorcerer in North Sumatra, and was revered by the local population. Suradji himself was a petty criminal, arrested for theft and violent behaviour, before apparently settling down as a farmer and sorcerer. He became respected as the ‘datuk’, a healer with great powers who villagers believed had telekinetic powers that enabled him to move the clouds.
However, he was also a master of darker arts.
In 1986, when he was 34, he had an almost ghostly vision, and remembered something his father had told him when he was just 10 years old: he would become invincible if he drank the saliva of 70 dead young women.
“Because I was trying to get to [invincibility] as fast as possible, I took my own initiative to kill,” he explained after being arrested.
Suradji didn’t get to a body count of 70 – but at least forty-two women disappeared over the next eleven years.
At first no one realised the connection to Surdaji. Many of his clients had not told their families they were planning on going to him for help as they wanted to keep his involvement secret – some were wives having marital problems others prostitutes needing more clients.
He would talk with them, assess what their spiritual needs were and tell them his fee. Once he was paid, his clients would follow him into the sugar cane fields to carry out the ritual that he had decided upon.
Sometimes Suradji had a hole already prepared for the women to get into – but in some of the more devastating cases the victims themselves would help him dig the hole that would become their grave.
Trusting him entirely, they agreed to have their wrists and feet bound, and were placed in the hole with their legs outstretched, expecting to be buried up to their waists. It was at that point they were strangled, and then Suradji would twist their necks so he could suck their saliva.
Often, one of his wives would come to help strip the body, and then the naked corpse was buried with her head facing Suradji’s home – due to his belief that this would make the spirit head straight to him.
Sometimes, when he felt he needed more victims, Suradji would even hire prostitutes for the ritual.
His last victim was Sri Kemala Dewi, 21, who came to visit him on 24 April 1997 because she wanted to get back with her husband. Dewi was bound, placed in the hole and then strangled, taking 10 to 15 minutes to die. He then sucked her saliva, and stripped her – “If I bury her without any lining,her body would decompose faster” he had explained.
This black magic killer was eventually caught when a man noticed an oddly shaped mound of dirt in the sugar cane fields. Coupled with 20 watches and clothing found buried in his goat pen, Suradji was connected to other crimes and disappearances and eventually confessed to 42 murders.
Police made him re-enact his gruesome killings, using mannequins – with some of the footage shown on the television news.
After he was convicted as one of Indonesia’s most notorious serial killers, Suradji was shot by a firing squad on 10 July 2008, and took three minutes to die.
Snared by a British backpacker three years later and 10,000 miles away – the killings of Ivan Milat
Ivan Milat can hardly have expected key evidence against him would come from someone based over 10,000 miles away, years earlier.
Milat was convicted for the ‘Backpacker Murders’ that took place around Sydney, Australia in the late 1980s and early 1990s. His became so notorious he was known as one of the worst serial killers in Australian history, and his brutal murders are believed to have inspired the film and TV series Wolf Creek.
Young backpackers had been taken out into the state forests, and killed in various ways – at least a couple of them were used for target practice by their murderer.
British engineer Paul Onions was nearly one of Milat’s first victims. At just 24 he had travelled to Australia to backpack round the country, and in January 1990 he was heading from Sydney to Victoria when a smiling man “with a moustache like [cricketer] Merv Hughes” offered him a lift. Paul happily accepted but started to get worried as his new friend “Bill” started to come out with racist opinions.
He got seriously concerned after they stopped briefly and “Bill” pulled a gun on him then reached for a bag of rope.
Paul ran and threw himself into the path of an oncoming car, whose driver took him to the nearest police station. He had left his rucksack in the back of “Bill’s” vehicle – and a distinctive shirt was later found in Milat’s possession.
He phoned the Australian High Commission and a note was made of his call. It was not until five months later that this was followed up – his evidence was instrumental in Milat getting convicted in 1996.
A year later Milat tried to break out of prison and even cut his finger off to get media attention for the many appeals he has filed in his case.
The “big high” murders of Michael McGray that continued even after he was jailed
Canadian serial killer Michael Wayne McGray is responsible for the deaths of more than a dozen victims across Canada. These included his cellmate Jeremy Phillips after Canadian authorities unwisely transferred McGray from a maximum security institution to a medium security facility and placed him in a shared cell.
“When I kill, it’s a big high for me,” he admitted to the Canadian National Post after his arrest in 2000.
Michael McGray had already killed on a number of occasions when he nearly got away with the perfect murders in 1991.
While serving a sentence in prison in Quebec for robbery, he was given a three-day weekend pass over the Easter holiday, and travelled to Montreal. He went to the Gay Village and picked up Robert Assaly, returning with the retired teacher to his apartment before stabbing him to death the next morning. The following day he chatted up Gaetan Ethier and killed the labourer in his home.
Robert and Gaetan’s deaths were just two of many unsolved murders within the Montreal Gay Village community, and for a very long time the two men’s deaths were lumped in with those.
McGray was arrested a few days after the murders for failing to return after his weekend’s leave and sent back to Quebec, but it was only after he was arrested for a completely separate case nearly a decade later that he admitted that he was responsible for Robert and Gaetan’s deaths.
The dog told me to do it – the taunting Son of Sam killer
David Berkowitz taunted police and the media with his notes after committing several killings.
He named himself ‘The Son of Sam’ in his notes to reporters, later claiming that it was the dog Sam who lived behind his house that was commanding him to kill.
Berkowitz terrorised New York City in the long hot summer of 1977, leaving residents living in fear for 13 months as he continued to kill. He approached young lovers in secluded spots and shot them, gradually getting more brazen. In total he carried out eight shootings, killing six people.
But he made the mistake of leaving his car by a fire hydrant and getting a ticket – which enabled police to track him down.
However he could have gone down in the halls of infamy for a much worse crime, according to one of the detectives that arrested Berkowitz. On the day that he was captured, Berkowitz was planning to “drive to the Hamptons”, the area of Long Island where the rich partied. He was heading out to a discotheque in Hampton Bay.
He later wrote of his remorse in 2002 but has never sought parole, instead claiming God had forgiven him for his crimes.
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