Serial Killers

Serial Killers
Intro to Profiling
Types of Killers
• Psychotic killer: murders as a result of mental
disorder and is out of touch with reality
• Ego-Syntonic: murders without disruption of his
ego function. The murder is rational and
acceptable to him
• Ego-Dystonic: killer disassociates himself on a
conscious level from the killings- he cannot
identify himself with the murder
Phases of Criminal Activity
1) Pre-crime phase: the ongoing behaviours of the serial
killer (ie the killer’s normal daily behaviour, including
fantasizing about murder)
2) The murder: including the selection of the victim
3) Disposal of body: it may be destroyed, dumped or
4) Post-crime phase: getting involved in the investigation
or contacting the families of the victim
Categorizing Serial Homicide
• The murders are repetitive, increasing or decreasing in tempo, over
a period of time which could be weeks or years and will continue
until the offender is apprehended, dies or commits suicide
• The murders are usually one-on-one
• The victim and offender are usually strangers to each other, which
includes the possibility that the offender stalked the victim for a
• Although there may be a pattern regarding modus operandi and
victim selection, the motive is seldom discernible
• Modern technology enables the offender to leave the scene in a
hurry before the murder is detected
• There is usually a high degree or aggression and unnecessary
violence present and the victim is subjected to unnecessary
Characteristics of Serial Killer
-Not all come from broken homes or
poor families
-Their intelligence quotient varies from
below 90 to above 120
-Chance of family member being involved
in crime
-All exposed to excessive emotional
abuse during their childhood years
-Relationships with their mothers
described as cold and distant
-Parental discipline was slack and no
boundaries were set for them as children
-Fathers physically absent during
-Antisocial tendencies surfaced in most
of them at an early age, such as the use
of dangerous weapons, abuse of animals,
theft and arson
-Their fantasies were acted out on
animals during adolescence
-Academic achievements were weak,
despite the high intelligence of some
-All had poor employment records
- Ritualistic behaviour
-Mental stability that masks mental
-Periodic ‘cry for help’
-Loss of memory and inability to tell the
-Suicidal tendencies
-History of violent behaviour
-Hyper-sexuality and abnormal sexual
-Head injuries or injuries during birth
-History of alcohol and drug abuse
-Illegitimate birth
-Signs or genetic disorders
-Biochemical symptoms
-Feelings of helplessness and
• The id: the first structure of the psyche, the one with which
the child is born
• Consists of instincts, urges and needs which are mainly of
an aggressive and sexual nature
• Sexual instinct (libido) is directed at the function of self
• Also called the ego-instinct or Eros
• Not only encompass sex but also instincts like hunger, need
for affection, etc
• Aggression instinct is the death instinct or Thanatos, which
can be directed towards the self or
• towards other people
ID con’t
• The id functions only according to the pleasure principle
• Wants own pleasure satisfied immediately
• The id knows no logic, time, morality, or censorship –
agrees to everything
• Primary process thinking (primitive and pre-logical
thoughts) takes place in the id
• The id is based within the subconscious which is not only
the home of aggressive and sexual urges, but everything
that is unacceptable to the ego is repressed to the id
• The subconscious cannot directly communicate with ego,
because the ego does not want to hear its complaints and
demands; they communicate through dreams, symbols,
and symptoms
• The ego: second psychic structure to develop
• Constitutes the executive personality of the individual
• Develops this as a child learns to differentiate between himself, other
people and objects and cultivates an awareness of the reality surrounding
• The reality principle is an important function of the ego: it has to negotiate
the psyche
• Housed in the conscious
• Must maintain the balance between the id and the superego and reality
• Checks whether it is realistic to satisfy the instinct or need that the id
insists on gratification; it takes consequences into consideration
• Negotiates with the outside world and the id and superego until it reaches
a compromise
• Capable of secondary process thinking, which includes logic, words,
evaluation of consequences and time
EGO Con’t
Uses defense mechanisms to assist in keeping the balance between the id, the
superego, and reality
One of the most important defense mechanisms is repression; when the ego
becomes aware of a threatening instinct from within the id because it is in conflict
with reality or the superego, the ego represses that instinct or urge or fantasy back
to the subconscious and ignores it, or it may employ another defense mechanism
Defense mechanisms differ according to their level of maturity: narcissistic defense
mechanisms are very primitive (include denial, distortion, primitive idealization,
projection, and splitting); immature defense mechanisms include acting out,
blocking, hypochondria, identification, introjection, passive-aggressiveness,
projection, regression, schizoid fantasies, somatization, and a turning against the
self; neurotic defenses are control, displacement, dissociation, externalization,
inhibitions, intellectualization, isolation, rationalism, reaction-formation,
repression, sexualizing, and undoing; mature defense mechanisms are altruism,
anticipation, abstinence, humor, sublimation and postponement
Develops continuously, but various factors can delay or retard its development
The id or superego can be so overpowering that one of the two completely
dominates the ego
• The superego: the conscience that develops from the
ego, starting at about the end of the Oedipus phase
at five or six years
• Becomes an internal force when the child avoids doing
wrong through internal conviction and not because he
fears external punishment
• Exists as a result of identification with the parents,
mainly the father figure
• Represents the moral standards of society, ethics,
cultural factors, censorship, conscience and guilt
feelings; the superego says “no” to everything
Superego Con’t
• Holds an ideal “benchmark” to measure the ego
• Can function from the conscious or the subconscious
• The development of neurotic symptoms in a normal person
– Sexual and aggressive impulses and fantasies penetrate the ego from
the id; the ego cannot reconcile these impulses with reality or with the
superego, they are considered threatening and taboo
– Anxiety then forms within the ego and the superego will punish it with
guilt feelings, and then the ego immediately represses the id impulses
back to the subconscious
– In the subconscious, fixations or complexes form around these
impulses, and the impulses will employ other methods to gain
acknowledgement, such as neurotic symptoms, dreams and symbols
– The more the ego represses, the more the impulses within the
subconscious demand acknowledgement – much psychic energy is lost
in this process, which prevents the ego from developing and causes
Connection to Serial Killers
• The ego is underdeveloped because of domination by the
id; it has no need to repress the urges or destructive
fantasies from the id, because the ego is too weak to be
threatened – the ego is also too narcissistic to care about
external reality and the superego is virtually non-existent
because of lack of identification with a positive father
• The ego is free to allow the acting out of sexual and
aggressive fantasies; thus, there is no reason for the
development of neurotic symptoms
• Serial killers are more normal than most neurotic
individuals, which should dispel the myth that they are
recognizable as raving lunatics
Psychosexual Stages of Development
• Oral phase – 0-2 years:
• The earliest phase of psychosexual development where all the
child’s needs, perceptions, and manner of expressing himself are
centered around the mouth (lips, tongue, etc)
• All needs (hunger, love, etc) are satisfied through the mouth – he
sucks and drinks
• Puts his fingers, toes, toys, etc into his mouth and so learns to
differentiate between objects
• Can express himself only through his mouth by screaming, gurgling,
or crying
• The mouth is referred to as the erotogenic zone
• There are two oral instincts or urges, namely oral erotic (the
sucking/drinking stage) and oral sadistic (the stage where the infant
bites, spits, and cries)
Oral Con’t
At an early stage, Eros and Thanatos are already at play; there are primitive sadistic
fantasies of biting, eating, and destruction within the child’s subconscious
The child is all id
Too much satisfaction or abstinence (i.e – the infant gets too much or too little
milk) can lead to oral fixation which will manifest later in his personality.
Characteristics of this during adulthood are: excessive optimism, narcissism,
pessimism, and demanding
A person with an oral character is excessively dependant and demands that others
should give him everything and care for him; can be very generous, but there is a
subconscious need for the other person to reciprocate
Bite marks indicate oral sadism, which will probably classify the serial killer as
hedonistic lust-motivated
Cannibalism indicates a severe identity crisis, and the killer tries in this very
primitive way to incorporate the identity of the victim by physically eating them
• Anal phase – 2-4 years:
• Characterized by the development of the sphincter muscle which controls
the anal closure reflex
• Known as the “potty-training” phase; the erotogenic zone is the anus
• Also characterized by an intensifying of aggressive urges and the child
derives pleasure from his sadistic impulses – where he was previously
more passive, he now becomes more active and has more control over
himself and his environment
• The child learns to walk, dress himself, and has more control over his
bodily functions
• This is also known as the control phase
• A power struggle typically ensues between the parent and the child; he
can get angry with the parent, but he also loves the parent and is
dependant on them for his survival – the child can become confused by
this ambivalent feelings
• Anal eroticism refers to the sexual pleasure of defecating – the child can
retain his own product or present it as “a gift” to the parent
• Anal sadism refers to the expression of aggression and feces becomes
dangerous weapons of destruction in the child’s subconscious fantasies;
children in this phase of fantasies of bombs, explosions, and volcanoes
The child has several defense options against the ambivalence he feels towards his parents:
• May feel that he should not get angry with his parent – if he shows anger towards
the parent, he may lose the love of that parent, whom he is dependant on for his
own survival, and he might die. He may see himself as a bad person
• May fear losing the parent’s lobe and become very compliant and good, just to
please the parent – he develops a pleasing personality, wanting to buy the affection
of others and cannot assert himself. He will become passive-aggressive individual
who sabotages interpersonal relationships
• May acknowledge the parent as the aggressor, but because he fears losing the
parent’s love, he will identify with the parent and also becomes aggressive. These
children become typical bullies
A person who is fixated in this phase will have the following traits: orderly, hard-nosed, and
Should the child’s defense mechanisms fail, he will never be able to deal with ambivalence;
he will not have the maturity to realize that one can be angry with a person while still loving
him or her
Other characteristics of anal personalities are: slovenliness, anger, sado-masochism, and
Successful completion of this phase is indicated by a person who can function independently,
can tolerate ambivalence and cooperate with others without being either complacent or
Signs of obsessive-compulsive rituals will be ex: redressing the victim perfectly, placing the
shoes neatly next to each other, making a bow around the victim’s neck
Signs of sadism on the body are significant; it correlates with both the oral and the anal
– sadism implies control and the anal phase is a control phase
– such a serial killer can be classified as hedonistic, lust- or power-motivated
Oedipus/Phallic Phase: 4-6 years
-Freud considers Oedipus phase most important of psychosexual
- during this extreme sexual phase; the boy subconsciously falls in love with the
mother and competes with father for her attention
- the opposite happens with the daughter who subconsciously falls in love with the
- the erotogenic zone is the penis
- This phase is characterized by sexual interest, stimulation and masturbation
-both sexes are interested in the penis
- girl may develop penis envy when she sees the boy’s penis and realizes she doesn’t
have one
- holds mother responsible for her own “castration”, for she is subconsciously in love
with the mother’s husband
- the boy realizes the girl has no penis and develops castration anxiety; thinks the girl
has been ‘castrated’ and that it is possible that he could lose his own penis. Fears
father will castrate him; because he’s in love with the father’s wife
- All of this happens on a subconscious level, but it will manifest in behaviours such as
the boy refusing to allow the father near her, hitting the father, etc.
- natural for boys to be very attached to their mothers at this stage
- fathers make the mistake of fearing their boys are going to become ‘sissies’
and mothers make the mistake of being so flattered by their sons attention that they
neglect their husbands and allow their son to ‘conquer’ the father figure
-a man may feel ‘castrated’ by being belittled continuously by a woman
- this has its origin in the mother rejecting the boy
- at the end of this phase it would be normal for the boy to give up his mother as the
object of his sexual attraction and identity with his father, likewise the girl
- wide variety of fixations can develop in this phase
- result can be homosexuality, boy identifies with mother instead of father
-a fixation; can result in boy marrying woman like his mother
- most important fixation in this phase is castration anxiety which arises from guilt
feelings about the boy’s aggression towards his father (revenge) and sexuality directed
towards his mother
- someone who has completed this phase will have an appropriate sexual identity and
basis of a healthy conscience
-phallic instrument (broomstick, bottle, etc) forced into the vagina or anus of a female
victim it indicates castration anxiety
- suspect fears losing his penis because the woman does not have one and reminds
him he may lose his
- suffers from psychological impotence; man who rapes feels psychologically impotent,
though he may be physically potent
-The serial killer who commits necrophilia has a serious communication problem; only
feels safe being intimate with a dead person; as they cannot reject, tease, or humiliate

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