List of serial killers by number of victims

A serial killer is typically a person who murders three or more people, in two or more separate events over a period of time, for primarily psychological reasons.[1][2] There are gaps of time between the killings, which may range from a few days to months, or many years.[2] This list shows serial killers from the 20th century to present day by number of victims. In many cases, the exact number of victims assigned to a serial killer is not known, and even if that person is convicted of a few, there can be the possibility that they killed many more.

Organization and ranking of serial killings is made difficult by the complex nature of serial killers and incomplete knowledge of the full extent of many killers' crimes. To address this, multiple categories have been provided in order to more accurately describe the nature of certain serial murders. This is not a reflection of an individual's overall rank, which may or may not vary depending on personal opinion concerning the nature and circumstances of their crimes. The fourth column in the table states the number of victims definitely assigned to that particular serial killer, and thus the table is in order of that figure. The fifth column states the number of possible victims the killer could have murdered. Some of these crimes are unsolved, but were included because they are the work of a serial killer, despite nobody being caught.

This list does not necessarily include war criminals or members of democidal governments, such as Adolf Hitler, Francisco Franco, Hideki Tojo, Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin, or Pol Pot.

  1. ^ Macmillan Encyclopedia of Death and Dying entry on "Serial Killers" Archived 5 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine (2003) by Sandra Burkhalte Chmelir
  2. ^ a b A serial killer is most commonly defined as a person who kills three or more people for psychological gratification; reliable sources over the years agree. See, for example:
    • "Serial killer". The Free Dictionary. Retrieved 15 June 2016. A person who murders 3+ people over a period of > 30 days, with an inactive period between each murder, and whose motivation for killing is largely based on psychological gratification.
    • Holmes, Ronald M.; Holmes, Stephen T. (1998). Contemporary Perspectives on Serial Murder. SAGE Publications. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-7619-1421-1. Retrieved 15 June 2016. Serial murder is the killing of three or more people over a period of more than 30 days, with a significant cooling-off period between the murders [...] The baseline number of three victims appears to be most common among those who are the academic authorities in the field. The time frame also appears to be an agreed-upon component of the definition.
    • Wayne Petherick (2005). Serial Crime: Theoretical and Practical Issues in Behavioral Profiling. Academic Press. p. 190. ISBN 978-0-08-046854-9. Retrieved 15 June 2016. Three killings seem to be required in the most popular operational definition of serial killing since they are enough to provide a pattern within the killings without being overly restrictive.
    • R. Barri Flowers (2012). The Dynamics of Murder: Kill or Be Killed. CRC Press. p. 195. ISBN 978-1-4398-7974-0. Retrieved 15 June 2016. In general, most experts on serial murder require that a minimum of three murders be committed at different times and usually different places for a person to qualify as a serial killer.
    • Harold Schechter (2012). The A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers. Simon and Schuster. p. 73. ISBN 978-1-4391-3885-4. Retrieved 15 June 2016. Most experts seem to agree, however, that to qualify as a serial killer, an individual has to slay a minimum of three unrelated victims.