As a race, humanity has a chequered history. For all of our incredible discoveries, revelations and inventions, there’s no doubt that humanity has a dark side which has reared its ugly head over the years.
Serial killers are one of the clearest examples of this. There have been countless research papers written around serial killers and what drives them but we’re still far from truly understand what can push people to end the lives of others so readily. What we do know though, is that killing is a global issue, not a localised one. In this guide, we are going to cover some of the most famous killers in the world, each one hailing from a different continent to illustrate some of the more gruesome aspects of humanity’s history – starting with Asia.
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Asia – Yang Xinhai, China
Known as one of the worst killers China has ever seen, Yang Xinhai was a serial killer who murdered and raped for over four years between 1999 and 2003, until he was finally caught and executed in February 2004. During his trial, Yang was convicted of 67 murders as well as 23 counts of rape, using a hammer throughout his killing to carry out attacks indiscriminately. The motives of the killer are still debated, with some believing he resorted to murder out of anger at being rejected and others suggesting he simply enjoyed death. Regardless of his motives, Yang is no doubt one of the most prominent and infamous killers from the Asian continent.
Africa – Moses Sithole, South Africa
Known as “The ABC Murderer”, Moses Sithole was a serial killer and rapist who operated throughout 1994 and 1995. Sithole gained his nickname due to the locations of his murders, Atteridge, Boksburg and Cleveland, all towns in South Africa. His most common method of murder was strangulation using the underwear of his victims and his activities became so high-profile that Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa, personally visited the scene of his crimes and requested assistance from the local populace in catching him.
Sithole was caught in October 1995 and after a long trial, in December 1997 he was sentenced to a total effective term of 2410 years in prison for 38 murders, 40 rapes and six robberies. He remains one of the highest-profile killers Africa has ever seen.
Antarctica – Rodney Marks’ Poisoner
Antarctica, unsurprisingly, has seen relatively little crime over the years due to its remote nature and unique political boundaries. Despite this, there has been one murder in Antarctica which was never sold. In 2000, a scientist named Rodney Marks began complaining of a high fever and stomach pains and after 36 hours, he died. Due to the difficult location and conditions in Antarctica, Marks’ body couldn’t be moved for six months, though initial coroner said that he died of natural causes.
When the body was finally obtained and a full autopsy completed, it was found that Marks had actually died from Methanol poisoning. After investigation, it was deemed that the likelihood of accidental poisoning was very low, meaning someone must have purposefully caused the death. This remains the only suspected murder to have occurred in Antarctica and it will likely stay that way for years to come.
Australasia – Ivan Milat, Australia
Named as Australia’s worst serial killer in modern history, Ivan Milat was a killer who committed his crimes between 1989 and 1992. Known as the “Backpacker Killer”, Milat murdered at least seven young people between the ages of 19 and 22, all of whom were backpacking between Sydney and Melbourne.
Milat preyed upon the backpackers due to their reliance on the goodwill of passers-by, picking them up in his truck before tying them up and stabbing or shooting them. After their death, he would bury them in shallow graves in the Belangalo State Forest, taking souvenirs from their camping gear.
Eventually, Milat was caught after one of his proposed victims, Mr Onions, escaped and reported him to the police. After a raid of his home, the firearm responsible for the murders and camping equipment tying Milat to the victims was discovered. He was sentenced to seven consecutive life sentences, plus an additional 18 years, in July 1996.
Europe – Jack the Ripper, England
Jack the Ripper remains one of the most infamous names in serial killer history, yet the identity of this murderer is still unknown. Operating in 1888, Jack the Ripper was responsible for the murder and mutilation of multiple women in Whitechapel, London. His crimes were grave enough to cause hysteria and panic, though he seemingly disappeared after a short period of time, potentially due to fear of being caught.
The Jack the Ripper casebook is a large one, filled with conflicting theories and varying evidence, with many people continuing to investigate the murders and speculate to this day. The gruesome nature of the killings, combined with its mystery, has catapulted Jack the Ripper into infamy – inspiring television shows, books, art and much more.
North America – Ted Bundy, The United States of America
Ted Bundy is another well-known serial killer, especially as his trial was the first one to be fully televised for the American nation to see. Bundy raped and killed over 14 different young women between 1973 and 1978, beating them with a metal bar or strangling them before dumping their bodies nearby. His murders took place all across the USA, each as depraved as the last and after his arrest in February 1978, he was eventually executed in 1989 for his crimes.
Bundy’s brutality shocked the country, embedding his name into history. This has even sparked a recent Netflix series covering his life and activities, making him undoubtedly one of the continent’s most famous killers.
South America – Pedro Alonso López, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador
Finally, for the South American continent, we have Pedro Alonso López, also known as “The Monster of the Andes”. López is the only killer on this list who may still be free and alive, despite the volume and brutality of the murders he is responsible for.
Between 1969 and 1980, López strangled, raped and murdered over 300 girls across Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, all of whom were aged between nine and twelve. However, Police only believed Pedro Alonso López claims of murdering many young girls when he led them to the graves of 53 of his victims in Ecuador.
Despite this, he continued to serve short terms in jail before being released and eventually was declared insane in August 1994 by Colombian authorities. Four years later, he was declared sane and released once more on a $50 bail and despite requests for a rearrest, López has not been seen or heard from since this release. No one knows whether he is dead or alive, though he is definitely one of the most notorious killers South America has seen.
Each of these murderers is brutal in their own right, showing the depravity that humanity can be capable of. There is no doubt that these names will remain in history for many years to come; all we can do now is learn from them and refine our systems to prevent it from happening again. You can learn more about these killers through the internet, modern media and tours in the locations where they committed their murders.