Real Cases of Imitating Fictional Serial Killers
How can someone become so obsessed with a fictional serial killer they see on TV or a movie that makes them real life copycat killers?
It’s a question many are asking as two 13-year-olds are accused of trying to sacrifice a friend to internet meme Slender Man face trial in an adult court.
While their alleged fixation appears to have played out online, there is a long history of disturbed individuals becoming so fascinated by a horror story that they are willing to commit murder.
Case 1: Salt in the Wound.
Gary George loved witchcraft and horror films, particularly 2009 Australian “torture porn” The Loved Ones, in which a girl kidnaps and brutalises a boy who rejected her invite to a prom.
In 2012, the 41-year-old carried out an attack with “chilling similarity” to one from the graphic slasher film, the Chester Crown Court in the northwest of England was told.
George tortured and mutilated his friend Andrew Nall, 53, beating him and inflicting 49 separate knife wounds, including one carved into his stomach, into which he poured salt. He also poured cleaning fluid into Mr Nall’s eyes while he was still alive.
The judge and jury were forced to watch the movie, described by Australian reviewer Leigh Paatsch as “one sick flick” in which the victim suffers “a series of atrocities that should repel most viewers straight out of the cinema”.
Case 2: Takes life seriously.
A 16-year-old from Surrey stabbed his girlfriend to death and cut up her body in an imitation of the fictional forensic expert serial killer from Dexter.
Steven Miles used a saw from his father’s tree surgeon business to cut off Elizabeth Thomas’s limbs and put them in bin bags under his bed, The Mirror reported.
He had previously told an ex-girlfriend he was going to kill someone, and had texted Elizabeth: “You’ll see a lot of similarities in the personality of Dexter and myself.”
His lawyer told Guildford Crown Court: “This was a truly bloodcurdling, gruesome killing — horrendous beyond belief — ripped from the pages of a hit TV script.
“The evidence points to the defendant trying to emulate the actions of the character Dexter, whom he idolised.
“This case is a sad testament to the perils of how young people can become entrenched in modern TV blockbusters involving violence, which shockingly led to a copycat killing in real life.”
The politics student claimed to have an alter ego called Ed who had ordered him to kill someone. When his sister arrived home after the murder he told her: “Ed made me do something bad.”
He pleaded guilty and was jailed for life in October 2014.
Case 3: “I’ll be immortal.”
A 22-year-old who had watched Queen of the Damned more than 100 times said he killed his friend because he was told he would be rewarded with immortality and become a vampire “in the next life”.
Allan Menzies said he was visited at his home in Scotland in the night by vampire Akasha, played in the 2002 movie by singer Aaliyah, and ordered to murder Thomas McKendrick.
He told Edinburgh Crown Court he had killed Mr McKendrick using a bowie knife, a kitchen knife and a hammer, the BBC reported.
His offer to plead guilty to culpable homicide on the grounds of diminished responsibility was rejected after consultant forensic psychiatrists said it was “extremely unlikely” he was a paranoid schizophrenic, but appeared to suffer from an “anti-social personality disorder”.
Menzies said the character continued to visit him at psychiatric hospital Carstairs, adding that he was “disappointed” there were no other vampires there.
Case 4: Natural Born Killers.
The 1994 movie has been named as inspiration for an unprecedented number of murders.
The two students responsible for the 1999 Columbine high school massacre were fans, and used the film’s acronym, NBK, as a code in their home videos and journals.
Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, murdered 12 students and one teacher, injuring 24 others, before taking their own lives. Harris had referred to the day of the killing as “the holy April morning of NBK”, and in an undated journal entry, Klebold wrote, “I’m stuck in humanity. Maybe going NBK w. Eric is the way to break free”.
High school shooter Michael Carneal, who killed three classmates in Kentucky in 1997, also cited NBK as inspiration, along with Leonardo Di Caprio movie The Basketball Diaries and video games Doom and Mortal Kombat.
Teenagers Sarah Edmonson and Benjamin Darras watched the Oliver Stone movie repeatedly in 1995 before going on an LSD-fuelled crime spree, killing William Savage and leaving convenience store clerk Patsy Byers a quadriplegic. John Grisham, a friend of Savage, accused Stone of being irresponsible in making the film. In 1994, a 14-year-old boy from Texas decapitated a 13-year-old classmate because he “wanted to be famous. Like the Natural Born Killers.” In 2008, 18-year-old Eric Tavulares strangled his girlfriend, Lauren Aljubouri, to death. Tavulares and Aljubouri in Wisconsin after watching the movies between 10 and 20 times.
Case 5: What Billy Saw.
Steven Kazmierczak, who went on a gun rampage at Northern Illinois University on Valentine’s Day 2008, had a tattoo of the trademark doll from the horror franchise Saw.
Billy the Puppet, used by The Jigsaw Killer character to deliver messages to his victims, was one of several disturbing images etched into the arm of the 27-year-old, who took his own life after shooting dead five students and injuring 21.
The grisly series is also thought to have inspired Matthew Tinling, 25, who recreated a hideous scene from the notorious Saw IV by trying to sever his 45-year-old neighbour’s spinal cord.
Tinling stabbed ex-soldier Richard Hamilton in the head, neck and legs in a “savage and prolonged” murder.
Sentencing him to at least 30 years, Judge Timothy Pontius said: “You inflicted 17 wounds during the attack, the most serious of which was delivered specifically with the intention of severing the spinal cord, thus to cause paralysis and death, exactly as you had seen on a DVD.
“Whether or not that was Saw VI, found by the police in your room, or another in the series doesn’t matter. Plainly it was something you had seen and tried to imitate.”
Fact or fiction… or both?
Movies and computer games are regularly blamed for deviant behaviour, with murderers and violent criminals often found to be obsessed with specific horror stories. But how does a young person become so entranced with an imaginary character that they want to kill to be close to them?