Female serial killer Aileen Wuornos
In the United States, only 15 women have been executed since 1984, in contrast to over thirteen hundred men. Although the disparity between the sexes for murder and other serious crimes is nowhere near that great, the reality is that women are far less violent and far more law-abiding generally than men. The simple fact is that men are both the stronger and the weaker sex; as has often been pointed out, feminists may whine about the (mythical) glass ceiling, but they never mention the glass basement where the vast majority of society’s social inadequates and sad cases generally can be found.
Nevertheless, there are cases of extreme female depravity, and when they arise, they send shockwaves the length and breadth of society. For reasons of space, only a few can be discussed here; we begin with the historical case of Amelia Dyer. The true scale of her crimes may never be known, but it is just possible she was the most prolific serial killer in English history; Dyer was a baby farmer.
In the 19th Century and indeed well into the 20th Century, having a baby out of wedlock was considered scandalous, especially for women higher up the social ladder. Before adoption and child care were regulated and largely taken over by the state, illegitimate children were often put out to nurse in such fashion, fostered, and some were adopted.
Amelia Dyer was born Amelia Hobley in 1837; she takes her name from her second husband. She came from a fairly privileged family for the time, but her mother died when she was a girl, and her father in 1849; two years later, she married her first husband, a much older man, then trained as a nurse. Shortly she moved into a less demanding profession, helping young pregnant women, and then farming out their offspring.
Nursing young babies and placing them for adoption could be an expensive affair; because of this and because of their unscrupulousness, indeed total lack of humanity, some baby farmers would allow their charges to die and walk away with the money. Others, most notably Dyer, took this to a whole new level, simply murdering them. Her modus operandi was to strangle her charges with tape, wrap the bodies in paper, then throw the bodies into the River Thames.
Although sometimes a new mother will do something terrible, usually suffocating or smothering her child, this is an act of madness, and is recognised as such, being classed as infanticide, but a woman who kills another woman’s baby has no such excuse, legal or otherwise, and a woman who does this time and time and time again is beyond the pale.
Dyer had a long and chequered career, and was on the radar well before her arrest in April 1896. In those days, they didn’t hang about; she was tried the following month, and hanged June 10. The jury didn’t hang about either, rejecting her only possible defence – insanity – in less than five minutes!
With the possible exception of the Blood Countess, there are few women who plumbed the same depths of depravity as Amelia Dyer, but a woman who murders her husband, cripples her own son by poisoning him, then drowns him in a staged accident, takes some beating. Such were (some of) the crimes of Judy Buenoano. Buenoano was a black widow, a type of crime peculiar to female serial killers; another – though not exclusive to women – is an angel of death, a doctor or more often a nurse who murders for pleasure or simply for the sake of it. Depraved though Judy Buenoano may have been, she appears to have murdered purely for money, which is generally what black widows do.
Born at Quanah, Texas in April 1943, her depravity aside, Buenoano has a dubious claim to fame; she became the first woman to be executed in Florida for 150 years. She went to the electric chair on March 30, 1998.
Four and a half years later, the State of Florida would execute another, and more notorious female serial killer. Like Buenoano, Aileen Wuornos appears to have murdered purely for money, although there is some suggestion that she may have hated men, due to the way she was treated in her early life. Unlike Buenoano though, who collected well over $200,000 in insurance fraud, Wuornos was strictly small potatoes.
Born Aileen Pittman at Rochester, Michigan in February 1956, she is said to have been sexually active from an early age. She did not have an easy life, she never met her father, who hanged himself in prison when she was not quite thirteen; he had been convicted of sex offences against children. Aileen Pittman became pregnant at fourteen, the baby was given up for adoption, and after being thrown out of what might loosely be called her family home, she appears to have lived feral for some time.
It was perhaps inevitable that she would become if not a prostitute then one of those unfortunate people – mostly men – who enter into a downward spiral and end up serving a life sentence on the installment plan. That being said, Fate usually gives even the most unfortunate of its children at least one chance, and Aileen Pittman was given not one but two. Alas, she blew them both spectacularly.
In 1976, while hitch-hiking in Florida, she met and married a wealthy man nearly fifty years her senior. She was barely out of her teens, and although most people will view such a union with extreme cynicism, she could have used it to better herself. One is tempted to compare her with Anna Nicole Smith, who married an even older man, and did precisely that, notwithstanding her premature death. Alas, the future serial killer had been married only 9 weeks when her husband had their union annulled after she subjected him to wanton violence.
Then, she received a second albeit smaller chance of redemption; her brother died four days before the annulment, and she received $10,000 insurance money, which she could have used to put her life back on track. Instead she frittered it away in about two months high living; $10,000 did not go that far even in 1976. Having already sold her body to survive, Wuornos turned full time to prostitution and petty crime, and some ten years later met the love of her life, another woman. It remains to be seen if Aileen Wuornos was bisexual or if she became a lesbian, but that doesn’t matter; her lover, Tyria Moore, was what might be called a butch lesbian, and there can be no doubt either that she loved Wuornos and wanted to change her for the better, in particular to guide her away from prostitution. However, by that time, Wuornos was not only a dedicated prostitute, she was an impulsively violent individual who would square up to others, especially men, at the drop of a hat. She and Moore led a peripatetic existence, and in November 1989, she committed her first murder.
She would claim her victim, Richard Mallory had raped her, but there is no credible evidence of this. Mallory would be the first of seven victims, the last was a 62 year old police reservist who was shot four times and stripped naked.
It took the police a little while to realise what they were dealing with, but in a case of this nature there is little chance of the perpetrator avoiding capture except by suicide. Wuornos was arrested in January 1991, and even without her confession there would have been plenty of evidence to convict her of most of the murders. She would eventually receive a total of 6 death sentences, but it would take until October 2002 for her to be executed, which is actually quite fast in the US where due process for the victims of even serial killers is scandalously slow.
Some have suggested that Aileen Wuornos was unfit to plead; certainly she was not sane in the ordinary everyday sense, but phrases like antisocial personality disorder and borderline personality disorder are mere words; like diminished responsibility they are a legal fiction created by special interest groups, the latter by anti-death penalty activists. The purpose of such deceptive rhetoric is to rationalise, to explain away, to excuse, unacceptable or even murderous behaviour.
The last case to be discussed here is that of Karla Homolka, who is universally recognised as Canada’s most hated woman. Although her crimes are dwarfed by those of Amelia Dyer, it is only natural for people, especially women, to feel an innate sense of revulsion for a woman who is complicit in the sexual assault and death of her own sister.
Homolka, who was born in 1970, became the lover and then wife of the slightly older Paul Bernardo. They met when she was 17 and he was 23. There was an instant chemistry between them; they had known each other just over two months when he proposed. Under other circumstances they would have been a dream couple: he was handsome and intelligent; Karla was a stunningly attractive blonde, and a homely girl. Things turned out very differently though, and they would become known as the Ken and Barbie Killers. By the time they met, Bernardo was already a serial rapist. Shortly, he developed an obsession with Karla’s younger sister Tammy, and decided he wanted to rape her too. He also decided he needed Karla’s help, and asked her. What would any normal woman do if any man asked her to help drug and rape any woman, much less her own sister? Unfortunately, Karla was no normal woman, she didn’t simply comply, she joined in enthusiastically. This happened more than once, the last time with fatal consequences. Tammy vomited, choked on her vomit, and died. (An aside here, those who endorse the accusers of Bill Cosby uncritically should consider this).
After covering their tracks, Paul and Karla called the emergency services. Tammy was taken to hospital, but it was too little too late. The authorities decided her death was not suspicious, and a proper autopsy was not performed. After marrying the man who had raped and caused the death of her own sister, Homolka joined in his depravity; they went on to kidnap and rape a number of girls murdering two of them, and disposing of their bodies. The perverted romance between the two did not last, and after Bernardo beat her severely, she turned against him.
As with Aileen Wuornos, multiple crimes such as they committed seldom remain unsolved in this day and age, but after Bernardo’s arrest the Crown was so eager to put him away permanently that the Attorney General of Ontario offered his wife what has been called a deal with the Devil. Homolka was given immunity from her most serious crimes if she would testify against him. After agreeing to that, the most damning evidence of all came to light, videotapes that showed her to be a more than willing participant.
This caused an ethical dilemma for the attorneys, but it was too late for the Crown to do anything about it. While Bernardo was given a life sentence with a minimum tariff of 25 years (and is unlikely ever to be released), his partner-in-crime was sentenced to a mere 12 years. She appears to have been extremely comfortable in prison, and was released in July 2005. Incredibly, undoubtedly because she was still young and (physically) attractive, some miserable or desperate wretch married her; she is now a mother of three living anonymously on an exotic island, although in October last year it was reported that she had relocated to Quebec.
Killer couples are rare but are by no means unknown; they are not always lovers either – for example, the serial killer known as the Hillside Strangler turned out to be two men. Nevertheless, the names Brady and Hindley; Fred and Rose (West); Alton Coleman and Debra Brown have gone down in the halls of infamy. In all of these cases, although the man was the initial driving force, his lover was or became a more than willing accomplice. Rosemary West may have been corrupted by her husband, whom she met when she was underage, but she is believed to have murdered two of their victims by herself. Likewise at least one pundit has suggested that it was Karla Homolka who was responsible for the two murders this killer couple committed. Bernardo, he said, did not murder his many rape victims because he believed he would not be caught.
In the case of the Ken and Barbie Killers, as with the others detailed here, the female of the species was truly deadlier than the male.
(The above article has not been minutely referenced, but some excellent documentaries about all the murderesses discussed herein can be found on YouTube).
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