There are some serial killers who never get caught. Turn of the century killer Jack the Ripper is a famous example. Between 1888 and 1891 an unidentified man preyed on impoverished prostitutes in the East End of London; brutally killing them and butchering their bodies. There are dozens of theories about who he might have been but no-one was ever arrested for the murders.
The Zodiac was another serial killer who was never apprehended. He terrorized the people of northern California during the late 1960s and early 1970s and claimed to be responsible for 37 murders. He taunted police with cryptic messages and puzzles but managed to evade capture.
But thankfully the majority of serial killers do get caught eventually. Many become reckless and brazen especially when they get away with murder over and over again. At this point, they start to make mistakes which bring them under police radar.
Today we are looking at 15 serial killers, some well-known and few you’ve probably never heard of, and how they were brought to justice. And the ways that they slipped up will definitely surprise you. Most of the time it’s the smallest things that gave them away and in some cases, it was their own egos that became their downfall.
15. Blocked Drains Led Police To His Door
Dennis Nilsen is often compared to Jeffrey Dahmer because his victims were also mostly young males and like Jeffrey, he engaged in acts of necrophilia. Dennis lived in England and killed at least 12 men between 1978 and 1983.
He kept the bodies for an extended length of time and the method he used to finally dispose of the victims was exceptionally gruesome. Dennis would dismember his victims and boil the flesh off before flushing the resulting gunk down the toilet.
Eventually, all this dissolved flesh began to clog up the drains of the apartment block he lived in and plumbers were called. When they opened the main drain they were horrified to find it blocked with a flesh-like substance and a number of small bones. They contacted the police who confirmed that it was human remains and started interviewing the tenants. When they entered Nilsen’s apartment they were overwhelmed by the smell of decomposition. He calmly confessed and was arrested.
14. Ed Gein Got Sloppy
You almost feel sorry for Ed Gein when you read his life story. He was a lonely man who had been dominated by his overbearing mother his entire life and when she died he just couldn’t cope. He began his criminal career by stealing bodies from the local cemetery and using the remains to make household items, masks, and keepsakes.
But his desires grew stronger and more deranged as time went on and this led him to murder. He confessed to two murders, but experts believe he may have had more victims, including possibly his own brother.
Police wanted to question Gein about a shopkeeper who had gone missing because he was the last person to have seen her alive (he had actually killed her). They went to his house and there they discovered her decapitated body as well as various other human remains.
13. Caught In The Act
Wolfgang Abel and Marco Furlan were a serial killing duo who committed a string of murders in Italy between 1977 and 1984. Their methods varied from murder to murder. Some victims were burnt alive while others were beaten with an axe or stabbed.
At each crime scene, they left behind a strange leaflet. It was decorated with the word ”Ludwig”, a swastika, and detailed the reason for the killing. They chose victims that they believed were subhuman such as homosexuals, prostitutes, and drug addicts.
On March 3, 1984, the pair was caught red-handed dousing a carpet with gasoline inside a packed disco. They were later found guilty on ten counts of murder. Neither ever confessed to the crimes and claimed that they had been scapegoats for the police.
12. Ted Bundy Was Noticed Driving Erratically
Ted Bundy’s true victim count will never be known. That secret died along with him the day he was put to death. Official estimates range from 30 upwards.
Ted was so charming and well-spoken that looking at him it’s hard to believe that this was the same man who returned to his victims’ bodies to perform acts of necrophilia again and again until the bodies became too badly decomposed to continue.
In August 1975 a police officer observed Bundy driving erratically late at night and pulled him over. His car was full of suspicious items like ski masks and duct tape, but it was not enough to arrest him. The police kept him under observation after that. A month later he sold his car and the FBI went to examine it. Inside they found hair from at least three of the victims and Ted was arrested.
11. Drifter Reported Human Remains On A Farm
Faye and Ray Copeland were the oldest couple to ever be sentenced to death in the United States. He was 76 at the time and she was 69.
Ray was a cattle farmer and a petty criminal. He would buy cattle with bad checks and sell them before the checks were cashed. But eventually people caught on to his scam and he was unable to purchase cattle. He then started to employ hobos and drifters on his Missouri farm and send them to make the sales for him. But he didn’t want them to get caught so he killed and buried them on his land. He and Faye killed between 5 and 12 men between 1986 and 1989.
But one of the farmhands realized what they were doing and reported to the police that there were human remains on the Copeland farm. When this turned out to be true the pair were arrested and tried. Both received the death sentence but died of natural causes before the executions could take place.
10. A Simple Parking Ticket Exposed Him
David Berkowitz was also known as The Son of Sam Killer because when he confessed to his shooting crimes he claimed that he had been told to kill by a demon. The demon, he said, had manifested itself in his neighbor’s dog. The neighbor’s name was Sam.
Berkowitz committed a string of shooting attacks in New York City during the summer of 1976 which left six people dead and another 7 wounded.
A witness saw Berkowitz in his car shortly before one of the attacks and reported the strange man to the police. She was able to recall that there had been a parking ticket on his car. The police began to check all cars that had been ticketed that day. When they found his car they spotted a rifle and ammunition on the back seat and approached him. He calmly confessed to the murders adding “What took you so long?”
9. The Internet Helped Nab This Killer
Maury Travis was an American serial killer who murdered at least 12 prostitutes between 2000 and 2002. Police suspect that his victim count may have actually been as high as 20. He would pick up prostitutes, then proceed to rape, torture, and strangle them before dumping their bodies.
Maury was caught because of pure arrogance. A local newspaper ran a story about the string of murders and speculated that it could be the work of a serial killer. Troy was impressed with the article and sent an “anonymous” response to the paper claiming responsibility for the murders. To prove that he was the killer, he included a map with the location of one of the bodies.
8. The BTK Killer Wanted Notoriety
Murder wasn’t enough for Dennis Rader, he wanted attention for his crimes as well. This led him to start leaving letters in public places for the police. In these letters he claimed responsibility for the murders and requested to be called The BTK Strangler, which he explained meant “Bind them, torture them, kill them”.
As time went on he left more and more notes, puzzles, and clues. His downfall came when he left a computer disk with a message. Police traced the disk back to a church where Rader was an active member. At the church, police recognized his van which had been spotted a number of times by CCTV cameras at the drop off sites. They were also able to obtain a DNA sample from his daughter, which helped them close the case.
7. Caught Collecting Money On The Run
Gerald Gallego and his wife Charlene were a murderous couple who killed at least 10 young female victims between 1978 and 1980. They worked together in a similar fashion to Ian Brady and Myra Hindley; she would lure the victims and Gerald would do the killing. His crimes were sexually motivated; he would always rape the victims first, sometimes for an extended length of time, hence why he became known as the Sex Slave Killer.
The pair became more and more brazen with each successful attack, but eventually, someone spotted them abducting a young couple and memorized their license plate. When the student they had seen being forced into the car turned up dead they went to the police.
The authorities traced the license plate to Charlene and they paid her a visit. She and Gerald were spooked by this and went on the run, but they made a crucial error. They called Charlene’s parents and asked them for money. When they went to collect the money order the police were waiting for them.
6. Young Serial Killer Caught By Community
So how old do you think the youngest serial killer was? Try eight. Yep, that’s right, eight years old.
His name is Amardeep Sada and he grew up in an impoverished family in India. Between 2006 and 2007 Amardeep killed three babies, all between the ages of six months old and eight months old, by strangling them and beating them with rocks. Shocking, isn’t it?
His crimes came to light when the mother of his last victim confronted him. He confessed to the slaying and led community members to the site of a shallow grave. The police were called and when they arrived, he confessed to two other murders.
5. Caught By CCTV
Colin Ireland decided on New Year’s Eve that he wanted to become a serial killer. The reason for this bizarre resolution? Well, Colin was a psychopath and his motivation seemed to be notoriety. He became known as the Gay Slayer because all his victims were homosexual men. He murdered five men in a four-month period in 1993. He claimed to be heterosexual and denied that the murders were sexually motivated.
Police obtained CCTV footage from a camera near a train station which captured a man walking with one of the murder victims. Ireland decided to go his solicitor and told him that he was the man in the video, but that he had not killed him. Police matched his fingerprints to the victim and he was arrested.
4. Jeffrey Dahmer Was Uncovered When A Naked Man Ran From His Apartment
Jeffrey killed his first victim just a few weeks after his high school graduation but it would be nine years before he began killing again. Between 1978 and 1991 Jeffrey claimed the lives of 17 men.
His undoing came the day he lured Tracey Edwards to his apartment. Dahmer handcuffed him and forced him into the bedroom where he lay listening to Tracey’s heart while telling him that he was going to eat his heart. Tracey managed to subdue Dahmer and assure him that he would not go anywhere and convinced him to remove the handcuffs and move back to the living room.
Once there he waited for Dahmer to become distracted and then punched him in the face. Jeffrey fell over and Tracey took off out the apartment and reported the incident. Police knocked on Jeffrey’s door a short time later and we all know what they found inside…
3. Apprehended After A Witness Came Forward
The crucial error that Myra Hindley and Ian Brady made was trying to bring a third person into their murderous circle. It was their final downfall.
Between 1963 and 1965 Hindley and Brady committed five murders. They were the worst kind of serial killers because most of their victims were all children between the ages of 10 and 17. Worse still at least four of their victims were sexually assaulted.
Brady had been cultivating a friendship with Myra’s 17-year-old brother-in-law Edward Evans with the intention of getting him to join in with their murders. One evening he beat another man to death in front of Evans and made him help with the cleanup. Evans complied, but was extremely distraught and went to the police the following day.
2. Driving With A False Number Plate
Peter Sutcliffe AKA The Yorkshire Ripper was a mission-driven serial killer. He believed that the voice of God spoke to him and had instructed him to rid the world of prostitutes. He murdered 13 women between 1975 and 1980 and seriously injured 7 more. His crimes caused public outrage and panic, and a massive manhunt ensued.
Sutcliffe was finally captured in January 1980 when he was arrested for driving with a false number plate. At the time he had a prostitute in the car with him. He attempted to hide his murder weapons at the scene of the arrest, but police found them and Sutcliffe confessed to the murders. It was later revealed that police had interviewed him nine times during the manhunt, but let him go each time.
1. This Killer Crashed One Of Her Victims’ Cars
Female serial killers who act alone are quite rare and Aileen Wuornos is one of the most well-known examples. This is thanks to the 2003 movie Monster, in which Charlize Theron played the leading role. Aileen’s defense for killing 7 men between 1989 and 1990 was that they had all tried to rape her forcing her to act in self-defense.
Aileen met her victims through her work as a prostitute and would often rob them after she shot them. She took their cars as well which she would drive for a few weeks and then abandon them. It was one of these cars that turned out to be her downfall.
A witness saw her crash one of her victims’ cars and called the police. She was able to give them a description of Aileen and when they examined the car they found Aileen’s handprint on the interior door panel. Her fingerprints were already on file from previous convictions for solicitation.