Why serial killers are a dying breed

Many would-be serial killers are now being caught after their first offence, according to police and criminologists.

Prolific multiple murderers such as backpacker killer Ivan Milat and Sydney's granny killer John Wayne Glover would have been caught much earlier today because of breakthroughs in DNA technology and well as social media and criminal profiling.

Detectives are adamant that serials killers such as Ivan Milat are being caughter quicker now than in the past.
Detectives are adamant that serials killers such as Ivan Milat are being caughter quicker now than in the past.

"Ivan Milat would not have got away with as many murders today as he did then,'' Dr Xanthe Mallett, senior lecturer in Criminology at Newcastle University, said.

"You would imagine everyone one of those young people that went missing would have had mobile phones or GPS watches. There is dashcam and CCTV footage around now which would perhaps have aided investigators.

"They would have been tracked by GPS or phone towers. You would expect with profiling, police now using computers to input data, that the pattern of disappearances would have been detected earlier as well.''

Milat is also suspected to be behind the disappearance of a number of young women in the Newcastle area in the late 1980s.

"Do not underestimate the power of social media as well,'' Dr Mallett said.

"Nowadays, (for) anyone who goes missing there are sites and pleas on social media almost immediately.

"Linking the disappearances of people from an area would be done so much quicker and be a lot more obvious.''

Retired NSW detective inspector Dennis O'Toole, who was a senior member of the task force that caught granny killer Glover, also believes the infamous serial murderer who terrorised Sydney's north shore for 12 months from 1994 to 1995 would have been caught much earlier today.

"A lot of things have changed since then and we certainly learnt from our investigation,'' Mr O'Toole said.

"We could have done some things better in hindsight. There are now more CCTV cameras which are of better quality and I expect we may have picked up something from witnesses that we didn't get back then.

"A camera may have got a registration or something like that. Also, back then we really did not have much of an idea about profiling in Australia and that seems to have improved.''

Mr O'Toole said in the early and mid-90s very little was known about serial killers and criminal profiling in Australia barely existed.

"After (the Granny Killer) task force things improved in many ways,'' he said.

"I remember working for six weeks straight without a break. Nowadays, we know that would not happen or be a good thing and you have to rest investigators.''

While the experts believe it might be harder for serial killers to avoid detection, they still believe they exist.

"The serial killer isn't dead but there have been significant changes over the past decade or so that means some are being caught before going on to be true serial killers,'' Associate professor of criminology Wayne Petherick, from Bond University, said.

But, as modern technology has hindered the efforts of would-be serial killers, it has - in some ways - also made them harder to catch.

"It's also just as probable there are serial killers in Australia who have gone undetected because they have evolved and are less likely to be identified because they have adapted,'' Mr Petherick said.

"The exposure of police methodology on TV shows and the internet have shown many criminals how to avoid leaving evidence behind. Rapists rarely used condoms until the advent of DNA.

"Criminals know about trace DNA and use gloves, shave their bodies so hair isn't left on victims and other techniques to get around forensics.''

"There are few, if any, contemporary serial killers in Australia who have recorded more than three murders in the past decade.

"That doesn't mean they don't exist,'' Mr Petherick said. "It might mean they just haven't been caught.''

 

SUICIDE THEORY LEFT US HANGING

North Shore Granny killer John Wayne Glover did not deliberately hang himself but was trying to get admitted to a prison hospital, believing the guards would get to him before he died, it has been claimed.

But Glover died because he did not know the prison guards were watching a football match at the time and were too late in finding him hanging in his cell to save him.

That is the theory of the former head of detectives on the case, who investigated and arrested Glover for six murders.

Detectives are convinced “granny killer” John Wayne Glover killing many more times than those he was convicted for.
Detectives are convinced “granny killer” John Wayne Glover killing many more times than those he was convicted for.

Retired Inspector Dennis O'Toole said Glover thought the prison officers inside Lithgow Jail would see him before he died from strangulation.

"The prison was going into lockdown and a woman was going to visit him on the Sunday but wouldn't be able to,'' Mr O'Toole said.

"She told me later Glover told her they couldn't stop her visiting if he was in hospital, even in lock down.''

That is when, according to Mr O'Toole, the 72 year-old prisoner tried to fake a suicide attempt by putting a shower curtain around his neck. On September 9, 2005 Glover was found hanged in his cell from a shower railing.

"The guards were distracted by a football match and didn't get to him, I believe,''' Mr O'Toole said. "He wasn't the type to kill himself.'''

Three months earlier, Glover had been put on suicide watch - but was not under 24-hour supervision - after he collapsed and was hospitalised.

At the time of his death, Glover had cancer and had made two previous attempts to take his own life.

Glover is regarded as having committed suicide, but there are theories that his attempt was intended to be a fake, to get him into hospital.
Glover is regarded as having committed suicide, but there are theories that his attempt was intended to be a fake, to get him into hospital.

The retired detective visited the serial killer numerous times in jail after his conviction for the bashing deaths of six elderly women on Sydney's north shore in 1989 and 1990.

Mr O'Toole, like many others on the Granny Killer task force, was convinced Glover had committed more murders when he lived in Melbourne, before moving to Mosman in Sydney and embarking on his killing spree.

They also believe he was responsible for, but never charged with, murders on the Central Coast.

"He refused to see two detectives who came up from Melbourne to interview him about the unsolved killings they suspected he had committed there, and would only talk to me,'' Mr O'Toole said.

"I remember I said 'Johnny, did you live in Melbourne?' he said 'yes, I can show you where I lived'. He then made an X on a map and said 'I lived there'.''

Salesman John Wayne Glover was charged with the serial killings of six elderly women on Sydney's North Shore during 1990.
Salesman John Wayne Glover was charged with the serial killings of six elderly women on Sydney's North Shore during 1990.

Mr O'Toole said he then showed the map to the two visiting police officers.

"They looked at each other and said to me: 'You're kidding, that's where there was a murder'.''

Mr O'Toole said it was one of many conversations he had with Glover after he was arrested over the killings, including asking him whether he thought he would ever be caught for his crimes.

Glover told the officer: ''I knew you were out there somewhere, I just didn't know where.''

 

COLD, CALLOUS AND READY TO KILL AGAIN

The school cleaner who raped and murdered teacher Stephanie Scott was a "serial killer in the making'' who would have gone on to claim more lives.

That is the opinion of legal experts who have analysed psychological tests of Vincent Stanford after his arrest.

Vincent Stanford raped and murdered schoolteacher Stephanie Scott.
Vincent Stanford raped and murdered schoolteacher Stephanie Scott.

Stanford attacked 26-year-old Ms Scott at Leeton High School on the Easter long weekend in 2015 while she was alone in a classroom preparing lessons for students before she went on holidays to get married. Ms Scott was missing for three days before her body was found 70km away from the crime scene. Stanford (left), a cleaner at the school, was arrested the next day. While in prison, Stanford who was 24 at the time of the murder, told a forensic psychologist he first thought of killing people when he was only six or seven years of age.

"This is just the way I'm arranged," he said.

"This was something I had to do, I couldn't stop myself.

A sentencing court also heard he had no remorse and rarely thought of the murder, making him a likely suspect to kill again had he not been caught.

Daniel Kelsall showed no remorse for his stabbing death of Morgan Huxley. Picture: AAP Image/Nikki Short
Daniel Kelsall showed no remorse for his stabbing death of Morgan Huxley. Picture: AAP Image/Nikki Short

Another killer who police are convinced would have gone on to murder again had he not been caught was nerdy kitchen hand Daniel Kelsall, who was jailed for stabbing businessman Morgan Huxley to death at Mosman in 2013. Kelsall, 26, followed Huxley home from The Oaks Hotel before stabbing him more than 30 times.

"Throughout his trial and sentencing, Kelsall showed no sign of remorse or guilt and gave no apology," said criminal psychologist Xanthe Mallet.

"A textbook psychopath, he would, I believe, have gone on to kill again.''

Fellow psychologist Dr Susan Pulman, who interviewed Kelsall in jail, agreed, labelling him a "chilling killer'' who would kill again if ever given the chance.