Male serial killers always hit the headlines, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any ladies out there living a life of murder and mayhem.
Female serial killers (often referred to by those that study them as FSKs) are only now starting to capture people’s attention, and to be examined in more detail. Primarily, they are a mysterious, confusing group with a surprising array of sex. large number of similarities. Many are from middle and upper-class backgrounds, they are usually white, and a whopping 92% of them know the people they kill. Most often, they choose poison and most often money is the motive.
So, without further ado, let’s introduce you to just 10 of the most notorious female serial killers in history. These are not the only ones we know. There are many more out there.
1. Nannie Doss
- Span of Killings: 1927 – 1954
- Victims: 11
- Apprehended: October 1954
Nannie Doss was born Nancy Hazel in 1905 and was an American serial killer. She was responsible for the murders of 11 people, all of whom were her relatives. Between the 1920s to the 1950s, Nannie murdered four husbands, two of their children, her two siblings, her own mother and one of her grandsons, as well as her mother-in-law.
Amazingly, nobody cottoned on to the fact that Nannie’s family were dropping dead at an alarming rate until she actually confessed in 1954. Despite her attempts to argue insanity from a childhood head trauma, she was declared fit for trial in 1955 and sentenced to life imprisonment. She died 10 years later from leukaemia.
2. Mary Bell: The 10-Year old Child Killer
- Span of Killings: May – July 1968
- Victims: 2
- Apprehended: December 17, 1968
Mary Flora Bell’s case, also known as the Tyneside Strangler is unique because she is a female serial killer and was also a child at the time of her murders. Bell was born in 1957 and was eventually convicted for strangling two boys to their deaths, without any apparent reason.
Martin Brown, a four-year-old boy, was her first victim. Bell killed Martin Brown one day before Bell celebrated her 11th birthday.
Next was Brian How, a three-year-old boy who was killed on the 31st July 1968. Bell claimed to have suffered serious abuse at the hands of her mother, a prostitute, and she was released into anonymity after serving 12 years for her crimes.
She is free to live today and is believed to have a daughter.
3. Anna Maria Zwanziger: The Exemplary Pisoner
- Span of Killings: 1801 – 1811
- Number of Victims: 4
Anna Maria Zwanziger, a serial killer in Bavaria, was born August 1760. For 10 years between 1801 and 1811, Zwanziger worked as a housekeeper for several judges in Bavaria.
She confessed to murdering three adults with arsenic, which she referred to as her “truest friend”, as well as a baby. She is believed to have tried to kill several other people in addition to her successful poisonings. She was executed by beheading in September of 1811, an act she felt was a good thing as she wasn’t sure she was able to stop killing.
4. Amelia Dyer: The Most Prolific Baby Reaper in History
- Span of Killings: 1876 – 1896
- Number of Victims: 300+ (Some estimations put her murders at plus 404)
- Date Apprehended: April 3, 1896
Amelia DyerBorn in 1837 in the United States, she is considered to be one of the most prolific serial killers of all time. During her 20 years as a nurse, it is believed that she murdered between 200-400 infants.
She was known as the Reaping Baby Farmer because she took in pregnant women from unmarried relationships and then sold the babies to adoption or left them to die from neglect.
Dyer murdered all the babies she had in her care to speed up the process and increase her profits. Dyer was eventually found, tried for six murders, the rest being impossible to prove, and hung.
5. Dagmar overbye: The Merciless Monster
- Span of Killings: 1913 – 1920
- Number of Victims: 9 – 200+
- Date apprehended: 1920
Dagmar Overbye, a serial killer from Denmark, was born in April 1887. In the span of seven years, she murdered between 9 and 25 children. One of the children she murdered was hers. Overbye was a professional child caregiver, but instead of caring for the children, she murdered them and took the money.
Her trial, which was finally captured, became one of the most famous in Danish history. She was sentenced to death even though there was only evidence of 9 killings. Although her sentence was later commuted, she died in prison in 1929 at the age of 42.
6. Genene Jones, Angel of Death
- Span of Killings: 1977 – 1982
- Number of Victims – Up to 40
- Date Apprehended: 1982
Genene Jones Another female serial killer was Jones, who killed children while she was caring for them. Jones was born in Texas in 1950 and worked as a paediatric nurse. It is believed that Jones killed between two and 46 children with drugs.
In order to be praised, she secretly gave the children medication and then miraculously brought them back from the brink. Many of her victims did not survive the first attack.
Finally, she was caught and convicted of just one of her many murders, the death of 15-month-old Chelsea McClellan. Jones is currently serving 99-years in prison.
7. Lavinia Fisher: High-Class Highway Robbery Suspect
- Span of Killings:
- Number of Victims: Exact numbers not available.
- Date apprehended: 1820
Thought to have been one of the first female serial killers in the United States, there’s much we don’t know about Lavinia Fisher. She is believed to be born in 1793 and to have been married with John Fisher.
They were convicted of highway theft, which was a capital offense, but not murder. Fisher is believed to have used a combination of force and drugs to kill several people. Lavinia Fischer was hanged on February 18, 1802. She wore the wedding dress she wore to the hanging.
Legend says that just before she was hung, she asked the audience if they had a message for the devil, and said she’d be seeing him soon.
8. Catherine Birnie: The West Australian Witch
- 1986: Span of Killings
- 4+ Victims
- Date apprehended: November 1986
Catherine Birnie, born 1951, isn’t just a female serial killer, she’s also an Australian one. She and her husband David Birnie murdered four young women, and attempted to kill a fifth. The murders occurred during the 1980s at the couple’s Perth home, and became known as the Moorhouse murders after the name of the street.
The girls were aged between 15 and 31, and were held at the Birnie’s home for varying amounts of time before being raped, murdered, and disposed of. Their final abductee, a 17-year-old, escaped the couple’s grasp and ensured both went to prison for their crimes. David died in 2005, while Catherine Birnie remains in prison.
9. Madame Delphine LaLaurie: The Original American Horror Story
- Span of Killings: 1831 – 1834
- Numerous Victims
- Date apprehended
Marie Delphine Macarty, a female serial killer, was born in 1780. Madame LaLaurie. LaLaurie, a New Orleans Creole socialite, became famous after it was discovered that she had been torturing and killing her household slaves.
After a fire broke out at her home, rescuers discovered that several slaves were held in the attic of her house. They had been subject to cruel and long-term treatment. Madame LaLaurie fled France with her family after her house was robbed by an angry mob. She was never tried or punished.
10. Karla Homolka: The Barbie Doll Killer
- Span of Killings: December 24, 1990 – April 19, 1992
- Number of Victims: 3.
- Date Apprehended: 1993
Karla Leanne HomolkaKarla Teale and Leanne Bordelais were both born in 1970. They became well-known as Canadian serial killers. Homolka, along with her husband Paul Bernardo was convicted for raping and killing at least three young women. One of them was her sister.
Amazingly, Homolka did a deal with prosecutors claiming that she hadn’t been a willing participant in the murders. In exchange for a guilty plea to manslaughter, she was offered a 12-year plea agreement. Homolka was released in 2005, despite videotapes later showing that her participation was far greater than she initially claimed.