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Five Notorious Serial Killers That Are Still At Large Today

It’s a sad fact that serial killers often acquire something of a mythic quality in the public consciousness. The demented sadists of yesteryear become the boogeymen of today, and are transformed in our minds into monsters, like the larger-than-life slasher horror movie antagonists of the silver screen. Jack the Ripper, the Zodiac, Ed Gein - these are just a few examples of notorious serial killers who have been inadvertently mythologised in the media. Their crimes have been recounted over and over in grisly true-crime documentaries and in hindsight they now feel far more remote and less threatening.

According to John Douglas, former chief of the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit (and the basis for the character of Jack Crawford in Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lector novels) the Bureau estimates that there are anywhere between five and 50 active serial killers in the United States alone, and even more abroad elsewhere. These will claim approximately 150 victims annually. If you need proof of this disturbing fact, then look no further than the following list. These are the five most prolific serial murderers that police believe are still at large today.

1. The Edmonton Killer

Since the 1970s, more than 30 different women, the majority of which poor sex workers, have been found dead on the outskirts of Edmonton, in Alberta, Canada. Despite the number of prostitutes that had cropped up dead over the decades, all with the same MO, local law enforcement only attributed the slayings to the work of a serial killer in 2015. The last remains of the most recent victim were found in that year and identified as Corrie Ottenbreit, a sex worker who disappeared in May of 2004.

2. The Craigslist Ripper

Also known as “The Gilgo Beach Killer”, this serial killer has allegedly been targeting sex workers in the Long Island area over the last twenty years, and as many as 17 cadavers have been found dumped along the Ocean Parkway. Local law enforcement first theorised that a serial killer was on the loose in Long Island while investigating the death of 24-year-old Shannan Gilbert from New Jersey, whose skeletal remains were found wrapped in a burlap sack during a routine police training exercise. This discovery led to three more bodies being found two days later, and a further five more in spring 2011. One of the victims was Melissa Barthelemy, who vanished from her home in 2009. Her parents contacted the police, who didn’t believe that Barthelemy had been killed until Barthelemy's younger sister received a number of anonymous phone calls from someone who claimed: "I killed Melissa." Police also have reason to believe that the perpetrator used Craigslist ads to acquire his victims, and may, in fact, be a member of law enforcement himself.

A number of newspaper headlines detailing the Craigslist Killer. Credit: Getty

3. The Pusher

Canal Street is one of Britain’s most important LGBT+ hangouts. It’s become famous around the country after featuring heavily in television dramas such as Queer as Folk, and has been called “the most successful gay village in Europe.” Yet this much-lauded district harbours a dark secret; one that has led many in Greater Manchester to conclude that there may be a serial killer targeting gay men in the area, using the canals of the Warehouse City as a dumping ground. Police have repeatedly denied that “The Pusher” exists, but evidence of foul play appears to be convincing.

Some eighty deceased individuals have been dredged out of the canals between 2008 and 2014. Professor Craig Jackson, an academic from the University of Birmingham, stated in an interview with a local tabloid: “It is extremely unlikely that such an alarming number of bodies found in the canals is the result of accidents or suicides.” However, other experts are more skeptical. Retired police detective Tony Bockley, who was interviewed on the subject in a television documentary, stated: “To categorically say that’s a serial killer we would have to look at all the cases involved to look at the similarities and differences. Unless the police can prove that there isn’t a serial killer, every time a body is found or turns up the rumours and speculation will continue.” However, if a killer is on the loose, we can expect many more deaths before a formal investigation will open.

An underpass in the canals of Manchester. Credit: Getty

4. Bible John

Glasgow is often referred to (erroneously) as the murder capital of the UK, and yet one of the city’s most famous felons has managed to elude capture for more than fifty years. If the man in question is still alive, he must undoubtedly be a senior citizen by now. Yet in the 1960s in Glasgow’s notoriously poor East end, the manhunt for the predator known as “Bible John” managed to whip the populace into a state of hysteria. Bible John’s crimes were committed between 1968 and 1969 in the Barrowlands ballroom near the Glasgow Green park. At the time, this ballroom was the most popular scene in the city for dancers to frequent on a Saturday evening.

After the body of 25-year-old nurse, Patricia Docker, was found raped and strangled near her home one morning, police became concerned when several witnesses reported seeing her be led away by a mysterious man. After other two women, both of whom were similarly led away from the ballroom, were killed via the same modus operandi, a nationwide search for the mysterious stranger ensued. Posters were pasted all across the city, and police made a number of inquiries regarding a well-dressed, youngish man with red hair, who had a habit of quoting scripture. Numerous suspects, including Scottish serial killer Peter Tobin, have been suggested as the perpetrator, but the case remains open as of 2017.

A number of tenement flats in Glasgow's East end. Credit: Getty

5. Indian Creek Trail Killer

This is potentially the most recent killer on the list. In the last few months, four men have been found dead at the Indian Creek Trail in Kansas, and police investigators have noticed: “Obvious similarities regarding the nature of their deaths. All four men were aged between 55-65, and all had been shot at close range. Local law enforcement has already sought the help of the FBI, which seems to suggest that they’re seeking the help of a profiler to help analyse the behavioral patterns of the potential killer. Discussing the open case, Jennifer Owens, assistant professor of criminology at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, stated: “It’s the special location in a small geographic area that makes them distinctive. It’s out of the ordinary, and when something unique happens, that’s when the media and people take notice.”

If you would like to know more about those who engage in multiple homicides then please do not hesitate to visit the FBI’s official homepage for further information on the subject.