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Saturday, 30 October, 1999, 16:40 GMT
World's worst killers

Andrei Chikatilo Chikatilo was Russia's number one serial killer

A Colombian man's admission to the murder and torture of 140 children has again put the spotlight on the gruesome history of mass killers.

Since Jack The Ripper, criminologists say there have been about 100 known cases of serial killers around the world, including one of modern history's worst murderers - Pedro Alonso Lopez, known as Monster of the Andes.

Anatoly Onoprienko 'Terminator' Onoprienko wanted to be the most notorious killer
Lopez is thought to have butchered more than 300 young girls in Colombia, Peru and Ecuador throughout the late 1970s and early 80s.

He was arrested in 1980 but was freed by the government in Ecuador at the end of last year and deported to Colombia. In an interview from his prison cell, he described himself as "the man of the century" and said he was being released for "good behaviour".

Other serial killers to get close to Lopez's horrific tally of victims were the Americans Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole, and HH Holmes, who killed more than 200.

Lucas, a one-eyed drifter from Texas and Toole, who had a taste for human flesh, killed anyone who crossed their paths, with a preference for picking up hitchhikers. They are known to have killed more than 200 people between the mid-1970s and mid-80s.

Holmes built a massive mansion, complete with trap doors, acid vats, lime pits and gas chambers, with money he made from a drugstore empire he built in Chicago.

'Torture castle'

During the 1893 World's Fair in the city, he rented rooms to visitors, then killed them to try to collect on their insurance policies.

Fred West Fred West is one of Britain's most notorious mass murderers
He also lured women to his "torture castle" with promises of marriage but would kill them after they signed over their life savings to him. He was hanged in 1896.

Sisters Delfina and Maria de Jesus Gonzales, owners of a Mexican brothel, killed prostitutes they recruited and an unknown number of clients.

They were arrested and later sentenced to 40 years in 1964, after police found the bodies of 91 people following a raided on the bordello.

True vampire

Another notorious female mass murderer was Hungarian Erzebet Bathory who carried out a reign of terror in the 16th century. Known as the blood countess, she tortured and murdered more than 600 victims from her family estate in Transylvania.

One method of killing victims was to strip them and lie them down in the snow in winter and then pour water over them until they froze.

She is considered to be a true vampire because she bathed in the blood of some of her victims, believing it would keep her skin looking youthful.

Russia's premier serial killer this century was Andrei Chikatilo, who killed 53 women and children in a prolonged campaign of serial murder which began in 1978.

Gruesome evidence

Chikatilo, who grew up believing his older brother been kidnapped and cannibalised, during the great Ukrainian famine of the early 1930s, mutilated some of his victims by gnawing at them.

Just failing to match this tally was Ukranian Anatoly Onoprienko, who was nicknamed the terminator by the police. He confessed to 52 murders.

One hundred volumes of gruesome evidence were presented at the trial last November.

He issued a press release from his prison cell saying he had wanted to hold the world record for killing.

Lethal injection

German Bruno Ludke, who killed at least 80 people, mainly women, began his 15-year killing spree in 1928.

Declared insane, he was sent to a Vienna hospital, where experiments were carried out on him until he died by lethal injection in 1944.

During World War II, Frenchman Marcel Petiot built a sound-proof home in which he killed up to 63 people.

He claimed he was a member of the French Resistance and told his victims, who were mainly Jews and others escaping from the Nazis, that he could arrange for a safe passage out of the country for a fee.

But after receiving the money, he gave them a lethal injection pretending to given them a "vaccination against foreign diseases".

In 1944 police investigated Petiot's home due to the stench of burnt corpses. He was found guilty and died by the guillotine in 1946.

Fred and Rose West are two of Britain's most notorious serial killers. Fred, who hanged himself in Birmingham's Winson Green prison on New Year's Day 1995, killed 13 women and girls - including his first wife and two of his daughters - in Gloucester and nearby Much Marcle between 1968 and 1987.

His wife, who is serving a life sentence in London's Holloway prison, was convicted of 10 of the murders.

Australia's two most prolific convicted serial killers are James Miller, who raped and murdered seven women in the 1970s, and Ivan Milat, the notorious "backpack" murderer, who killed seven tourists and buried their bodies in the bush outside Sydney.

But in May this year, Australian police charged three people with murder after finding human remains in a disused bank vault.

Another two were found buried in the garden of an Adelaide house. Police say they suspect the motive for the murders was a welfare fraud.

Hannibal link

Pietro Pacciani, the Monster of Florence, was convicted in 1994 of murdering eight couples in lovers' lanes near Florence, between 1968 and 1985.

Pacciani was given 16 life sentences but was freed on appeal in 1996 and died of a heart attack in February 1998 while awaiting a retrial.

Thomas Harris, author of blockbusters The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal attended the trial of Pacciani, where he sat and studiously made notes.

The fruits of his research appear in Hannibal, with references to "Il Mostro".

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See also:
30 Oct 99 |  Americas
Colombian child killer confesses
01 Jul 99 |  Americas
Serial killer sentenced to die
26 May 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Adelaide body count reaches 10

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