While the vast majority of serial killers are men, it is not unheard of for women to kill multiple times over a period of time. These three women killed for some very different reasons.
1. Joanna Dennehy: Murdering men ‘for fun’
Joanna Dennehy descended into drink and drugs in her teens. Leaving home at 15, she began a volatile relationship with John Treanor. It ended when John took away their two children, citing Dennehy’s violence.
Dennehy moved to a Peterborough bedsit owned by Kevin Lee. She was diagnosed with psychopathic antisocial personality disorder.
In March 2013, she lured three men to their deaths. Lukasz Slaboszewski, 31, went to her home after suggestive text messages. Dennehy stabbed him and dumped his body.
Ten days on, she stabbed her housemate, John Chapman, 56. She then killed her landlord and lover, Kevin Lee, 48. He was found in a ditch in a black, sequinned dress, his buttocks exposed in what the judge called a ‘final humiliation’.
Dennehy’s next two victims were two men in Hereford, on 2 April 2013. She stabbed one, then, nine minutes later, left another for dead. But both men survived.
In November 2013, at the Old Bailey, Joanna Dennehy admitted murdering three men and preventing burial of their bodies. She also admitted the attempted murder of the two others.
Police believe Denny murdered men ‘for fun’.
She laughed as the judge branded her ‘a cruel, calculating, selfish and manipulative serial killer’.
Dennehy received a whole-life term, meaning she’ll never be released – and is only the third woman in English criminal history to be assessed so dangerous she will never be freed.
See who else the courts have said should never be released.
And to find out more about the mind of serial killer Joanna Dennehy, watch the video below…
2. Kathleen Folbigg: the Australian child killer
Kathleen was just 18 months old when her father stabbed her mother to death in New South Wales, Australia. The girl went into foster care.
As an adult, she married Craig Folbigg and they had a son, Caleb.
In February 1989, at 19 days old, Caleb died from what was believed to be sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
They had another son, Patrick. But, on 18 October 1990, he had an acute asphyxiating event’ which left him blind and brain-damaged. The following February, just 8 months old, he died of asphyxia related to his epilepsy.
The couple then had Sarah. But in 1993, at 11 months, she died from SIDS.
Then, six years on, in 1999, Sarah’s 19-month-old sister, Laura died, too. Unable to cope with the decade of loss, the Folbiggs separated.
But when Craig was clearing out Kathleen’s things, he found one of her diaries.
An excerpt from 8 December 1997 said: ‘Had a bad day today. Lost it with Laura a couple of times… Must try to release my stress somehow. I’m starting to take it out on her. Bad things and thoughts happen when that happens…’
She was arrested in April 2001. Though she denied all charges, in 2003, Kathleen Folbigg, 35, was convicted of murdering three of her children and the manslaughter of one, between 1989 and 1999.
She was sentenced to 40 years, with a non-parole period of 30 years. On appeal, her sentence was reduced to 30 years, with a non-parole period of 25 years.
Though considered one of Australia’s most infamous female serial killers, Folbigg maintains her innocence – claiming the children died from natural causes.
3. Jane Toppan: ‘Jolly Jane’ the prolific poisoner
Massachsuetts, the late 19th century. Abandoned by her abusive father, Jane was raised in an orphanage and, at 6, became a servant to the Toppan family, who informally adopted her.
While she seemed cheery, inside resentment bubbled.
Im 1885, she began working as a nurse. With her dark eyes and rosy cheeks, she earned the nickname ‘Jolly Jane’.
But, walking the wards at night, Jane Toppan began her ‘scientific experiments’ on patients. Using morphine and other drugs, she poisoned them.
Moving to another hospital, Jane continued her experiments. But after too many patients died in her care, she was dismissed.
Becoming a private nurse, she started poisoning landlords, a friend and, in 1889, she went for a picnic with her foster sister who, two days later, was dead.
In July 1901, old friends, Mary ‘Mattie’ Davis and her husband Alden, visited Jane. Soon after, Mary died – from presumed heart failure. Jane went to the funeral, and ending up moving in with the Davis family. Reports claimed Jane wiped out the entire family in six weeks.
In October 1901, she was arrested and in court, in 1902, she admitted she was sexually aroused watching her victims die, and confessed to killing 21 people she knew – and at least a dozen more nameless victims while working as a nurse.
Jane Toppan was found not guilty by reason of insanity and sentenced to an asylum, where she died in 1938, aged 84. She is known as one of the most prolific serial killers in American history.
Words: Rachel Tompkins