It’s one thing to enjoy grisly entertainment, but these obsessed fans turned crazed copycat killers after their fascination with on screen slayers went a step too far…
In 2008, Johnny Altinger, 38, thought he’d met the woman of his dreams on a dating site. Soon, smitten Johnny emailed his mates, talking about taking a holiday to Costa Rica with his new girlfriend. Then Johnny’s boss received a resignation letter from him.
Suspicious and concerned, friends broke into his home in Edmonton, Canada. Only he’d not gone away – his passport and belongings were all there. But Johnny was nowhere to be seen. And police believed Johnny had been murdered by a stranger – with a serial-killer fixation.
Mark Twitchell, from Edmonton, Canada, was obsessed with telly show Dexter, where the lead character has a secret life as a serial killer. Inspired, Twitchell had posed as a woman on a dating site, luring Johnny to a garage. There, he’d bludgeoned, stabbed and dismembered Johnny, and dumped his remains. Copycat killer Twitchell had then broken into Johnny’s home and used his computer to send e-mails to his victim’s friends and boss.
During his trial in March 2011, the court heard Twitchell had a Facebook profile under the name ‘Dexter Morgan’, and wrote about how much he related to the character. Police also found document on his computer called SK Confessions, SK stood for serial killer. In it, he wrote about his love of Dexter, and plans to lure a victim using a dating site.
Twitchell was found guilty of first-degree murder and jailed for at least 25 years.
The attacks baffled police. First, businessman William Savage was shot and killed in his office. Next day, Patsy Byers, a shop cashier, was shot in the throat. Her spinal cord was severed, but she survived. Then, police got an anonymous tip-off about a teenage girl who’d been bragging about being involved in Patsy’s shooting.
Sarah Edmondson, 19, was arrested in June 1995, along with her boyfriend Benjamin Darras, 17, and a terrible tale emerged…
On 5 March 1995, Edmondson and dropout Darras spent the night watching Natural Born Killers, the story of young couple Mickey and Mallory, who share a love of violence, murder and worldwide fame. In the film, they commit some 52 violent murders. That fateful night, high on drugs, Edmondson and Darras watched Natural Born Killers over and over. And decided to turn fiction into reality.
The copycat killers drove to Mississippi, where Darras gunned down William Savage. Then it was Edmondson’s turn, shooting Patsy Byers. Both pleaded guilty. Edmondson was sentenced to 35 years, Darras to life.
The Byers family sued Natural Born Killers director Oliver Stone and the filmmakers, but the judge said they couldn’t be held liable for the actions of those who saw the film. The blame lay with two twisted movie fans who blurred fiction with reality – with bloody results.
However, Oliver Stone’s 1994 film has been blamed for around eight murders, said to be modelled on the gruesome film.
Virtual reality violence
17 February 2003 was a normal Monday, as the Cooke Family heated up a frozen pizza. After, their adopted son, Josh, did the dishes while his parents, Margaret and Paul, headed to the basement in their Fairfax, Virginia home.
Meanwhile, Josh sat in his bedroom staring at a poster of his all-time favorite movie, The Matrix. He was fixated with the hero, Neo, played by Keanu Reeves, who got revenge on his imaginary enemies, blasting them away with a 12-gauge shotgun.
Unknown to his parents, Josh had bought a replica black, floor-length trench coat, black boots and black wraparound sunglasses. And, just two days earlier, he’d bought a 12-gauge shotgun, along with ammunition.
Then, after dinner that night, as Margaret and Paul busied themselves, Josh took the loaded shotgun, walked down to the basement and shot his parents. Chillingly, he then called the police…
‘I just shot my parents, just blew them away with a shotgun. Get your asses over here,’ Cooke told them.
He later said he didn’t remember much of what happened, but that it all reminded him of The Matrix. ‘It was like a video game . . . like I was in a virtual reality. It was like I was watching myself,’ he told his lawyers.
Josh Cooke, then 19, pleaded guilty and was handed a 40-year sentence.
The sci-fi action film is also said to have inspired copycat killer Lee Boyd Malvo, who was convicted of murder for the 2002 Washington D.C. sniper attacks.
A judge once described the ‘ironic’ cult horror film Scream, as a ‘very good source to learn how to kill someone’. Sad, but true…
In the film the sleepy American town of Woodsboro is terrorised by a ‘slasher’ dressed in a black tunic and a ghoulish mask, inspired by Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream. Unfortunately, the 1996 film struck a chord with lonely Belgian lorry driver Thierry Jaradin, 24.
In 2001, Jaradin’s 15-year-old neighbour, Alisson Cambier, popped round to exchange some videotapes and have a chat. But it seemed Jaradin wanted more… However, when Alisson rejected his romantic advances payback was brutal.
Excusing himself momentarily, Jaradin changed into the Scream killer’s signature mask and black robe, then grabbed two kitchen knives. Clamping his hand over Alisson’s mouth to muffle her screams, he then stabbed her 30 times. Afterwards, Jaradin placed the girl’s bloody body on his bed, slipped a rose into one of her hands, then phoned his dad and a colleague to confess.
The copycat killer later told police his crime motivated by Scream, which spawned four sequels.
Jaradin was sentenced to life behind bars.
In the early hours of 25 April 2011, Jacqueline Bartlam’s body was discovered at her Nottinghamshire home by fire crews. It was a truly shocking murder. She’d been beaten seven times with a hammer before being doused in petrol and set alight. Jacqueline’s body was so badly burned that it could only be identified from her dental records.
Her son Daniel, 14, told police a masked intruder was responsible. Then he cracked and confessed to police he was the one who’d killed his mum. He claimed he’d lost control after a row and attacked her.
But, checking his computer, police found a chilling search term: How to get away with murder… They also found a story he’d written about a boy called Daniel who killed his mum. And footage of Corrie killer John Stape, who killed his victim with a hammer. Believing this was a copycat killing, police arrested Daniel Bartlam and he was charged with his mother’s murder.
At Nottingham Crown Court, Bartlam denied the charge. He stood by his story, saying he’d lashed out at his mother after they’d rowed.
But the court heard he was obsessed with John Stape, and that his computer history proved the murder was meticulously researched. The prosecution called Bartlam ‘a young man who immersed himself in a fantasy world’ and said, for him, ‘the boundaries between real life and fiction became tragically blurred’.
However, unlike his idol John Stape, Bartlam didn’t get away with murder. In February 2012, Daniel Bartlam was convicted of killing his mother and jailed for life, with a minimum of 16 years.