The celebrity lifestyle can be alluring – fame, adoration, money. But some people have a more chilling reason for craving the headlines – to go down in history as a famous killer.
Fame at any cost
‘Becoming a top footballer, actor or singer is difficult, but if you’re desperate to find fame and celebrity status at any cost, and have narcissistic tendencies, killing’s an easy way to make headlines,’ says clinical forensic psychologist Mike Berry.
Killers who seek fame will usually choose a random victim, as it will help them gain more publicity.
These murderers all craved celebrity status…
UK: Daniel Gonzalez
Daniel Gonzalez, 24, lived with his mother in Woking, Surrey, and spent most of his days alone in his room, playing video games and watching horror films.
And, it seems, these movies led to a terrifying obsession with fame…
Gonzalez began to fantasise about becoming a famous serial killer – just like his fictitious hero A Nightmare on Elm Street murderer, Freddy Krueger.
Wanting to make the newspaper headlines, Gonzalez plotted a horrifying spree to murder 10 people.
So, on 15 September 2004, wearing a white hockey mask and armed with a kitchen knife, Gonzalez fatally stabbed his first random victim – Marie Harding, 73.
In a note to himself afterwards, he described the murder as One of the best things I’ve done in my life.
The next day, he travelled to London, and spent the day drinking and taking drugs, before stabbing pub landlord Kevin Molloy, 46, repeatedly in the stomach. He’d spotted him walking home alone.
Gonzalez then savagely attacked four people in their own homes – injuring one couple, who managed to fight him off before he ran away – and slaughtering retired couple Derek Robinson, 75, and his 68-year-old wife, Jean.
After his arrest, Gonzalez admitted manslaughter because of diminished responsibility, saying he was schizophrenic and had heard voices telling him to behave like Freddy Krueger.
But the jurors weren’t convinced. They dismissed his story and convicted Daniel Gonzalez of murder.
Sentenced to life in custody, he died in 2007, after slitting his wrists in his Broadmoor cell.
USA: Dennis Rader
To the outside world, Dennis Rader was the perfect family man.
A regular churchgoer and Cub Scout leader, too.
But behind his wholesome image lay a terrible secret – he’d butchered 10 people from the Wichita, Kansas area between 1974 and 1991.
His murders were motivated by sexual fetishes – after his first murder, where he strangled four members of the Otero family in their home on 15 January 1974, there was semen left at the scene.
But his killings also fuelled a terrible desire for fame.
In October 1974, he left a note in a book in his local library, admitting the crime and his craving for attention intensified.
After stalking and killing another victim, Nancy Fox, in December 1977, he called police to report it. He dubbed her killing ‘Project Fox Hunt’.
He began sending poems to a local paper about the deaths. And he sickeningly requested he be known as the ‘BTK Strangler’ – explaining it stood for ‘bind them, torture them, kill them’.
In letters to a local TV station, Rader compared himself to other notorious killers, such as Ted Bundy.
In 1991, after strangling Dolores Davis, 62, Rader stopped killing, and the case ran cold. But he soon proved to be the victim of his own ego.
In 2004, it was the 30th anniversary of the first Wichita murder. Rader wrote to the papers again. He sent pictures of one of the victims, a word puzzle and an outline of his story.
In the coming months, he left more clues, including a package containing a computer disk, which led to Rader’s arrest in February 2005.
Dennis Rader was charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder.
The shocked local community couldn’t believe that such a killer had been living among them for years – a psychopath hiding in plain sight.
Though Rader originally pleaded not guilty, he changed his plea in court to guilty.
He escaped the death penalty, as his crimes were committed before the death penalty was reinstated in Kansas in 1994.
He is serving 10 life sentences.
Sweden: Mijailo Mijailovic
On 10 September 2003, popular Swedish politician Anna Lindh headed to a department store in Stockholm.
The 46-year-old Foreign Minister was looking for an outfit to wear for a TV debate, when she was stabbed in the chest, stomach and arms.
After being rushed to hospital and undergoing blood transfusions, she died the next morning.
The assassination shocked Europe to its core.
Two weeks later, the police arrested 24-year-old Serb Mijailo Mijailovic. Acquaintances of the suspect told journalists that Mijailovic was obsessed with fame.
One remembered him saying: ‘If I killed someone famous, I would have criminal status – and be able to jump the queues for all the hottest bars.’
Obsessed by Tom Cruise, Mijailovic also insisted the actor would be appointed as his lawyer. He believed he’d be able to help him walk free of charges due to his acting skills.
A friend of Mijailovic believed his attack on Anna Lindh was partially politically motivated – due to Lindh’s stance on air strikes in the Kosovo War – but others said this was not the case.
In fact, during his trial, it appeared that Mijailovic was besotted with several famous people. And he claimed he was unable to resist the ‘voices in his head’, telling him to kill.
Anna Lindh had been his current obsession….
Mijailo Mijailovic’s first life sentence was overturned after an appeals court ordered he be put into psychiatric care instead.
But in 2004, Stockholm’s Supreme Court ruled he should be sentenced to life behind bars.
In a 2011 interview, Mijailovic said he realised he’d caused a lot of sorrow. He said it was wrong to blame his failures in life on politicians and expressed remorse, realising he’d live out his years in jail and being known as ‘Sweden’s most hated man’.
In this case, that’s proved to be his legacy.