Why did ‘likeable’ Kang Ho-Sun murder eight women – plus his wife and mother?
He slept soundly in his police cell, snoring loudly. He cracked jokes with police officers. And, when a psychologist asked him to talk about the families of his victims, he smiled.
‘What am I supposed to feel? Sad?’ he asked.
Kang Ho-Sun was 38. And, in January 2009, he’d been brought in for questioning by the police in Ansan, a city just 30km south of the South Korean capital Seoul.
Just weeks before, a 21-year-old student had gone missing, disappeared into thin air. But CCTV cameras had caught Ho-Sun at the time of the student’s disappearance, trawling the Ansan streets where she’d last been seen in his car.
The police had searched his home, a quiet farm on the outskirts of the city. He’d lived there alone since the death of his mother and his wife four years before.
Officers had discovered 70 pairs of women’s tights. And, on his clothes, blood. They expected it to be the blood of the missing student.
But tests showed it was from another missing woman – a 48-year-old housewife known simply to the media as Kim. She’d come to South Korea from China.
Her dream had been to find herself a better-paid job so she could put her daughter through university.
But then, in November 2008, she’d vanished.
Now in police custody, Kang Ho-Sun admitted to killing her. He admitted to killing the 21-year-old student, too. And his roll call of victims didn’t end there.
Yoon was a civil servant Ho-Sun had kidnapped one morning as she made her way to work.
And there was another woman called Kim. She worked at a popular karaoke bar, but she, too, vanished one night in January 2007, after finishing a shift.
As Kang confessed to eight murders, he was calm, collected.
He described how he’d snatched each woman. They’d each been on their own, at a time when the streets were dark and empty.
Ho-Sun would pull up in his car alongside them as they waited at bus stops or left the city’s many karaoke bars. And he’d offer them a lift.
Then he’d rape them and strangle them with a pair of tights before burying their bodies in the rice fields surrounding the city.
Ho-Sun took the police there, to locate the bodies of each victim. They found them all – except for one woman.
In the two years since he’d murdered her, a golf course had been built over the field where he’d disposed of her body.
Before long, news of Ho-Sun’s arrest spread. And another woman came forward.
She told police how, in December 2008, she’d gone on a date with Ho-Sun to a bar.
They’d met through a newspaper ad.
At the end of the night, they’d got into his car to look for somewhere to go drinking.
Ho-Sun had asked her for sex, but she’d refused. So he had kept her locked up in the back of his car for the next six hours, until dawn.
Police investigators reckoned he’d decided not to kill her…but only because they’d been seen together in the bar. She’d had a lucky escape.
Those who knew Ho-Sun couldn’t understand what had motivated him to kill.
His neighbours said he was a sweet man – a father of three sons – who worked hard as a massage therapist treating sports injuries.
He was likeable. And he’d not long been widowed, having lost his wife and his mum at the same time, in a house fire back in 2005.
‘I felt helpless after my wife’s death,’ he told detectives.
And that’s when he’d got the urge to kill. He’d murdered his victims as a way of dealing with his grief, anger and loneliness.
‘After the first murder, I just couldn’t control myself,’ he told investigators. ‘I had this strong urge, this need to kill whatever woman I could find…and to kill over and over.’
Could a frenzy of despair and grief really have turned Kang Ho-Sun into a killer?
The more police looked into it, the more they doubted it.
Ho-Sun had been married four times. His first three wives had all left him, each one alleging he’d hit them, abused them at home.
As for his fourth wife, police weren’t sure her death was entirely accidental. Could he have started the fire that killed his wife and mum?
Soon after their deaths, Ho-Sun pocketed £200,000 from several life-insurance policies he took out on his wife a week before her death.
If he admitted killing her, that money would have to be returned.
Either way, Ho-Sun wouldn’t benefit from the money any more as, following his confession, he’d been sentenced to death by a South Korean court.
But his three sons would certainly benefit from it.
It seemed strangely at odds that a man who could strangle women to death with a pair of tights, who could beat his wives and even possibly murder his own mother, could be worried about the financial welfare of his sons.
Maybe he hated women. Maybe that’s why he’d raped and murdered eight of them.
Or maybe he’d killed for the sheer pleasure of it.
Ho-Sun couldn’t put himself in the position of the victims’ families. Instead, he laughed and joked with police officers.
He even managed to sleep soundly every night.
For the psychiatrists who interviewed him, there was one chilling but simple explanation.
Kang Ho-Sun is a psychopath.
Ultimately, he was found guilty of 10 murders (including that of his wife and mother), rape and arson – and remains on death row to this day.