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Top 10 Prolific Serial Killers

by John Waller
fact checked by Alex Hanton

A serial killer is an individual who has killed at least 3 people over a period of more than a month. This list ranks serial killers, not by their brutality, but by their death count. While some of the entries here have been mentioned on previous lists, a number are completely new to Listverse.


Javed Iqbal


Javed Iqbal Mughal (1956?-2001) was a serial killer from Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. He claimed he killed 100 boys during an 18 month period. He had been arrested in June 1998 for sexually abusing 2 boys for money. He went off on bail, and began murdering boys shortly afterward. Iqbal found boys on the street, charmed them into his confidence, and then drugged, raped and strangled them.

He then cut the body into pieces and put them in a vat filled with hydrochloric acid. Once all of the remains were liquefied, he dumped them. He first used the sewer, until neighbors complained of an acrid stench.

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Gilles De Rais


Rais was a Breton who fought against the English, often serving alongside Joan of Arc. A year after Joan was burned at the stake, Rais retired from military service and returned to his family’s castle, at Machecoul. From there, Rais began a campaign of sadistic sex murders, killing between 60 and 200 children. He preferred boys between the ages of 6 and 18. His victims were generally blue-eyed and blond-haired, and were usually kidnapped from the village of Machecoul and the surrounding areas, or lured to his castle. His first victim was a 12-year-old messenger who was hanged by his neck on a metal hook, and raped before being put out of his misery.

More and more children started to disappear and suspicion arose. Unfortunately, the locals were too terrified to go up against one of the most powerful men in France. Rais had a specially built chamber where he would restrain his victims while he proceeded with his grotesque sexual acts. He would kill them with a variety of methods which included dismemberment, decapitation and disembowelment. He enjoyed watching them die, sometimes even laughing. After some difficulty, a case was finally brought up against him. Rais stated at his trial that he admired the heads and body parts of his more beautiful victims. He was arrested in September of 1440, and indicted on 34 counts of murder. He would eventually confess to the murders under the threat of torture. Rais was found guilty of murder, sodomy and heresy. He was hanged and then burned on October 16, 1440, along with two of his servants.


Miyuki Ishikawa

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Miyuki Ishikawa was an experienced midwife who murdered at least 103 newborn children during the 1940s. The parents of these newborns were poor and could not afford to raise a child. She could not raise the children, so to solve this problem she neglected them, and many of these children died because of the neglect. She attempted to garner payment from this disgusting practice. Her actions caused the Japanese Government to begin considering legalizing abortion.


Thug Behram


Thug Behram was the leader of the Thuggee cult, which was responsible for the murder of 931 people between 1790 and 1840. Behram himself committed about 125 murders, each with the ceremonial ruhmal (handkerchief). To join the cult, one’s father or mother must have been a member. In at least 65 murders committed by Behram, a Canova Medallion was dropped on their Adam’s apple (the medallion was very heavy) to increase pressure while Behram strangled the victim.


Darya Saltykova

Darya Saltykova

As if Serfdom wasn’t bad enough, this Russian noblewoman, during the 1700s, made it even worse. She tortured and killed at least 100 of her serfs, but was not arrested until 1762, because of her routes and her wealth. In 1762, Russian Empress Catherine II decided to try Saltykova publicly, after relatives of the murdered women brought a petition to Catherine.

Saltykova was found guilty of the murder of 38 female serfs. To punish Saltykova, Catherine had her chained on a platform for one hour in Moscow, with a sign around her neck that read “This woman has tortured and murdered”. Darya was than sentenced to life imprisonment. She died in 1801.


Harold Shipman

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Harold Shipman was born on January 14th, 1946, the second of four children to devout Methodist parents. In 1963, his mother died from cancer. In 1970, he graduated from medical school. He became a doctor and a respected member of his community. However, he injected his patients – most of them seniors – with poisons.

His last victim was the wealthy Kathleen Grundy, who was former mayor of Hyde, UK, where Shipman, known as “Doctor Death”, lived. Grundy’s daughter was alarmed when her mother’s will left nothing to her children, but left £386,000 to Shipman. Police used this as evidence and arrested Doctor Death. He committed suicide in prison, in 2004.


Amelia Dyer

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Amelia Dyer was the most prolific baby farm murderess in history. Baby farming was the caring of illegitimate children for a lump sum payment. Dyer let the infants die from neglect and abuse almost immediately after receipt of each child, than she would pocket most of, or all, the fee.

Her most infamous murder is possibly that of Doris Marmon. Evelina Marmon, a 26 year-old barmaid, gave birth to an illegitimate daughter, who she gave to Dyer. The baby, Doris, was brought to Dyer’s daughter’s house, where she killed Doris by tying Doris’s neck with edging tape. Dyer was hanged for only one murder. She killed about 200 children.


Elizabeth Bathory

Elizabeth-BathoryElizabeth Bathory was a 16th century countess in Hungary who was responsible for the murder of 200-300 young women, who were brought to her castle after being promised well-paid work as servants. They were tortured and killed. Atrocities include severe beatings; burning or mutilation of hands, faces and genitalia; freezing of victims; biting of flesh of faces and other body parts; surgery on victims; starving of victims; and rape and molestation of victims.

She was eventually sentenced to home arrest, where she died in 1614. She inspired many myths, the most widespread of which are that she bathed in the blood of victims to restore her youthful appearance. More can be read about this myth on Mythverse, Listverse’s sister site.

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Pedro Lopez

Pedro Lopez

By far one of the most prolific serial killers of all time, the “Monster of the Andes” butchered enough people to fill a small town. After killing around 100 tribal women in Peru in the 1970s, he was apprehended by tribal forces that were just about ready to execute him when they were convinced by an American missionary that was staying with them at the time to take him to the police force instead.

Unfortunately, the police then just let him go, after which Lopez travelled to Ecuador, where he proceeded to kill about 3-4 girls a week, claiming that girls in Ecuador were “more gentle and trusting, more innocent”. This carried on until he was caught, in 1980, but police were still unsure as to his guilt. A flash flood uncovered a mass grave that had hidden many of his victims, which then led to his arrest. However, the Ecuador government released him in 1998, deporting him to Columbia. Lopez allegedly said that he was being released for “good behavior”.


Luis Garavito

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Luis Garavito is not as famous as some of his rivals here on this list, but he is the most prolific serial killer of all time. Born on January 25th, 1957, “La Bestia” is the oldest of seven brothers. His childhood was ruled by his father, subsequently described as both physically and emotionally abusive. Furthermore, during his trial, Garavito described being sexually abused when he was a young boy, but didn’t name the perpetrator.

Further details of his early life are sketchy at best, however, the details surrounding his maniacal killings is frightening. He lured children to trust and accompany him through offers of money for odd jobs, candy or drugs. All of the children were tied up, viciously tortured, raped and were eventually killed by having their throat slashed, and many were decapitated completely.

Garavito has accurately directed police investigators to the graves of more than 170 victims, encompassing large parts of Columbia. Investigators believe that Garavito is responsible for more than 400 deaths during the years prior to his capture.

Garavito was captured on 22 April, 1999. He confessed to murdering 140 children. However, he is still under investigation for the murder of 172 children in more than 59 counties in Colombia. He was found guilty in 138 of the 172 cases; the others are ongoing. The sentences for these 138 cases add to 1,853 years and 9 days. Because of Colombian law restrictions, however, he cannot be imprisoned for more than 30 years. In addition, because he helped the authorities in finding the bodies, his sentence has been decreased to 22 years. Garavito is considered the worst serial killer in history for having a higher death toll than any other.

fact checked by Alex Hanton