Serial killers thrive where the law fails

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 May, 2012, 12:00am


Serial killers both fascinate and repel. They are a subject of study for law enforcement, forensic science, criminal psychology, and, of course, a lucrative field for filmmakers and crime writers the world over.

But something has been overlooked. They are a problem for political science. Consider this: killers who notched up the highest body counts and were able to carry out their crime for years or even decades are most often found in failed states, developing countries with a corrupt or inefficient police force, and middle-income nations where officials are unaccountable.

Take the recent arrest of 56-year-old farmer Zhang Yongming, who is the main suspect in the disappearance of dozens of young men and children in the rural backwater of Jinning county, Kunming. Some of the missing persons cases reportedly date back five years, yet local officials took little action.

The case only moved forward after the central government sent a team of investigators to the county more than a month ago. The county public security bureau chief and Jincheng deputy secretary have been suspended.

There is the Russian Alexander Pichushkin, who may have killed more than 60 people - more than Jeffrey Dahmer, Jack the Ripper, and the Son of Sam combined. He preyed on his neighbours in a giant forest park outside Moscow from 1992 until 2006, when he was caught. People in the surrounding rundown residential estates had quietly despaired because they knew local police had no interest in their safety or welfare.

Pedro Lopez, the so-called 'Monster of the Andes', murdered hundreds of young girls in Peru, Ecuador and Colombia in the 1970s. He understood and exploited their poor law enforcement.

Ciudad Juarez, a border town in northern Mexico, is synonymous with the killings of women and young girls, and government inaction, as hundreds have died or remain missing since the early 1990s. It's not clear whether they were victims of serial killing, a high crime rate, or both.

The list goes on ... and serial killers are tacitly enabled by corrupt, incompetent and brutal governments.