The term Serial Killer was not used until the 1970s and was first coined by a FBI agent Robert Ressler. A Serial Killer is loosely defined as someone who had murdered at least three victims at different locations over a certain period of time with a ‘cooling off’ period in between the murders. Jack the Ripper is often quoted as being the first Serial Killer, of course he was not literally the first person to kill numerous times but he is the first to get such news and attention. But what actually makes a serial killer? What makes these people different from so many other killers and criminals? What causes them to commit such crimes?
The serial killer will usually function like all other human beings but the brain focuses on one thing, on the killing of their target. The Murder they commit becomes an addictive drug to them. Their ability and idea to rationalize and feel remorse for what they have done is gone. They are in effect brain dead – the human does not exist.
There are two classifications of a serial killer the organized and disorganized. The organized offender will usually interact with society and have no regard or interest in any other than their self. They understand what they have done and actually get satisfaction and empowerment from their killings. The crimes are planned and usually committed away from the offender’s home and work. The disorganized offender is usually a loner and feels rejected from society. They are usually not sophisticated enough to plan and organize their crimes and the earlier crimes are usually close to their home and workplace. Rape does not usually occur, however, mutilations are usually done from fear and sexual curiosity of the body.
Of course one does not simply jump right into being a serial killer and committing such crimes and mutilations such as that committed on Mary Ann Nichols. ‘There will be a pattern of behaviours leading up to the violence, usually starting with voyeuristic activities or the theft of women’s clothing which serve as a substitute for his inability to deal with women in a mature and confident manner.’(Douglas.2001.P.29) They will usually fantasies for years until one day their fantasies are then translated into deeds. Usually there is some kind of trigger to bring their fantasies to life. Robert Ressler believed that there is usually some king of stress which sets the killer off, like loss of a job, breakdown of a relationship etc. Men are usually outward aggressive than women and will usually tend to become serial rapists or killers.
Most serial killers and offenders will usually have a motive (MO) and most will usually leave a signature of their crimes, something to make then stand out, something they always have to do. The motive for a serial killer is related to the techniques used by the offender to commit the crime and the signature is the elements used, which are not essential for the crime to take place but are done to satisfy the offender’s emotional needs.‘They have a compulsion to leave their own personal stamp…an imprint the killer is psychologically compelled to leave to satisfy him sexually’ (Keppel. 1998. P.5) The need for mutilation in some serial killers is the need for them to reflect their own self-image onto his victim. ‘…the acts if mutilation and overkill… [gives the killer]…a sense of control and domination over his degraded victim. They are the framework of his pathological imprint – something he must act out, something that drives him to kill time and time again.’ (Keppel.1998.P.xix). Many believe that the need for facial mutilation is a result of the killer knowing his victim and it is an attempt to de-humanize them.
More often serial predators stop for one of three reasons: they are caught for their murders, or caught for something else such as a break in/robbery but not linked to their predatory crimes; or they die, while completing a crime, by the hand of an associate or other offender, by suicide or by some other ‘natural cause’. Or they don’t really stop; they merely get scared out of a particular location and move onto another where their previous crimes are not linked. 
So let’s look a little closer at Jack the Ripper as a serial Killer. In this case I am stating that Martha Tabram was a victim of Jack and that the night of the double event was in actual fact two murders, Elizabeth’s Strides murder being committed by someone other than our serial killer known as Jack the Ripper. In this case the killer’s murders got progressively more violent and frenzied. It started with just the stabbing of Martha, to slashing and removing organs and finally the murder of Mary Kelly who was butchered beyond recognition. Martha Tabram seems to have been the catalyst, when violent fantasy turned into reality to the murders four months later’ (Beadle.1995.P.11)
Many of the attacks were quick and frenzied. Death was quick before the women had a chance to defend themselves; this is an indication that the killer may have lacked self-confidence to dominate the women verbally. He possible had just enough to get them away from the main areas. This was a time when prostitutes would approach men in the street and in some cases take them to a secluded place where business could be carried out without interruption. If Mary Kelly wasn’t a victim picked intentionally, then had the killer hit a stroke of luck with her having her own accommodation? Would the attack have been so severe and horrific if the killer had been outside like he was with his other victims?
Through the modus operandi evolves with the serial predator, the signature, or ritual aspect, remains in place, often becoming more elaborate over time as was the case with the final victim. Here, the subject had the time and the privacy to fully act out his fantasies. If there were to be further murders, then particularly if they were outdoors we would not expect the subject to engage in such elaborate mutilation; he would not have the time’ (Douglas and Olshaker.2001.P.66-7)
No attempt was made by the killer to hide the bodies this seems to point to our killer being disorganized. That the murders seemed to have not been pre meditated and that the killer struck whenever he could.
Most of Jack the Rippers victims seem to have a sign of strangulation occurring before their throats being slit and the mutilations being done. This is the reason why there was not much blood from the bodies, as death had already occurred. This could have been something the killer realized after the first attack on Martha where just stabbing occurred. The progression of the deaths seems to indicate a development in his method of killing. The fact that organs and body parts were taken away seems to symbolize that the killer wanted possession over his victims even in death. Also the fact that some of these organs were some of their sexual parts is an indication that the killer could possibly have had a fear of women. By removing their sexual organs he is taking away their sexual power. ‘His choice of victim, together with the nature of the mutilations, suggest the Ripper had been raised by a domineering female who is likely to have subjected him to repeated physical abuse’; (Roland.2007.P.115) but then on the other hand the loss of organs could purely have been just fascination by the killer. He may not have actually known what organs he was removing.
There has been a lot of speculation as to why the victims were prostitutes, were they the target? Was it just because they were women or simply the fact that they were easily accessible? Another theory into why Jack the Ripper attacked prostitutes is because he could have suffered from a venereal disease and was therefore seeking out prostitutes to seek vengeance on those who had infected him, even if it was not the actual women herself. Others believe that Jack was raised by a domineering mother who abused and punished him and therefore he was seeking out women his mother’s age or just the female sex to again exact vengeance. But then again it could also be, as previously states that the women were just there and made easy targets for Jack in the society that both he and they lived in.
‘The murders were all within a mile of each other, and the total hunting area was just over half a square mile in size. In 1998 a geographic profile was produced for the Jack the Ripper case based on body dump sites. The peak area of the geoprofile focused on the locale around Flower and Dean Street and Thrawl Street. (Rossomo. Online. Accessed 22/01/12). All of the supposed victims of Jack the Ripper seemed to have at one point or other lived near each other, around the area of Thrawl Street, Flower and Dean Street and Dorset Street. The following Victims lived as follows:
Mary Ann Nichols used to reside at 18 Thrawl Street; just before her death she was evicted and moved into the White House at 56 Flower and Dean Street, a doss house that slept both men and women.
Annie Chapman’s primary residence was Crossingham’s Common Lodging House at 35 Dorset Street.
Elizabeth Stride occasionally lived in a common lodging house at No. 32 Flower and Dean Street, and reportedly was there the night of her murder.
Catherine Eddowes usually stayed in Cooney’s Lodging House at No. 55 Flower and Dean Street, and had slept there two nights before her murder.
It can definatley be said that whoever Jack the Ripper was that he had some strong ties to the area, whether he grew up there, lived there or worked there, he seemed to know it well enough. As our victims did.
The following is a basic profile of the Killer who is now known as Jack the Ripper:
Male. White (would
stand out otherwise) late 20s early 30s (nothing can be certain with this
however), look ordinary in dress, most likely have a domineering mother,
weak/absent father, asocial preferring to be alone. Most likely worked alone
and prefer something like a butcher; where he could peruse his destructive
fantasies. Paranoid, would carry knives on him in case of attack. Most
relationships would have had been with prostitutes, with slight chance of him
having been infected with venereal diseases. No marriage/relationship, if it
was will been brief and woman older. Probably been interviewed more than once
Douglas. 2001. P. 43
Douglas. 2001. P. 64
 Douglas, J. (2001) The Cases that haunt us. P.67 – 70