This is a list of 5 of Britain’s most prolific serial killers in the past 50 years. Most of them you will know, however one you probably won’t.
I have tried to list the most relevant info, such as number of murder victims, dates of crimes, methods, but didn’t want to spend too much time on the article as it gave me the creeps researching just how sick and twisted these people were. However, what really unsettled me a lot too in some of these cases (including in one I didn’t list here – The Grindr Killer Stephen Port) was just how close some of these murderers were to being caught, but due to lack of evidence or police incompetence, would remain free or be let loose to go on and kill again.
If I have missed any out (please..I hope not!) simply let me know in the comment section below and I’ll try and add them asap. Don’t forget to share the list as it helps us get the site off the ground. Cheers.
#1 Fred & Rose West
Victims: At least 12 murders between 1967 and 1987, including two of their own children.
Fred and Rosemary West met in 1969 when he was 21 and she had just turned 15. They married in January of 1972 in Gloucester, and soon moved into the infamous address 25 Cromwell Street where most of their murders as a couple took place, however it is believed that Fred had already murdered Anne McFall before he ever met Rose. Anne was just 18-years-old at the time of her disappearance and eight months pregnant with Fred's child. Her remains were found in 1994 in a corn field near the village of Much Marcle where Fred was born. She had several bones missing and it is believed that the unborn child may have been cut from her womb.
It is also believed that Rose committed a murder herself, murdering her step-daughter Charmaine (Fred's daughter) who was only eight-years-old at the time, whilst Fred was serving time in prison for petty crimes. Fred helped get rid of the body upon release.
The couples first victim together (although she lived to tell the tale) was Caroline Owens who they had picked up hitch-hiking and offered employment to, offering her the job of being their children's nanny, which she accepted. It wasn't long however before she decided to leave after the West's sexual advances, but then on her way home she was abducted by the West's and kept in their cellar, where she was raped and abused by both Fred and Rose. Owens eventually escaped after becoming compliant and building trust, resuming work as their nanny, until she eventually managed to flee, returning straight home to her mother, who reported the ordeal to the police, and the West's were arrested.
Unfortunately, by the date of the court hearing, Caroline Owens had decided she could not face the ordeal of testifying in court, and the majority of the charges were then dropped, with the West's pleading guilty to the lesser charges of indecent assault and ABH, with each being fined £50 and both allowed to walk free.
The West's would murder their first victim together just three months later, a young 19-year-old girl by the name of Lynda Gough, who they buried in an inspection pit beneath their garage. Their murder spree continued over the years, with more and more young women murdered with a sexual motive, including their own daughter Heather West who had suffered years of sexual abuse before they murdered her in 1987.
The West's were eventually brought to the attention of the police again after Fred raped and sodomised his 13-year-old daughter Louise, who confided in a friend about what her father had done to her. The friend told her own mother who then told the police.
After a search of their home, and with the West's children divulging what had been happening to them over the years, such as how their father frequently told them that if they told anyone about the abuse and rapes that they would be "buried under the patio" like their sister Heather, the police began a full-scale investigation and the children were put into foster care. However again the West's were eventually aquitted of any charges, though their children remained in care and the police continued investigating the disappearance of Heather, which led them to look into the disappearance of Rena and Charmaine too, and on 23 February 1994 the police successfully got a search warrant issued to allow them to excavate the garden at Cromwell Street, and seeing the inevitable, Fred soon admitted that he was responsible for Heather's death. Eventually he confessed to more murders too, after the police found a third thigh bone in the Cromwell Street garden. He then told the police that they would find two other sets of human remains in his garden, and eventually admitted to more murders, confessing that there were a further five bodies buried in his cellar, and another under the bathroom floor.
In total, nine bodies were discovered at the Cromwell Street address, another in a previous address of Fred's, and two in fields around Gloucestershire. Most bodies showed evidence of having been subjected to extreme sexual abuse and torture prior to murder. Rose was arrested in April of 1994 even though Fred had insisted she was innocent of any wrong doings and they were both jointly charged with five counts of murder.
Later, in June, when they were brought before a magistrates court, Fred was charged with 12 murders, and Rose was charged with nine. During the trial Fred gently placed his hand on his wifes shoulder but she winced away from his advances on every occassion.
Fred West became increasingly depressed whilst held on remand, and on 1st January 1995 he killed himself in his cell, by hanging, after making a make-shift ligature from a blanket and other items he'd hidden. He left a suicide note, which depicted a gravestone on which was written "In loving memory. Fred West. Rose West. Rest in peace where no shadow falls. In perfect peace he waits for Rose, his Wife."
Rose remains an inmate at HM Prison New Hall, in Flockton, West Yorkshire, after being convicted of ten murders.
#2 Dennis Nilsen
Victims: Murdered at least 12 young men and boys, and attempted to murder 7 more.
Dennis Nilsen, also known as the Muswell Hill Murderer, murdered 12 young men and boys between 1978 and 1983, the majority of which were gay or homeless. His youngest victim was aged just 14-years-old. He would lure the victims back to his home with promises of alcohol or shelter, then he would strangle them with a ligature. Those that survived the strangulation would be finished off by drowning, either in the bath, sink, or in a bucket of water. He would then retain the bodies, sometimes bathing them and dressing them, and keeping them in his home for weeks or months. After capture, Nilsen admitted masturbating as he viewed the nude bodies, as well as engaging in sexual acts though he denies any penetration took place. He would eventually dismember the bodies, dissect them and either store them in bags in his home, or dispose of them, sometimes boiling the heads, hands and feet to make it easier to remove the flesh, some of which was flushed down the toilet along with the internal organs.
Nilsen was eventually caught when a local plumbing/drainage company were called out to look at the drains after complaints from Nilsen and other tenants at the property where he lived. The Dyno-Rod employee, after discovering flesh and bones in the drain, remarked how similiar it was to human flesh, to which Nilsen replied "It looks to me like someone has been flushing down their Kentucky Fried Chicken".
Nilsen died in York Hospital on 12th May 2018 at the age of 72.
#3 Peter Sutcliffe
Victims: 13 killed and 7 other attempted murders.
Between 1975 and 1980, Peter Sutcliffe killed 13 women and attempted to murder 7 more. His youngest victim, Jayne McDonald, was just 16. Dubbed ‘The Yorkshire Ripper’ by the press, Sutcliffe was eventually caught for driving with false number plates, despite having been interviewed 9 times previously during the 5-year investigation. Sutcliffe died in prison in November 2020, aged 74 after contracting Covid 19.
#4 Bruce George Peter Lee
Victims: 15, after 11 were overturned on appeal from a total of 26.
Bruce George Peter Lee was one of Britain's most prolific serial killers during the 70's, though his crimes at the time were vastly overshadowed by those of Peter Sutcliffe, who fully captured the publics imagination at the time. Also, Lee was motivated by a fascination with fire rather than an evil urge to kill so was not put in the same bracket as some of the other serial killers of Britain.
Lee (who's birthname was Peter Dinsdale) was born with a deformed arm and leg, and was known as "Daft Peter", having a below-average IQ. His mother was a prositute and Peter worked as a labourer on various building sites around Hull.
It was in 1979, that Lee, at the age of 19, was caught after a fire broke out at a family home in Selby Street, killing 3 boys, the youngest only 8-years-old. The police had interviewed a lot of young people from the area after the fire, one of which was Lee, who confessed not only to the Selby Street fire, but to the shock and horror of the police, he also confessed to nine more fatal fires over the previous 7 years, the first of which he started when he was just 12-years-old.
In total, 26 people had died in the fires started by Lee, with victims ranging from a 6-month-old baby and its young mother, to 11 elderly men in a retirement home. Lee was the most prolific killer in the UK at the time.
Lee initially said he was not sorry for the deaths he caused as he had not meant to kill anyone when starting the majority of fires, however he did later change his mind and apologise whilst awaiting trial.
#5 Harold Shipman
Victims: 250, between 1975 and 1998.
Harold Shipman was a British doctor and is one of the most prolific serial killers in modern history, not just in Britain but anywhere in the world, killing hundreds of patients with lethal injections of drugs which he had easy access to. Most of his victims were elderly patients in his care, though there is suspicion that he may have killed patients as young as 4-years-old.
In March 1998 police looked into Shipman after someone expressed concerns to the coroner about the high death rate among Shipman's patients. However the police were unable to find sufficient evidence and the investigation was closed on 17th April that same year. Shipman then went on to kill 3 more people before eventually being caught after trying to forge a will of one of his victims. The will excluded the victims family and left £386,000 to Shipman. However, the victims daughter became suspicious of this and went to the police, who then began another investigation into Shipman, and he was arrested on 7th September 1998.
Harold Shipman died by hanging himself in his cell on 13th January 2004.