I've looked serial killers in the eye and I know what makes monsters like the Yorkshire Ripper tick, says criminal psychologist

MOST of us spent last year captivated by charming killers thanks to the likes of Netflix’s The Fall and HBO’s The Undoing.

And spent years being baffled at what makes fiends like The Yorkshire Ripper, Anthony Hardy, and Rose and Fred West commit their chilling crimes.

Coming face to face with one of these killers and getting inside their mind is something most of us will never do.

But for Dr Richard Taylor, it is his bread and butter as a forensic psychologist.

He has spent his career finding out what is really going on inside the mind of a murderer.

From Camden Ripper Anthony Hardy to terrorist recruiter Hook, aka Abu Hamza, Dr Taylor has assessed some of the UK’s most dangerous criminals who kill.

'Slapped and punched' by criminals

Dr Taylor has got his fair share of cuts and bruises along the way from those he’s been trying to help – but he insists that it is his hard-working nurses who really bear the brunt of aggressive behaviour.

He said: “Nothing serious — but I’ve been slapped in the face, punched in the back and I was once chased down the corridor by a man who believed he was being spied on by pygmies.”

But Dr Taylor isn’t interested in the whodunnit side of things, just whether the patient is mad or bad.

He said: “There are two issues, should the person be in hospital for treatment? And how will the court deal with them in terms of their offence level? So it does come down to: mad or bad.”

Here, in an interview with The Sun, Dr Taylor helps us to delve inside what really goes on inside a killer's mind and just what creates the perfect conditions for extreme violence.

Serial killers – rare but terrifyingly dangerous

Telly would have us believe that serial killers are everywhere.

But Dr Taylor says they are incredibly unusual – which is why they hit the headlines.

He said: “Serial killers are really rare. I’ve dealt with many cases, approaching 200, and I’ve only seen a handful of serial killers. It’s why they make headlines.”

Serial killers like The Fall’s Paul Spector, played by Jamie Doran, have multiple victims and stage the murder scene for police to find.

Dr Taylor said: “Serial killers are not spontaneous, they exhibit planned and calculated behaviour. They often have severely abnormal personality traits.

"They are typically psychopaths and/or sexual sadists with antisocial or severe narcissistic personality disorders.

“In other words, serial killers represent a very extreme subgroup of sexual killers.”

Examples of serial killers he has assessed include Anthony Hardy, aka The Camden Ripper, who killed at least three women and dismembered two of the bodies.

Dr Taylor was one of several psychiatrists who risk-assessed him after the first woman, a sex worker called Sally White, 38, but a botched pathology reporter gave her cause of death as a heart attack.

And he says men like Hardy build up to their killing sprees.

He explained: “They may have gradually escalated from other less serious sexual offences. The escalation involves fantasy and rehearsal.

"Fetish burglaries where underwear is interfered is the sort of crime they might start with. They don’t have to be intelligent, but the smarter they are the harder they are to catch.

The smarter they are, the harder they are too catch."

“Staging of crime scenes is rare in most other types of murders but is not uncommon at crime scenes of serial killers where the staging may be related to repeating acts that were the subject of pre offence fantasy.

"The staging may have some symbolic meaning for the killer, for example a feeling of control associated with body mutilation. The taking of trophies allows the offence to be relieved later on.”

Sexual homicide: 'everyone's worst nightmare'

When a killing involves sex, the person behind it tends to have a severe personality disorder.

Within Dr Taylor’s career he has only seen a number of these “nightmarish murderers” who boast The Yorkshire Ripper, Anthony Hardy and the USA’s Ted Bundy and Ed Kemper in their ranks.

He said: “ Here we are talking about often men who have typically very severe personality disorders – such as psychopathy which means they have a sort of callous disregard for the effect of their behaviour on the victim.

“These are obviously horrific crimes particularly when it’s a male perpetrator and a female victim who they don’t know. These are sort of everyone’s worst nightmare and they are the subject of lots of movies but it is incredibly rare.”

Sexual killers can be split into two categories, organised and disorganised.

Dr Taylor says organised killers are predators who have planned out exactly what they want to do and will pick a victim that fits their fantasy.

These psychopaths are more likely to keep trophies to remember and re-experience their crime with. They also often have rituals, like the Yorkshire Ripper who removed all of his victims clothes after a murder.

Disorganised killers meet their victim by chance and spontaneously kill them without any forward thinking or planning. These killings can often happen after a rape in an attempt to conceal what has happened.

Dr Taylor said: “It’s essentially a rape and then the perpetrator is thinking ‘oh gosh how can I avoid being caught?’ and they kill the victim to cover up. It’s a bid to not be caught.”

Psychotic homicide: mad not bad

Dr Taylor mostly comes across people who have killed while suffering psychosis – a mental disorder which can cause people’s perceptions of reality to change dramatically.

He says: “This is someone who has delusions, hallucinations, they're in this sort of horror movie type world where they believe they are being threatened, it could be where their thoughts are being controlled. They’re hearing voices.

“For them it feels very real, it’s very upsetting and frightening and unfortunately, they can be very violent in that state and act in ways they wouldn’t normally.”

Some killers have delusions and hallucinations – they are in a horror movie type world where they believe they are being controlled.

Examples of killers like this that Dr Taylor has encountered include Daniel Joseph who violently attacked and killed his friend Carla Thompson in a psychotic episode. He also attacked her neighbour, including stamping on her head, but did not kill her.

When arrested Joseph, who suffers from Bipolar disorder and had stopped taking his medication, was so violent that Dr Taylor required the assistance of riot police to sedate him to prevent harm to himself or anyone else.

“There are somewhere between 50 and 70 of those a year in the UK as a whole. That’s just goes to show the prevalence of mental illness in society. Seven to ten per cent of murders around the world are committed by the mentally ill.”

Often psychotic killers will be returned to a normal state through medication and therapy and become unable to cope with the crimes they have committed while severely unwell.

Can you forget a murder?

During his routine assessments after a murder, Dr Taylor often comes across killers who claim they have no memory of what happened.

The forensic psychologist says about 30 per cent of his cases will make this claim, often in a bid to try and stop being charged with the killing.

However, it unfortunately makes it almost impossible for them to mount a defence, so unsurprisingly a lot of murderers suddenly recall what happened.

Murder is a highly emotional event

Dr Taylor said: “Sometimes they recover memory. Sometimes they don’t and there are various reasons for memory loss. Occasionally it can be real brain damage, it can be a very extreme form of alcohol blackouts but what is most common is dissociative amnesia.

“Murder is a highly emotional event and as such the brain can try and remove it, but of course, some killers are just lying because they think not remembering will give them some defence or it’s just too shameful to admit to.

“I saw a man called Dennis Costas who claimed he couldn’t remember setting his mistress on fire after dousing her in petrol. He was very drunk and he probably experienced an alcohol blackout of the entire day. It doesn’t really help the perpetrator to not remember”

Killing the one you love

Both women and men are capable of killing their intimate partners, but they each have different reasons for doing so. With women, like Sally Challen, who murdered her husband by hitting him 20 times with a hammer in 2010 , they are often the victims of a prolonged campaign of abuse – both mental and physical.

Dr Taylor said: “It’s a relatively small group but an important one. When these cases occur there are a lot of common themes.

"Typically very prolonged abuse, pretty severe abuse which is both physical and sexual. It’s often a snap decision when the abuse gets too much.

“One case like this saw a girl snap after her boyfriend called her a “whore who should open a brothel” in a voicemail to her mum. A snap decision saw her stab him to death after years of tolerating the behaviour.”

Men who kill their partners are often violent and possessive. Dr Taylor said: “There are very common features which are alcohol, jealousy, thoughts of infidelity, possessiveness and violence in the relationship."

These men will often accuse their partner of infidelity, try and restrict their social life and may physically or mentally abuse their partners, like in the case of Ray Thompson.

Dr Taylor assessed Thompson after he had found out his estranged wife, Christine, was seeing another man. He offered to pick Christine up to take her shopping but instead he drove her to a secluded car park and murdered her by repeatedly stabbing her with an old bayonet.

Financially motivated

While it may be the resolution to many fictional whodunnits, in real life financial motives are rarely behind murders. In these cases the person is often prone to violence and the initial idea may not be to kill.

Dr Taylor said: “Often robberies gone wrong are in this category, someone comes home, gets in the way and gets killed. It’s very rare to see a family member scheme murder another for their inheritance, but to do so they’d have to be quite callous.”

One case Dr Taylor has worked on was that of fraudster Anand Varma, 26, who took out loans against his parents' house and in their names without their knowledge. After he was presumably confronted he killed his father.

Dr Taylor said: “On October 26, 2003, he strangled his father, 59-year-old Dinesh Varma, before packing his body in a suitcase and hiding the case in the boot of his car, which he left in a street not far from the family home.

"The day before the killing he had looked up the phrases “murder poison” and “murder kill” online. He then reported his father as a missing person.”


Gang killings have been on the rise in the UK over the last decade and such murderers have a very different mindset to other killers. Dr Taylor: “Here we’re talking about postcode gang violence. Often it’s grudges, settling scores.

“We know that the adolescent brain is not as good at considering the consequences of decisions. I think there are young men that go out there not intending to kill.

“They think they’re just going to shank somebody and then, of course, you stick a knife in someone, it’s just a matter of luck if it goes into a leg muscle and it’s just bleeding or if you happen to hit a major vessel or organ and somebody can die very quickly.”

This is the case with many violent killings in London, such as with Jaden Moodie, 14, who was repeatedly stabbed by a rival gang member as part of a turf war. The teen was stabbed nine times in the hit and run attack.

  • The Mind of a Murderer by Dr Richard Taylor, to be published on January 21 (Headline £20)

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