Victim Studies 003: Robert Hansenon October 25, 2011 in Serial Killers, Victim Studies, Victimology by Heather Whitney
Robert Christian Hansen has been charged with the murders of the four victims. Hansen’s serial series is thought to have begun in 1980, at the age of 41, and continued until 1983. During his serial series, it is believed that Hansen accumulated between 17 and 21 victims near Anchorage, Alaska. The remains of 11 of his victims have been recovered.
All of the victims which Hansen has been charged with murdering and those who he confessed to have murdered were women between the ages of 16 and 42. All of his victims are thought to have been prostitutes or topless dancers. As with most serial killers who target prostitutes, Hansen believed that no one would miss the women he murdered. Typically it is believed that prostitutes or strippers have few family connections and are not seen in a positive light in society. This being said, serial killers believe that no one will look for these women since their profession is typically illegal, it would not be uncommon for them to remain out of sight. During interviews after Hansen’s arrest he claimed that while torturing his victims he would tell the women that they should watch who they go out with or proposition.
Unlike many serial killers, Robert Hansen showed no preference to race or towards the ethnicity of his victims. Most serial killers stay within their own race or ethnicity, preferring instead someone with a certain background, hairstyle or body type. Hansen is known to have murdered mostly Caucasian women, but has also murdered at least one woman of Asian descent and one African American. This lack of preference allowed for Hansen to have a wider range of victims, making it more difficult for police officers to track him and also more difficult for the police to recognize that they were dealing with a serial killer.
The remains of all of the women, who were found not too badly decomposed, showed signs of being raped prior to their murder. After his arrest Hansen admitted to raping all of his convicted victims and those murders he confessed to after his conviction. It is believed that Hansen would hire a prostitute, pay for her services and then kidnap, torture and rape them. Hansen reported that he had raped at least 30 women, many of which he forced into oral sex or sexually assaulted with hammer handles and broomsticks. According to records, Hansen stated that he would make his victims completely vulnerable so that he could feel in control of the situation.
Hansen’s method of murder remained the same throughout his serial series. It is believed that after Hansen had raped, tortured and blindfolded his victims, he would fly with them on his private plane to release them on an isolated island. To calm his victims he would explain to the women that they knew there were risks involved in their professions, so if they listened and did everything he asked for them to do, they would not be hurt. However, this was just Hansen’s way to gain more control over the situation. After their release in to the woods, he would strip them naked, give them a head start then hunt them like they were animals. Hansen was known to use either a hunting knife or a Ruger carbine to murder his victims. Some experts believe Hansen preferred to murder his victims in this way because he was rejected by most women and was suffering from low self-esteem. When his low self-esteem combined with his expertise for hunting, it allowed for Hansen to gain pleasure when dominating his victims.
The majority of serial killers who rape and torture their victims are thought to be lust killers who use knives or their hands to murder, as they desire a close contact with their victims. However, Hansen’s use of a rifle shows that his murders were not always driven by lust, but instead was a way for him to exert power over his victims. This would also make Hansen a power or control killer. Most power/ control serial killers sexually abuse or rape their victims not for lust, but for domination. According to police records, Hansen’s father was seen as very strict and was seen as an extremely dominant figure in his family, forcing him to work long hours, creating additional stress which added to his worsening stutter. This may help to explain Hansen’s desire to humiliate and murder his victims.
Hansen did not wish to be discovered. Even though 4 of his victims were discovered, he did attempt to hide the bodies of his victims. Hansen would either bury his victims in the woods or would weigh down their bodies with gravel and throw them into a lake. Had it not been for his arrest in 1983, Hansen would have continued to murder women. Prior to hiding the bodies, Hansen collected items from his victims. When police investigated his home they discovered jewelry, charms, business cards and other personal items. Hansen was known to keep newspaper clippings about the remains which were found by the police. Investigators believe that to Hansen, keeping these totems was like having more hunting trophies.
Originally Hansen was charged with first degree assault, kidnapping, 5 counts of possession of a handgun, theft and insurance fraud. However, after there a positive match was found between his rifle and a victim, he entered in to a plea bargain. Hansen plead guilty to 4 of his murders under the condition that he give police additional information concerning the whereabouts of other victims and that he serve his sentence in a federal prison. Hansen told police about an additional 15 burial sites in which he disposed of bodies. Police brought Hansen to many of these sites in an attempt to find more remains, but were only able to find the bodies of 7 more victims. Throughout his confession Hansen claimed to have murdered between 17 and 20 women, but unfortunately to this day not all the remains of his victims have been discovered.