Was Mohammed Merah a Serial Killer?

on March 23, 2012 in Alleged Serial Killers by

Mohammed Merah, the Islamic radical who killed three French paratroopers, three Jewish schoolchildren, and a rabbi since March 11, was killed yesterday when a French SWAT team stormed his apartment. News and media have invariably referred to him as a serial killer.

I don’t believe he should be classified as one.

First of all, there’s the tight timeframe of the killings. Seven murders in four incidents in eleven days doesn’t allow for much downtime. In my opinion, the defining characteristic of serial murder is the cooling off period between murders. With the limited facts we have so far, this seems much more like a spree killing than serial murder.

The bigger issue, however, is Merah’s motivations. They were clearly political.

I’m not the stickler on motivation that some are, when it comes to the definition of serial murder. I have no problems with someone whose motivations are primarily financial being a serial killer.

But defining a political murderer as a serial killer opens up a huge can of definitional worms.

I suppose you could classify a political murderer as a mission-oriented serial killer within the Holmes Typology, but where do you draw the line.

Was Anton Malloth (overseer at the Theresienstadt camp in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia) a serial killer? He was convicted of beating at least 100 prisoners to death.

If he committed the murders for personal gratification (which he might have), then I have no problem with calling him a serial killer. But if his motivations were purely (or even mostly) political, I don’t think he should.

If you allow those with political motivations to be called a serial killer, how about Heinrich Himmler? Chairman Mao? Pol Pot? Josef Stalin?

If you open up serial murder to political motivations, the term quickly becomes something else entirely.

One Comment

  • Tina P says:

    I agree, he definitely seems more of a spree killer. My first thoughts upon reading this were the same as yours seemingly – too tight of a time frame between each of the killings.

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