Sep 22, 2011

Criminal Masterminds or not?

killingI have been listening to my wife read Killing for Pleasure : The Definitive Story of the Snowtown Serial Murders.  It’s been interesting on a couple of fronts.

Snowtown is close enough to where I live to be called just around the corner.  I have taught in the town and have walked past the bank where the murder victims were stored, on numerous occasions.  So I experience the retelling of the story with some added physical experience or sense of place.

(On a tangent it’s not really fair to call them the Snowtown murders, of the 11 people killed, only one was killed in the town and no residents were involved.  The town is unfairly stigmatised due to a quirk of attention grabbing media headlines.)

From a crime fiction point of view it’s interesting to note that those who committed the torture and murders were not criminal masterminds like we are used to seeing in crime fiction. 

We may laugh at the antics of Dexter and say to ourselves that there’s no way he could get away with what he does in real life.  After listening to the facts of this case though I am not convinced that it takes anymore than a couple of factors combined

a)lack of police resources/interest

b)combined with victims and perpetrators being drawn from poorer classes

c)combined with victims lack of faith/trust in law enforcement

The murderers managed to kill one victim while under police surveillance.  They were able to loot victims residences in broad daylight.  One of the bodies was even left for a time rolled up in a carpet in a house frequented by other people.

Essentially Australia’s worst serial murders were committed by people with average intelligence, who bragged about the murders within a small circle of associates and who seemed to escape detection because they were poor white folk killing other poor white folk.

So does this change things for writers of crime fiction?  Do our serial killers have to be masterminds?  Do we write about clever killers, because in reality is it so much easier to fall victim out of neglect or disinterest and that doesn’t sit well with the reader?


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