Causes Celebre – What Makes One Criminal Become More Famous Than Another

Jack the Ripper, easily one of the most famous criminals in history, and the fact is he killed five women, confirmed, and maybe six others (two prior to the confirmed murders and four after). Chances are the number is closer to five than eleven. Ever heard of Luis Garavito ? He is a Colombian proven to have killed 138 people, mainly street children, but maybe he killed as many as 400.

So its not just about numbers, something else must capture the public’s interest: Jeffery Dahmer is also a very famous murderer, but most probably because he ate some body parts and preserved others. Fact is he killed 17 people, which is quite a lot,obviously, but about half of the tally of the also-famous Ted Bundy, and then John Wayne Gacy killed about the same number as Bundy, but both were less than half of the admitted murders of Gary Ridgeway (confessed to killing 71 people). Which ones had you heard of ?

Dr Swango was convicted of four murders, chances are that he killed around 60 people, some of them in Zimbabwe, others in the USA.

Many children have gone missing since Madeleine McCann, and yet how many of them do you hear about ?

Locally, its easy to see why Oscar Pistorius killing Reeva Steenkamp was such huge news, and the Dewani case has is obvious “media hooks”, but why do some other cases stick in the spotlight and yet others fade out of it or not get there at all. It was big news when white girl Dina Rodrigues had her white boyfriend’s coloured baby killed, but less newsworthy, for some reason, was white guy Gerald Rosselloty killing his black girlfriend. Thus newsworthy does not also relate to race; Anene Booysen was a poor township girl tragically attacked, violently raped and killed and it caused a huge outcry, but shocking numbers of other violent rapes do not even get to the front pages.

So what is it ?

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