Why are people attracted to serial killers?

David Wilson - Professor of Criminology

Leading criminologist David Wilson reveals why people may be sexually attracted to serial killers – known as ‘Bonnie and Clyde syndrome’

School of Social Sciences

Birmingham City University

Wilson, Emeritus Professor of Criminology at Birmingham City University (BCU), revealed details about the lesser-known sexual fetish, ‘Hybristsophillia’, a rare form of sexual paraphilia first researched by Sexologist John Money in 1986.

Professor Wilson revealed that, while most common amongst vulnerable women, there are examples of heterosexual and homosexual ‘Hybristophilliac’ relationships with locked up dangerous criminals including some of the world’s most high-profile inmates.   

“Hybristophilliac relationships are not just the from the point of view of a woman forming a relationship with a dangerous man, but there are equally men who will have Hybristophilliac relationships with women. There are also same sex Hybristophilliac relationships,” he said.

“It is also important to differentiate between aggressive Hybristophillia and passive Hybristophillia.

“A more aggressive example of the philia is when a person is not just sexually attracted to what the violent person does but wants to work with the violent person in the commission of their violence.

”That's sometimes popularly known as Bonnie and Clyde syndrome, after the famous American couple who committed bank robberies in the 1930s.

“A more passive outburst of Hybristophillia, is where a person just forms an idealised or romantic attachment to a murder or serial killer.”

How do we explain that?

“There are some instrumental reasons as well as psychological reasons.

“Another instrumental reason is if you form a relationship with a convicted murderer or notorious serial killer person you gain attention. You are interviewed, you may write a book, so there is a way to gain status which is perhaps something you were denied in your childhood.”

David Wilson is Professor Emeritus of Criminology and the founding Director of the Centre for Applied Criminology at Birmingham City University. Prior to taking up an academic appointment in 1997, David was a Prison Governor working at a variety of establishments in a number of different roles.

He worked at Finnamore Wood, Grendon, Wormwood Scrubs and at Woodhill in Milton Keynes - where he helped to design and ran the two units for the 12 most violent prisoners in the country, which brought him into contact with virtually every recent serial killer.

Emeritus Professor David Wilson’s latest book, ‘Murder At Home: How our safest space is where we’re most in danger’ is available now in all bookstores and online.

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