A UK research team has studied the actions of killers who from 2008-2013 in some way engaged with their victims on Facebook before murdering them.
The Birmingham City University team, led by Dr. Elizabeth Yardley and Professor David Wilson from the Centre of Applied Criminology, investigated 48 cases of murder and came up with a list of six identifiable “Facebook killers”.
“We had been coming across references to ‘Facebook Murder’ in the media over the past few years but there had been no research in this area,” Dr. Yardley said.
“We wanted to see whether homicides in which Facebook was reported to have been involved were any different to other homicides and found that on the whole they are not – victims knew their killers in most cases, and the crimes echoed what we already know about this type of crime.”
The results are still fascinating, if a little unnerving. First, here’s a few other findings the team made in regard to what killers who use Facebook have in common:
- The majority of murders occurred in the UK (54.2%), followed by the US (31.3%) and Australia (8.3%).
- From the period studied, the vast majority of homicides took place in 2010 (29.2%) and 2011 (25%)
- January was the most active month (12.5% of homicides), while none were recorded in June.
- The most popular method was stabbing (34.9%), followed by shooting (19%) and bludgeoning (12.7%).
- 90.2% of the perpetrators were male, and 43.9% of them were aged 21-30. 61.8% of the victims were female.
- Not a lot of the cases involved people who’d met online. The vast majority (81.4%) had some form of relationship before Facebook was utilised in the crime.
- The most likely reason an interaction led to murder was anger at content. 27.1% of homicides occurred after the perpetrator reacted to a post, such as the victim changing their relationship status to “Single”.
- An alarming 12.5% announced their intention to kill on Facebook before making good on their threat.
While the data appears to show a downtrend in homicides involving Facebook since 2011, the team said it was important to note that their study was based on cases that reported use of Facebook.
“It could be that as social media become domesticated and socialised into everyday life, their presence in homicide cases becomes less unusual and, hence, is not reported,” they wrote.
The team then identified the types of killers. Here they are in order of prevalence:
The Reactor – 27.1%
Characteristics: Reacts to content posted by attacking the victim offline, either immediately after seeing the content, or sitting back for a while and thinking about it.
Example: UK man Wayne Forrester killed his wife Emma after she posted they’d separated and she wanted to meet other men.
The Informer – 22.9%
Characteristics: Will tell their Facebook network they’re about to commit homicide or have already done so.
Example: Colorado, US man Merrick McKoy took his two-year-old daughter from his ex-partner, posted pictures of them together on Facebook, then shot her and himself, leaving one message: ‘I told u I can’t live without u lol u thought I was joking now me n Mia out this b****.’
The Antagonist – 16.7%
Characteristics: Is involved in hostile exchanges on social networks which escalate to physical violence, which can include arming themselves.
Example: An unnamed 15-year-old in London who stabbed 18-year-old Salum Kombo to death in the street after trading insults on Facebook.
The Fantasist – 12.5%
Characteristics: Indulges in some form of fantasy online, then uses homicide to either maintain the fantasy or prevent it becoming known.
Example: Canadian Mark Twitchell killed Johnny Altinger in a rented garage set up as a ‘kill room’, inspired by fictional TV serial killer, Dexter. Twitchell detailed his preparations for a killing spree after setting up a fake Facebook account pretending to be Dexter.
The Predator – 12.5%
Characteristics: Creates a fake profile in order to lure and meet a victim offline. Uses victim’s information as a way to gain their trust.
Example: Australian Christopher Dannevig killed Nona Belomesoff after learning of her interest in animals from her profile before luring her to Smith Creek Reserve, claiming to be arranging a training camp for a wildlife rescue group.
The Imposter – 8.3%
Characteristics: Pretends to be somebody else, sometimes in order to conceal their crime, or to gain access to a victim’s profile details.
Example: UK man Andrew Lindo killed his partner Marie Stewart in 2010 and posted updates to her Facebook page claiming that she had left him and gone abroad to the Canary Islands.
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