Women make up half of society, yet, they commit under 15% of all murders. Clearly, female killers are rare. But why do some women resort to murder?

Historically, women are more at risk of violence in society. We can put this down to a few factors. For example, women tend to be smaller in size and strength. They do not have as much testosterone coursing through their bodies. As a result, they are less aggressive.

In addition, women are raised to be polite, accepting, and not questioning. Not only that, but women typically do not occupy positions in power at work or at home. So that makes women more vulnerable in the first place.

Despite all this, some women do commit murder. So, when it comes to female killers, are we talking about a certain kind of woman, or a certain type of crime? Do women that kill all have similar personality traits? Or, are the situations and crimes typical of a female killer?

The Psychology of Female Killers

Do all female killers share the same character traits?

I think that under the right kind of pressure, anyone has the capacity to kill another human being. But there are people who commit murders because they enjoy it. For instance, psychopaths and sociopaths. These types of killers derive huge pleasure from inflicting pain and suffering on their victims. The thing is, most psychopaths and sociopaths are male, right?

Evidence suggests that although there is such a thing as the female psychopath, they do not tend to kill their victims. In actual fact, they are more likely to con them out of money or property. In addition, they’ll hurt themselves rather than the victim.

That’s not to say there are no female killers. We know that women kill, so is there a type and do they target specific victims?

Types of Female Killers

Studies show that when female killers commit murder more than once, they do share certain characteristics. According to one study, there are several types of female killers:

Black Widow

Female killers who fall into this category are manipulative and cunning. They plan the murder out meticulously. This type of killer will ensnare her victim. She beguiles them. This is why she is called the Black Widow. Think of the spider, spinning her web, waiting patiently for a victim.

The Black Widow will always have a close relationship with her victim. We are talking about lovers, husbands, or partners.

Example – Betty Neumar is an infamous America Black Widow. She married five times and she is thought to have killed at least four. She was finally caught and charged with hiring a hitman to kill her fourth husband.

Angel of Death

The Angel of Death is, on the outside, a caring and concerned medical professional. She works as a caregiver. You will find her working in a hospital, hospice or nursing home. In addition, Angels of Death are known as ‘malignant heroes’. This is because they often cause the emergency (heart failure in an old person) then rush in at the end in an attempt to ‘save’ them.

She targets vulnerable people, often those who are already in poor health. As such, the old and the very young are particularly in danger from this female killer.

Example – Beverley Allitt is an English nurse who killed four children while she worked in a hospital.

Sexual Sadist

This is a very rare kind of female killer and probably the most dangerous kind. This killer is aroused by the pain and suffering of others. It is likely that she has suffered sexual abuse as a child. She typically kills on her own, but, if she finds a likeminded man, she will be encouraged even further to commit heinous acts of violence.

It is difficult to predict who this type of female killer will target because it all depends on her sexual preference.

Example – Myra Hindley carried out the most atrocious acts of sexual degradation on children alongside her boyfriend Ian Brady.

Revenge Killer

This is the type of killer we most associate with women – the revenge crime or crimes of passion. This killer will feel wronged in some way. She will use murder to exact her revenge.

Her targets will be the people who have wronged her, or, substitutes for these people.

Example – Aileen Wuornos. She was a prostitute who shot and killed her clients. In actual fact, she was abused as a child.

Profit Murderer

This killer has something to gain by murdering. The person they need to kill is in their way somehow. This can be in the form of life insurance, death pay-outs or the distribution of assets.

Under the Spell of a Charismatic Leader

If this female killer did not come into contact with the charismatic leader, it is doubtful as to whether she would commit murder.

Example – Leslie Van Houten and Susan Atkins belonged to Charles Manson’s killing ‘family’. Both were disaffected teenagers when they met Manson. Patricia Periwinkle was another female member who tried repeatedly to leave the family. However, she was forced back every time. All three women have since denounced their crimes.

Kills for ‘Love’

The woman that falls into this category will kill because they genuinely believe their intended victim is better off dead. Their victims are usually their own children.

Psychotic Killer

psychotic female killer

Our final killer is the psychotic killer whose sanity is in question. This killer is not typical of our list of female killers because she does not know why she is killing. She has serious mental issues and does not kill for a reason.

Most Common Motives of Crime

There are seven different motives for murder:

  • Love
  • Jealousy
  • Revenge
  • Gain
  • Concealment (of another crime)
  • Thrill
  • Conviction/Hate

Males who murder are compelled to do so by jealousy, concealment, conviction/hate, revenge and thrill. Men are more likely to kill strangers and people not known to them. However, the majority of women kill for love or gain. Moreover, they target those who are closest to them.

Final Thoughts

It is not surprising that female killers kill for different reasons. Men and women place a higher value on different things in life. However, learning about these differences will help us understand why women kill and how we can try to rehabilitate them.


  1. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  2. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

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