The U.S. can lay claim to a large number of the most notorious, and brutal murders the world has ever seen. But we cannot claim a monopoly on it. Brutal murders get reported from every corner of the world. The heinous murders on this list are not just among the scariest the world has ever seen, they also committed some of the most brutal, heartless, remorseless murderers anyone has ever witnessed. Sadly, this list could be updated on an almost annual basis.
But you can’t judge a sociopathic murderer by the look in their eyes; it was that calm, cool, confident look that made it so easy for serial killers like Ted Bundy to get away with murder for years. Many of the worst murders are committed by seemingly normal, friendly next door neighbors, or fun loving coworkers
The Toolbox Killers
When people think of psychopathic monsters, Charles Manson often comes to mind. But Manson’s got nothing on the Toolbox Killers. Lawrence Sigmund Bittaker and Roy Lewis Norris are rapists and serial killers known as The Toolbox Killers. Why did the press give them that moniker? The two men used common household items, often found in a toolbox, to torture and murder their victims (pliers, ice pick, hammer, etc.).
Bittaker (born September 27, 1940) and Norris (born February 5, 1948) were known to police since they were basically infants, having racked up a number of arrests going back to their teens.
That doesn’t mean Bittaker and Norris were dumb. Bittaker dropped out of high school but had a tested IQ of 138; only two percent of the population can claim to have an IQ as high as that.
Having a high IQ though doesn’t necessarily make you smart either.
Proving there is someone for everyone, Bittaker and Norris met in prison in 1977: Bittaker was serving time for attempted murder, while Norris was serving time for rape. It was there the two men discovered they shared a mutual hatred of girls, and shared a love of rape and murder.
Despite hospital psychiatrist’s warnings that Bittaker was a sophisticated sociopath, he was released from prison in November 1978 and moved to Los Angeles. His cohort was released on January 15, 1979, and moved in with his mother in L.A. Norris is said to have had an incestuous relationship with his mother.
Bittaker and Norris Reconnect out of Prison
The two met up outside of prison and hatched their plans.
One of the first things they did was buy a 1977 GM cargo van; it had no side or back windows, and a large sliding door on the passenger side. They made alterations to the van making it “easier” to abduct, rape, and murder girls. They nicknamed the van “Murder Mack.”
Between February and June 1979, the two drove up and down the Pacific Coast Highway and practiced their killing spree; stopping at beaches, talking with girls, and taking their pictures. Bittaker and Norris also found an ideal spot for dumping bodies – an isolated road in the San Gabriel Mountains.
During this time, they picked up more than 20 girls, all of whom, Norris would later say, they could have abducted but didn’t.
Eventually though, the two put their plans into action.
Five Girls Raped, Tortured, and Murdered
Over a five month period, June to October 1979, Norris and Bittaker kidnapped, tortured, raped, and murdered five teenage girls: Lucinda “Cindy” Schaeffer (16), Andrea Joy Hall (18), Jackie Gilliam (15), Leah Lamp (13), and Shirley Lynette Ledford (16).
Over the course of the murders, Bittaker and Norris ramped up their torture to include taking polaroids of their victims’ terrified faces, and using a tape recorder to record the sounds of their brutal rapes and murders.
The pair were eventually caught when Norris bragged to an old prison buddy about their exploits. The friend, Jimmy Dalton, contacted police who eventually arrested Bittaker and Norris. The pair were identified by Shirley Sanders, the only victim to escape.
Norris accepted a plea bargain and was sentenced to 45 years in prison at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility. He is eligible for parole in 2020.
Bittaker went to trial over the deaths of the five girls. Steve Kay, the Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney who prosecuted the case, broke down twice during the trial and wept at the brutality of the crimes Bittaker committed.
Shirley Lynette Ledford Tapes
From the court transcripts of the Bittaker-Norris Halloween tapes:
“At this point, after Bittaker had forced Shirley to fellate him, repeated sounds of an administered beating, interspersed with loud screams can be heard as Bittaker savagely beat Shirley about the breasts and, to a lesser degree, head. Bittaker then extracted his pliers from the tool box. Shirley then emits several high-pitched, prolonged screams and cries of agony as Bittaker alternately squeezes and twists her labia, clitoris, nipples and breasts with the pliers. Bittaker then returns the pliers to the tool box. Banging sounds can also be heard throughout, which are believed to have been made as Shirley came into contact with the walls and inner contents of the van as she writhed and flailed.
”Ledford: My God! Please stop it! (Screams)
Bittaker: Is the recorder going?
Bittaker: Scream baby! Scream some, baby.”
“Just kill me!” are the last sounds on the tape before it runs out.
Bittaker Sentenced to Death
Bittaker was found guilty of the murders and was sentenced to death. He was also given an additional 199 years, in case the conviction was ever overturned or the death sentence was repealed.
He has been on death row ever since. And has not shown any remorse.
To show just how depraved and inhuman Bittaker and Norris’ actions were, the Bittaker-Norris audio tapes are played for FBI recruits to desensitize, and show them what kind of people they will be dealing with.
Moreover, Detective Paul Bynum, 39, the chief investigator of the Bittaker-Norris murders, wrote in a 1987 suicide note that he could no longer live because of the slayings, and could not get the tapes out of his mind. He also worried that Bittaker and Norris would somehow get free.
The torture, rape, and murder of Junko Furuta is one of the most vile, heinous crimes ever committed in Japan. The 17-year old Japanese high school girl was raped and tortured for 44 days before being murdered on January 4, 1989.
Known throughout Japan as “concrete-encased high school girl,” Furuta’s death drew nationwide attention due to the sheer brutality she endured. Outrage also followed after it was discovered that around 100 people knew she was kidnapped, tortured, and raped…but either did nothing about it, or participated.
Furuta was an outgoing, cheerful, and attractive girl who was more interested in getting good grades at Yashio-Minami High School in Misato than drinking and partying. This put her at odds with the rest of her classmates.
One of her classmates, Hiroshi Miyano, had a crush on Furuta, but the feelings were not reciprocated. This did not sit well with Miyano, who, aside from being a bully, was also a member of the Yakuza (a Japanese crime syndicate). He might have been a low ranking member, but nobody said “no” to Miyano.
Furuta Kidnapped for Rebuffing Boy
On November 25, 1988, Furuta was kidnapped by four men as she walked home from school: Hiroshi Miyano, Jō Ogura, Shinji Minato, and Yasushi Watanabe. The four took Furuta to a house owned by Minato’s parents in Tokyo.
While there, Furuta was forced to call her parents and tell them she was running away and staying with a friend. She also told them she was not in any danger. While Minato’s parents would drop by the house on occasion, Furuta was too afraid to tell them she was being held there against her will.
Later, even when Furuta begged Minato’s parents for help, they did nothing because they were afraid of Hiroshi Miyano and his Yakuza contacts.
Warning, the following information is graphic. Over the next 44 days, Furuta faced unspeakable torture and suffering.
- She was kept naked
- Was raped approximately 500 times by more than 100 men
- Was hit with golf cubs
- Head hit against cement floor
- Forced to masturbate in front of kidnappers and “guests”
- Had various objects forced into her vagina and anus (iron bar, scissors, roasting needles, chicken skewers, etc.)
- Forced to drink her own urine
- Fireworks were forced up her anus and set off
- Left nipple was ripped off with pliers.
- Legs and feet set on fire
- Dumbbells were dropped on her stomach
- Hanged from the ceiling and used as a punching bag
- Kept in a freezer for hours at a time
- Eyelids were burned with hot wax and lighters
- Breasts were pierced with sewing needles
- Vagina and clitoris were burned with cigarettes and lighters
- Stuffed a still lit light bulb into Futuka’s vagina and rammed around until it exploded.
During this period, the parents of one of the rapists, knowing what was going on, called police. Two officers went to the Minato house to investigate. They were simply told that no girl was inside the house and declined an invitation to look around.
By the time police arrived, Furuta had been in captivity for 16 days. Had police done their jobs, she probably would have survived.
On January 4, 1989, it is alleged that the kidnappers challenged Furuta to a game of Mahjong. Even in her savaged state, she was able to beat the four. Enraged at having lost, the four men beat her and set her on fire. Furuta fell into shock and died.
Afraid of being charged with murder, the four boys dumped Furuta’s body into a 55-gallon drum and filled it with concrete.
In March, while police were investigating another rape, Miyano, thinking one of the other boys confessed to killing Furuta, told the police where to find her body. The four boys were eventually arrested.
Kidnappers Receive Light Sentences
Initially, the names of the four boys who kidnapped, raped, tortured, and murdered Furuta were kept sealed because they were juveniles. But, journalists from the Shūkan Bunshun magazine discovered their identities and published them, stating that they did not deserve to remain anonymous.
Three of the boys served less than eight years. Miyano, initially given 17 years, appealed his sentence. It was increased to 20 years.
Had the four boys been a couple of years older, Miyano would have been given a death sentence, and the three others life sentences.
All four are now out of jail.
Kelly Anne Bates
James Patterson Smith could give the Toolbox Killers a run for their money when it comes to cruelty and torture. Smith, 48, tortured and abused his girlfriend Kelly Anne Bates, 17, for more than a month before drowning her in the bathtub.
Smith was described by his friends as an average guy who didn’t smoke or drink. That said, he did have a long track record of abusing his partners. In fact, his ex-wife of 10 years described him as a sadistic misogynist.
Two girls who dated him after he divorced his wife in 1980 also said the same thing about him. Tina Watson, 20, dated Smith for two years, breaking it off in 1982. Smith reportedly beat hear numerous times while she was pregnant with his child, and escaped the relationship after he attempted to drown her.
In 1982, Smith also dated Wendy Mottershead, 15. She also suffered at the hands of Smith, and claims he tried to drown her by filling a sink with water and holding her head under.
All three were treated like punching bags, but unlike his next victim, Kelly Ann Bates, they survived.
Bates Was a Strong, Sporty, Creative Girl
Kelly Ann kidnapped was from Hattersley, Greater Manchester, England and “was a strong and sporty girl” who wanted to be a teacher. When Bates died, she was in college and worked for a graphic arts firm.
In 1993, Bates began dating Smith. She was only 14 years old. Bates was 31 years older. Her family remembers her as a fun girl who was always mature for her age. And while they were not happy that she was dating the much older Smith, her mother, Margaret wasn’t totally surprised when she heard the news.
When it came to Bates moving in with Smith when she was only 17, that was another matter. Her parents were less than supportive, but because she was legally an adult, they couldn’t do anything to stop her.
Margaret met Smith for the first time after the two began living together. Of their first meeting, she said, “As soon as I saw Smith the hairs on the back of my neck went up. I tried everything I could to get Kelly Anne away from him.”
In December 1995, Bates quit her job and, her mother said, acted strange during phone conversations. In March 1997, Kelly didn’t sign her parent’s wedding anniversary card, nor her father’s birthday card.
The family never heard from her again. During the last month of her life, she was a prisoner in her own home.
On April 16, 1996 Smith went to Gorton Police Station to say he accidentally killed Bates. According to Smith, they had an argument while she was in the tub, and swallowed water. Despite his many efforts to revive her, she died.
Police went to Smith’s two-bedroom semi-detached house in Furnival Road in Gorton to investigate. There, they realized that what Smith told them didn’t add up to what they saw.
Bates Was Tortured in Her Home for Weeks
Authorities later learned that Bates suffered 150 different injuries; enough to cause “anguish and torment to the point of mental breakdown and collapse.” Dr. William Lowler, the pathologist who conducted the autopsy, said Bates suffered the worst injuries he’d ever seen on a murder victim. In fact, her injuries, and the age of some, left him astounded.
Over three barbaric weeks, the sadist inflicted the following injuries on Bates:
- Scalding to her buttocks and left leg
- Branded by a hot iron
- Fractured arms
- Kneecaps smashed
- Stabbed in the face and body by knives, forks, and scissors
- Stab wounds inside her mouth
- Partially scalped
- Tied by hair to the radiator
- Both hands crushed
- Mutilation to ears, nose, eyebrows, mouth, lips, and genitalia
- Wounds caused by a spade and pruning shears
- Both eyes gouged out
- Stab wounds found on empty eye sockets
- Lost around 45 pounds
- Did not have water for several days before death
- Beaten with a shower head and drowned
After systematically torturing and drowning the helpless 17-year-old, Smith was sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in jail in 1997.
The brutal 1993 murder of two-year old James Bulger rocked England, leaving parents terrified for the safety of their children. Their shock turned to anger when it was discovered that the men who kidnapped and tortured Bulger were both children themselves: Jon Venables and Robert Thompson – both 10 years old.
Young James was with his mother, Denise in the Strand shopping center in Bootle, Liverpool, on February 12, 1993. He was just one month away from turning three. Denise took her eyes off James for a moment; when she turned around, he was gone.
Venables and Thompson took Bulger by the hand, walking two and a half miles to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. At one point, they picked up Bulger and dropped him on his head, according to one witness, causing him to cry. During their walk across Liverpool, the three boys were seen by at least 36 people.
They eventually took James Bulger to a railway line near the disused Walton & Anfield railway station; it was here that they began torturing him. The boys threw blue Humbrol modelling paint, which they shoplifted earlier in the day, into Bulger’s left eye.
They kicked and stomped on him, and threw bricks and stones at him. The two boys shoved batteries into Bulger’s mouth and may have inserted them into his anus. Finally, the pair dropped a 22-pound iron bar, described in court as a railway fishplate, on him.
Dr. Alan Williams, the pathologist in the case, said that he suffered 42 injuries, and that because there were so many, it was impossible to say exactly which was the fatal blow.
Police also suspect Bulger was sexually assaulted, as he was found without his shoes, socks, pants, or underwear. The pathologist also noted “that Bulger’s foreskin had been forcibly retracted.”
Before they left, Venables and Thompson laid Bulger across the railway tracks and covered him with rubble. The two thought if Bulger was run over by a train, it would look as though it was an accidental death.
Bulger’s body was cut in half by a train. His remains were discovered two days later, on February 14.
CCTV Helped Find the Murderers
The now famous grainy CCTV footage of the shopping center shows two figures, which police presumed were teenagers, leading Bulger away from his mother. Police also thought the boys were abducting James Bulger on behalf of an adult. Neither was the case.
The two were arrested a few days later following a tip. Police found that both boys had the same blue paint on their clothes that was found on Bulger’s body. Both had blood on their shoes, and the blood on Thompson’s shoe matched Bulger’s.
While both Thompson and Venables denied they had anything to do with Bulger’s murder, after being charged, both pointed the finger at the other. On February 20, eight days after committing the murder, Venables and Thompson were charged with murdering James Bulger.
Venables and Thompson Guilty of Murder
Both boys were found guilty of the abduction and murder of James Bulger. Initially, they were given sentences with no release date, but both saw the light of day after just eight years. At 18 years of age, Venables and Thompson were released from a young offenders’ home in June 2001 and given new identities.
Venables’ identity has been changed twice after he told friends his true identity. In March 2010, Venables was jailed for two years for breaching his conditions. He was granted parole again in July 2013.
Again, Venables found himself in an unidentified prison, after pleading guilty in February 2018 to amassing more than 1,000 sexual images of children. The 35-year old Venables has been jailed for 40 months.
Hong Kong is known as one of the safest cities in the world. It is also home to some of the most sensational murders. The murder of Fan Man-yee, also known as the “Hello Kitty murder,” is one of the most disturbing.
The murder of Fan Man-yee starts out as a ghost story. In May 1999, a 14-year old girl walked into the police station in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong to file a report. She told police she was being haunted by a young woman’s ghost.
Typically, police would dismiss this kind of claim as nonsensical. But when the girl said it was the ghost of a young woman she helped torture and kill, well, police took notice.
Fan Man-yee, 23, was a night club hostess with a dark past. She was raised in a girls’ home after being abandoned by her family. She started taking drugs and, by the time she was a teenager, was a prostitute.
Her life took an even more tragic turn in 1997, when Fan stole a wallet that belonged to Chan Man-lok, a 34-year-old pimp and drug dealer. Man-lok lived in a spacious five-bedroom apartment in the city’s famous shopping district.
His apartment was not what one would expect from a 34-year old pimp and drug dealer. It was all Hello Kitty all the time; Hello Kitty sheets, curtains, stuffed dolls, etc. He also had a wide selection of video games, pornography, and drugs.
Initially, Fan was surprised to discover the wallet contained $4,000; her excitement turned to horror when she realized it belonged to Chan Man-lok. Realizing her mistake, Fan returned the wallet to Man-lok with an additional HK$10,000 as an apology. Not enough, it turned out. He demanded another HK$20,000 (US$2,560).
Fan Man-yee Kidnapped over $2,560 “Debt”
On March 17, 1999, Chan and two of his thugs, 27-year-old Leung Shing-cho and 21-year-old Leung Wai-lun, kidnapped Fan for not giving him what she allegedly “owed.”
As expected, Chan’s original idea was to have Fan work off her “debt” as a prostitute. But, the three men were high on crystal meth and started beating her instead.
Over the next month, the three men dripped melting plastic on her feet, beat her with iron bars, poured chili oil in wounds, and urinated in her mouth. They also strung her up by her hands with electrical wire and beat her with metal pipes and table legs.
When they got tired of the daily torture, they would retire to the adjoining room and play video games.
It was during these beatings that Chan’s 14-year old girlfriend, identified only as “Ah Fong,” was asked to join in on the torture. Thoroughly enthralled with the gangster lifestyle, she joined in. On one occasion, Fan Man-yee was forced to eat Ah Fong’s excrement.
After a solid month of depraved torture, the mother of one died. Chan ordered his cronies to take her body into the bathroom and dismember it. To conceal the smell of decomposition, the group boiled her body and threw it out with the trash.
During the court proceedings, it was discovered that, when they boiled her head down, the four cooked noodles over the adjoining stove, at times, stirring the head and the noodles with the same chopsticks.
While most of her body was eventually thrown in the garbage, for some reason, the group sewed Fan’s skull into a large Hello Kitty mermaid doll.
Nightmares, or Hauntings?
It was after her skull was put into the Hello Kitty doll that Ah Fong’s nightmares began. She became convinced that Fan Man-yee was haunting her from beyond the grave. Police gave Ah Fong immunity in exchange for her testimony.
At the trail, Justice Peter Nguyen described the three men as having “psychopathic tendencies” and as “likely to remain a danger to others” as he handed out the maximum penalty for manslaughter.
“In my mind, the three of you treated the corpse with such callousness and lack of feeling that when she was alive, you [probably] did not treat her like a human being, but like an object,” Nguyen added.
Senior inspector Alvin Cheung said Fan’s killing was the most gruesome case he had ever seen. “In my 21 years in the police force, I have never seen such a cruel case. Of someone tortured to such an extent for a month.”
Crime and Punishment
The three men were convicted of manslaughter in November 2000. They were not charged with murder because the jury said they could not tell if she was murdered or died from some other cause.
The exact date and cause of her death were never determined. Only her skull, one tooth, and her internal organs (which were in a refrigerator) were all that was ever recovered.
Had the three been tried in mainland China, it would have been a different outcome. Those found guilty of murder, and less charges, including corruption, are swiftly executed. Hong Kong does not have a death penalty.
The three men could be eligible for parole in 2020.
Haunted House Demolished
After news of the sensational murder, no one wanted to rent or buy the apartment where Fan Man-yee died. Eventually, no one wanted to live in any of the other apartments in the building on Granville Road. It sat empty and fell into disrepair.
The apartment was eventually demolished in 2012 to make room for a new hotel which opened in 2016.