There are murderers and then there are serial killers. There’s usually some sort of motive behind most homicides but when it comes to serial killers, motive gets replaced by this psychological urge to kill; most often devoid of any logical reason or personal vendetta against the victim. India has had its fair share of serial killers. Most often, they were eventually apprehended, but there are cases where the wrong person was arrested (and then let go) and then there are some cases that still remain unsolved.
These cold-blooded Indian serial killers will send shivers down your spine.
1. Auto Shankar – A dark influence of cinema or something more sinister?
Born Gowri Shankar, he quickly established a name for himself as a transporter of illegal arrack (coconut liquor) who was also involved in the local flesh trade. But what gets him on this list as one of India’s most notorious serial killers is his killing spree in the 80s. During a period of six months in 1988, Auto Shankar abducted and murdered 9 teenage girls from Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai. Though initially he blamed all of it on the influence of cinema, a month before his execution, he confessed to committing the murders for some politicians who had raped the abducted teenage girls. After his arrest, he managed to escape from Chennai Central Prison but was then later apprehended in Rourkela, Odisha. Shankar was hanged to death in Salem Prison in 1995.
2. Cyanide Mohan – The man who gave a bad name to birth control
Mohan Kumar aka Cyanide Mohan used to lure unmarried girls into having sex with him and then trick them into taking contraceptives which were actually cyanide pills. Throughout 2005-2009, he killed 20 women. Before he went on this murderous rampage, he used to be a teacher of Physical Education at a primary school. He was also rumoured to have been involved in bank frauds and other financial forgeries. He was sentenced to death in December 2013.
3. Devendra Sharma – The doctor turned killer
Devendra Sharma was a fairly successful doctor of Ayurvedic medicine but he also had a dark side. He wanted to make a quick buck boosting cars and he didn’t mind the bloodshed that came with it. From 2002-2004, he stole cars and killed car drivers from many areas in and around UP, Gurgaon and Rajasthan. According to his own confession, he killed about 30-40 men, all drivers. He was sentenced to death in 2008.
4. The Nithari killer(s) – The killings that shocked India
Surinder Koli was the domestic help of Moninder Singh Pandher, a wealthy businessman from Noida. Initially in 2006, they were both arrested in connection to the discovery of skulls of missing children in Nithari village in the outskirts of Noida. The case took many twisted turns and there was a huge media furore over what was really going on. There were accusations of rape, cannibalism, pedophilia and even organ trafficking – some of these had substance, while others were mainly rumours. As of now, Surinder Koli has been found guilty of 5 homicides and is on death row while Pandher awaits his fate as there are 11 other unsolved murders under the same investigation.
5. Charles Sobhraj – The suave ‘Bikini Killer’
Despite the infamy, Charles Sobhraj is one of the most “famous” murderers around. From 1975 to 1976, he murdered around 12 people in various places in South East Asia. Unlike most other serial killers, Sobhraj had a motive – rob his victims to fund his flamboyant lifestyle. His usual method was to first gain the trust of tourists and potential victims by rescuing them from problems that he had created in the first place, and then defrauding them. The bodies of two of the women he killed were found in floral bikinis, earning Sobhraj the nickname, ‘Bikini Killer’. He was arrested in India where he served a sentence from 1976 to 1997, after which he retired to Paris. He was even approached for book and movie rights to which he quoted exceptionally high amounts. He returned to Nepal in 2004, where he was arrested again. He is now serving a second life sentence. Actor Randeep Hooda is set to portray Sobhraj in the upcoming film Main Aur Charles .
6. Cyanide Mallika – The Agony Aunt of Death
Mallika, a woman living in Bangalore, killed 6 women from 1999 to 2007. Her modus operandi was quite twisted. She used to pretend to console lower middle class women who were facing domestic issues and then killed them through cyanide poisoning. She used to then rob them of their belongings. She was arrested in 2007, awarded a death sentence in 2012 which was then reduced to a life sentence later that year.
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7. Renuka Shinde & Seema Gavit – The Killer Sisters
Renuka Shinde and her sister Seema Gavit were trained as petty thieves by their own mother Anjanabai. They discovered that it was easy to steal if they could use children as decoys or as defence against accusations in case they got caught. So they started kidnapping young kids. Those that started creating problems, were killed. From 1990 to 1996, they killed over six toddlers. In a chilling confession they also said they didn’t remember how many kids they had killed in total before the 90s. They are currently on death row and are about to be the first women in India to be hanged for their crimes.
8. Thug Behram – Arguably India’s most prolific assassin
If you go by numbers, Thug Behram is one of the most prolific killers in history. He is often cited as having killed over 931 people from 1790 to 1840, but he only confessed to have only killed about 125 people while claiming that he was only “present at the scene” of the other murders. He was a leader in the notorious Thuggee cult that traveled across central India. The thuggees used to latch onto travelling groups and then use their ceremonial rumaal (handkerchief) to strangulate unsuspecting victims before robbing them. He was executed by hanging in 1840.
9. Rajendra Jakkal, Dilip Sutar, Shantaram Kanhoji Jagtap and Munawar Harun Shah – Murders worthy of an Anuraag Kashyap movie
From 1976 to 1977, these four friends and batchmates from Abhinav Kala Mahavidyalaya killed over 10 people which is now known as the Joshi-Abhyankar serial murders. They were eventually arrested and all four of them were hanged in 1983. The cult film, Paanch , by Anuraag Kashyap was loosely based on these characters.
10. Stoneman Killer(s) – A mysterious identity that still remains in the shadows
This is one of the most infamous unsolved murders in Indian history. Almost like our own version of Jack the Ripper. In 1989, nine people living in Bombay were killed in a similar fashion – their heads were smashed with a heavy blunt object, prompting a Calcutta newspaper to name the unknown killer, The Stoneman. It is possible that the later murders were copycat murders but there’s no way to know that.
11. Akku Yadav – The murderer who got served by karma
Akku Yadav was not a serial killer per se; he was more of a local goon who used to rape and kill women in the area where he ran his business. The 32-year old Yadav was lynched by a mob right outside Nagpur District Court. One of women even hacked his penis off. Total poetic justice right there. When the cops tried to nab people from the mob, every woman in the slum where Yadav operated asked to be arrested. Power of the people FTW!
12. Raman Raghav – The schizophrenic serial killer
Also called Psycho Raman, Raghav was a figure who terrorized Mumbai slum dwellers in the 1960s. He used to bludgeon his victims to death. At the time of his arrest, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He is said to have killed over 23 people but that’s only a guess even by experts because Raman’s mental stability and his confession was highly questionable. He died from kidney failure in 1995.
13. Beer Man – Is the real killer still out there?
This could be the weirdest one on this list. Between October 2006 and January 2007, 6 people in Mumbai were killed and in each case, the cops found a beer can beside the victim’s body. This gave them the idea that it was a serial killer. In January 2008, Ravindra Kantrole was convicted of the seventh murder and then two other Beer Man murders were pinned on him as well. But he was acquitted of all crimes in 2009 due to lack of evidence. He now owns a restaurant in Mumbai while the Beer Man mystery still remains unsolved.
14. Jaishankar – The killer with a machete
M Jaishankar is accused of 30 rapes, 15 murders and once arrested, he even managed to add prison break to that list. All his victims were women and according to reports he is said to have stabbed them with a machete. He was re-arrested and is now serving a 10 year sentence while awaiting trial on 20 other cases related to crimes in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka from 2006 to 2009.
15. Darbara Singh – The ‘Baby Killer’
Darbara Singh killed 15 girls and two boys from April to September 2004, earning the nickname, ‘Baby Killer’. Arrested in 2004, he was awarded the death sentence which has been now been commuted to life imprisonment. He has been found guilty in 5 cases so far while awaiting charges in the others. His method of killing was slicing the throat of his victims.
16. Amardeep Sada – India’s youngest serial killer
Yes, it’s hard to believe but Amardeep Sada is India’s youngest serial killer. He was 8 when he was arrested in Begusarai, Bihar for the murder of three young children – his six-month old cousin, his own eight month old sister and six-month old Khushboo, a neighbour’s daughter. It is said that his family knew of the first two murders but they did not approach the cops to keep the matter ‘within the family’. But when Amardeep killed the neightbour’s daughter, the cops were informed. When asked in the police station about why he killed the children, Amardeep just smiled.