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Home > Culture and Society

Good To Have A System

"Just somethin' to screw" was how he described his victims. What a charming fellow.

Charlie Skelton

6 November 2003

The Green River Killer, Gary Ridgway, pleaded guilty to 48 charges of aggravated first-degree murder in order to avoid the death penalty.

Ridgway dumped them in clusters of three, four, five and six "because I wanted to keep track of all the women I killed," he said.

It's the calm matter-of-factness that makes that statement so shocking. Calmly insane statements, spoken in the register of normality (much as you might say "I drive a Ford Mondeo, it used to belong to my mum") are infinitely more terrifying than frothing yells of madness. Perhaps this is because your brain accepts them for a nanosecond as perfectly normal & rational, until it remembers what's being said and who is saying it - "I see, so you dumped them in small manageable clusters, that seems like a perfectly reasonable way to keep track of all the..... no no no!!"

It reminds me of that interview in which Fred West was chatting about how, on one occasion, the spirit of one of his victims was being naughty and flying around the cellar - he wasn't sure who it was - but, as he said (quite possibly the maddest thing anyone has ever said): "I could tell it wasn't the Dutch one."

He knew that much. The spirit flitting round the cellar wasn't that of the Dutch girl he'd killed. He could be sure of that.

A few months ago, we were treated to a fine example of matter-of-fact lunacy, courtesy of 20-year-old Perry Cert from New Jersey. Cert wrote a letter to the New York Daily News, confessing to the brutal murder of a prostitute last November…

He railed about French-bashing, President Bush and New York's smoking ban. Not until the third page did he offhandedly address the murder charge. "The truth about my case?" he wrote. "Yeah, I killed her. I punched and kicked her to death, crushing her skull in the process. One of the kicks landed in such a way that it broke her neck and all of a sudden her head was on backward. Since I have a most unusual taste for blood, I drank and licked and lapped up my fill."

It was the logical thing to do.

Fans of calm insanity need to make the acquaintance of Donald 'Pee Wee' Gaskins. One of the most extraordinary books I have ever read is his autobiography - Final Truth. A chilling, brutal, terrifying, fascinating, important book. A very very bad soul laid bare. I can't recommend it strongly enough.


Footnote: she wasn't actually Dutch. She was Swiss. But Fred called her Tulip.

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