Skip to main content

4 serial killers who inspired copycats

A detective looking at an evidence board

Somewhat ironically, the rather gruesome 1995 movie Copycat could be labelled as something of a copycat itself. John Amiel’s serial killer thriller hit cinemas a year on from the stir caused by Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers and a month after Se7en was released. All three of which were written, shot and released after The Silence of the Lambs was released to widespread critical and public acclaim.

In the film, a serial killer taunts a criminologist by involving her in his murderous mission to pay homage to real-life multiple murderers such as Jeffrey Dahmer, The Boston Strangler and Ted Bundy.

Copycat was a work of fiction. However, serial killers have, unfortunately, inspired other sociopathic murderers to kill. Not only that but, in some cases, the newly influenced and motivated killer has done so with a nod of recognition to their inspiration.

These are the four most shocking examples of serial killer copycats in the annals of true crime history.

1. Eddie Seda/The Zodiac Killer

Heriberto ‘Eddie’ Seda shot nine people in New York City between March 1990 and June 1996, killing three and wounding six. He was labelled ‘The Brooklyn Sniper’ until he started sending coded letters to police and media outlets, taunting them about both his crimes and identity.

To anyone who knows about serial killers, this may sound familiar. Not only is it similar to what the infamous Zodiac Killer did back in late-1960s San Francisco, Seda’s actions were motivated by a desire to replicate the actions of the unidentified killer. He even selected his victims based on their astrological signs. Once the media picked up on it, Seda began being referred to as ‘The Copycat Zodiac Killer’.

There was, of course, one major way in which Seda could not replicate his grotesque hero. He couldn’t evade investigators. He was eventually caught and convicted on the strength of handwriting, fingerprint and DNA evidence.

2. Anushervon Rakhmanov/Vladimir Ionesyan

Russian mothers still frighten their children with tales of 'Mosgaz’ to this day. Now a boogeyman figure, the real ‘Mosgaz’ was a man called Vladimir Ionesyan. He was the first serial killer to be officially recognised by the Soviet Union, his nickname coming from the company he pretended to work for in order to gain access to his victims’ homes. He murdered five Muscovites with extreme violence before being captured and killed by firing squad in 1964.

Fast forward half a century to 2014. Tajikistan-born Anushervon Rakhmanov was living in Moscow, aged just nineteen. He began posing as a Mosgaz employee and asking to check the pipes inside people’s homes, just as Ionesyan had some 50 years previously. Once inside, he stabbed his victims to death. It’s believed that he did this seven times.

Rakhmanov mentioned his inspiration on his arrest, but the full details were never known. The killer took his own life while awaiting trial.

3. Matthew Milat/Ivan Milat

Australia’s ‘Backpacker Killer’ Ivan Milat is the most notorious serial killer in the country’s relatively short history. A despised figure who preyed on tourists in the outback, he killed seven backpackers and received a tariff of seven life sentences with no chance of parole. He was arrested in May 1994, five years after his reign of terror began.

Sixteen years later, another Milat was arrested for murder. Matthew Milat. He was, as the court at his trial heard, ‘strongly influenced by Ivan Milat’. Not just through his crimes but by reading books and watching documentaries and movies about the man as well. Matthew was Ivan’s great nephew and spent time with The Backpacker Killer in his formative years.

The younger Milat killed seventeen-year-old David Auchterlonie in the Belanglo State Forest in New South Wales. And did so with a medieval double-bladed axe. The court would later hear how he bragged about the murder the following day, saying to a friend: ‘You know me, you know my family. You know the last name Milat, I did what they do.’

He was given a 43-year jail stretch in 2012 and isn’t eligible for parole until at least 2042.

4. Luo Shubiao/Lam Kor-wan

One of Hong Kong's two recognised serial killers, Lam Kor-wan was a nasty piece of work indeed. He went by a couple of nicknames, one of which was 'The Jars Murderer' due to his penchant for removing his victims' sexual organs and storing them in containers. Another of his monikers was 'The Rainy Night Butcher' because of his nocturnal lifestyle and crimes. The murderous cab driver claimed four victims before his arrest in 1982.

A few short years later, a man named Luo Shubiao upped the ante. Similar in age, Luo took grim inspiration from Lam. Between 1989 and 1994, Luo picked up hundreds of female sex workers, assaulting and raping many. Eighteen of them lost their lives at his hands. He got the idea from Lam Kor-wan. Luo admitted on his arrest that he looked up to the Hong Kong killer and regularly watched videos and documentaries about him, eager to copy his actions.

By the time he was executed by the state, Luo Shubiao got his wish. He was also known by the nickname of 'The Rainy Night Butcher', an unwise title bestowed on him, giving the callous killer a permanent connection to his unwitting mentor.