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India's most prolific serial killers

Indian flag overlayed with police signs

In recent years, India has caught up with China as the most populous country in the world with now just shy of 1.5 billion people calling the South Asian nation home. Known for Hinduism - the oldest religion on Earth - and its diverse, mouth-watering cuisine, India is a tourist hotspot for global travellers and a cultural and historic powerhouse.

However, like every country on this planet, India also has a dark side. Let's take a look at the most prolific serial killers that have called India their home.

Kanpatimar Shankariya - 70+ victims

The Indian serial killer with the most shocking victim count is a man called Kanpatimar Shankariya. While he claimed the lives of more than 70 people over just two years, not very much is known about the man or his crimes.

Shankariya was arrested in late 1978, aged 26. It’s believed that in 1977 and 1978, the man bludgeoned at least 70 people to death in Rajasthan by hitting them just below their ears with a hammer and breaking their necks. In fact, that’s where the name ‘Kanpatimar’ comes from, it literally means ‘one who hits underneath the ear’.

Public details around the motivation of the killer are sketchy, with police in Rajasthan only revealing that the murderer ‘took pleasure’ from his grotesque acts of violence.

He was publicly hanged in Jaipur on 16th May 1979. His last words seemed to be ones of repentance. ‘I have murdered in vain,’ he said. ‘Nobody should become like me.’

Raman Raghav – 41+ victims

Referred to by many true crime experts as 'Psycho Raman' and 'The Jack the Ripper of India', serial killer Raman Raghav went by many other monikers too. These included the likes of 'Sindhi Talwai', 'Thambi', 'Veluswami' and 'Anna'.

Raghav was active between 1965 and 1968, claiming at least 41 lives in Maharashtra before finally being caught in August 1968. Incredibly, this figure is thought to be a conservative one. He may very well have murdered many more people in his favoured areas of attack - the Mumbai suburbs and along the Great Indian Peninsular Railway route.

On his arrest, his quite advanced mental illness became clear to police and psychiatrists. That said, he was convicted as someone 'of sound mind' and not certified as insane. This came as something of a surprise to his investigating and arresting officers, who bore witness to Raghav's bizarre rantings about how the governments were trying to turn him into a woman by tempting him into homosexual sex and forcing him to murder.

Raghav died in a prison hospital in 1995 aged 65.

The Stoneman - 13-26 victims

India’s version of The Zodiac Killer comes in the shape of ‘The Stoneman’. Never identified or caught, this mysterious murderer was responsible for the brutal murders of between 13 and 26 homeless people in the country in the 1980s. Each victim had their head crushed by a large rock while asleep.

The widely held belief is that one killer is responsible for two spells of murders; one in Mumbai between 1985 and 1988 and another in Calcutta in 1989. Both of which saw 13 vagrants killed, seemingly without motive.

Although the working theory has always been that The Stoneman Murders are the work of one person, it’s possible the Calcutta victims were the work of a copycat. Some have even theorised that the killings should be renamed The Stonemen Murders, hypothesising that a group of culprits worked together.

Surinder Koli - 19+ victims

Indian serial killer Surinder Koli was found guilty of carrying out a series of some of the most disturbing and truly horrifying killings between 2005 and 2006. Koli worked as a domestic servant in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, and preyed on young girls and women. Human remains found close to the home of his boss revealed Koli's murderous business.

After an investigation, the police discovered irrefutable proof linking him to the killings. Koli admitted to raping, killing, and cannibalising a slew of young women. His acts stunned the country and sparked a public trial. He received a death sentence in 2009 for his actions. The incident sparked discussions about India's criminal justice system and raised questions about the safety and security of domestic help in the county.

Further investigation revealed that Koli was likely not only involved in a child pornography racket but that he may also have worked for an organ harvesting ring.

Koli was given life in prison and later, a death sentence. He currently awaits execution.

M. Jaishankar - 19 - 21 victims

M. Jaishankar was an Indian serial killer active in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh between 2008 and 2011. He targeted vulnerable women; raping, stabbing and slashing at them with a machete until they were dead. Jaishankar was linked to the murders of at least 19 women and the rapes of at least 30.

Convicted of some - but not all - of his crimes in 2013, 'Psycho Shankar' committed suicide in a Bangalore prison in 2018.