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Torture murder is a loosely defined term to describe a murder where death has been preceded by the torture of the victim. In many legal jurisdictions a murder involving "exceptional brutality or cruelty" will attract harsher sentences.


Torture murder is often preceded by a kidnapping where the killer will take the victim to a secluded place. There, the killer will kill the victim by torture. For instance, Leonard Lake and Charles Ng, during the 1980s in California, killed over 18 men, women, and children after torturing them.

Houston serial killer Dean Corll subjected his young male victims, ranging in age from nine to twenty-one,[1] to sexual tortures, which included plucking their pubic hairs one by one, shoving glass rods up their penises and then crushing them, and shoving large bullet-like objects in victims' rectums.[2] A sheet of plastic was placed under the plywood torture board to catch the excreta, blood and vomit that would invariably be discharged during the abuse, and the radio would be cranked up full blast to drown out the victim’s screams.[3] Occasionally he'd castrate his victims, often their severed genitals would be buried next to the bodies in small plastic bags. At least one boy's corpse was found with his penis gnawed nearly in two.[4]

Four teenage boys, held captive for over forty days and tortured to death a Japanese girl, Junko Furuta, in 1988. The boys said that they had not intended to kill her and instead pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.[citation needed]

A high-profile case from the UK is the murder of James Bulger on February 12, 1993, notable for the young age of the offenders: Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were aged 10 when they abducted 2-year-old James Bulger from a public shopping centre and murdered him. Evidence suggests that the boys took Bulger on a 4-mile walk, kicking and throwing him around, then they threw blue paint on the toddler's face, placed batteries in his mouth and continued to beat him with bricks, an iron rod and by kicking him. They eventually left his body across a railway to be decapitated by a train and make it look like an accident.[5]


One of the criteria for a judgement of "murder in the first degree" in the laws of the state of New York is that

...the defendant acted in an especially cruel and wanton manner pursuant to a course of conduct intended to inflict and inflicting torture upon the victim prior to the victim's death. As used in this subparagraph, "torture" means the intentional and depraved infliction of extreme physical pain; "depraved" means the defendant relished the infliction of extreme physical pain upon the victim evidencing debasement or perversion or that the defendant evidenced a sense of pleasure in the infliction of extreme physical pain...[6]

Similar positions are taken in the laws of Italy, Germany and Norway and others (see, Country-specific murder law).

List of torture murders

Some notable perpetrators and victims include the following. The dates indicate the time of the crime or crimes.

Torture murderers

Torture murder victims

See also


  1. Montaldo, Charles. Serial Killer Dean Corll and the Houston Mass Murders.
  2. Hanna, David. Harvest of Horror: Mass Murder in Houston. Belmont Tower, 1975. p. 173
  3. Tom Philbin and Michael Philbin. The Killer Book of True Crime. Sourcebooks, 2007. ISBN 1402208294 pp. 82 & 83
  4. Olsen, Jack. The Man With The Candy: The Story of the Houston Mass Murders. Simon & Schuster, 1974. ISBN 0-7432-1283-5 p. 151
  5. Sharratt, Tom (2 Nov 1993). "James Bulger 'battered with bricks'". London: Guardian. Retrieved 14 July 2009.
  6. Law § 235.20 PEN Part 3 Title H


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