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A spree killer is someone who embarks on a murderous rampage. This is a slightly ambiguous term, with similarities to mass murderer and serial killer.

The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics defines a spree killing as "killings at two or more locations with almost no time break between murders." Serial killers are different in that they have gaps between attacks, while mass murderers typically stick to one location.

The most devastating spree killer is arguably Martin Bryant during the Port Arthur Massacre, who killed 35 people in his record-breaking killing spree.

One form of spree killing that garners particularly large amounts of media attention are those that occur in school killings, such as the Columbine High School Massacre—the shooting of 12 students and one teacher in a then record-breaking school shooting. Robert Steinhauser later killed a greater number of people in the Erfurt Massacre—13 teachers, 2 students, a policeman, and then himself.

Spree killers

Notable spree killers include:

In many countries the actions of spree killers have been catalysts for change in gun control policy. This has been primarily through additional laws restricting gun ownership for private citizens.

See also

Further reading

  • Pantziarka, P. 2000, Lone Wolf, Virgin Publishing ISBN 0753504375. This book looks at individual cases, including Thomas Hamilton, Martin Bryant and Mark Barton. It also discusses the wider social context, psychological factors and political fall-out from spree killing.
  • Helen Zahavi, Dirty Weekend (fiction)