Australian Cases of Female Offenders- How relevant are current classifications of serial murder

Ms Clare Preston1, Dr Loene Howes1
1University Of Tasmania, Sandy Bay, Australia

Female offending in cases of serial murder remains an under-researched topic in criminology in general, and in the Australian context specifically. While such female offenders are few, it is nevertheless important to understand these crimes given their social impact. Using content analysis of case information from academic and popular sources, this presentation outlines seven known Australian cases of serial murder. It considers how the cases can be classified according to existing typologies of serial killers. The presentation demonstrates, with two illustrative examples, that the existing typologies offer limited insights into the cases. The presentation calls for a review of the frameworks under which cases of serial murder are viewed. It argues for the need to consider social and historical context, incorporate contemporary understandings of gender and sexuality, and employ Ferguson’s (2014) notion of investigative relevance. The presentation concludes with suggested directions for further research.


Clare has an honours degree in Criminology and is currently studying a Masters of Social Work at the University of Tasmania. She has had a longstanding interest in female perpetrated violent crime. Her research brings together criminology and gender studies to explore Australian cases of such crime. Clare’s work aims to open discussions around gender and crime and more accurately document understudied cases.


The society is devoted to promoting criminological study, research and practice in the region and bringing together persons engaged in all aspects of the field. The membership of the society reflects the diversity of persons involved in the field, including practitioners, academics, policy makers and students.

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