Men convicted of murder often do not battle to find love behind bars; on the contrary, they manage this really well.

To the same effect, marrying a suspected or convicted killer is not an unusual phenomenon for women.

But the question is can love behind bars really work?

Women in love have been known to ‘hammer’ against the bars of convicted serial killers on death row in an attempt to get their attention and beg them for marriage. Some even tie the knot in the proverbial shadow of the gallows with these convicted murderers that have been called lady killers after their imprisonment.

Most of us wonder what kind of future these men can offer these women. But to them these anti-heroes aren’t monsters, but irresistible would-be lovers. There are women that feel so attracted to the so-called bad boys that they have been described as serial killer groupies.

These female supporters arrive at court cases in great numbers where even the most gruesome evidence against these violent criminals is heard. They start fantasizing about meeting this man and even marrying him. It becomes like the hero-worshipping of a film- or rock star – but only in reverse.

In a chapter titled “In love with a monster” for my book Man or Monster – the psyche of a criminal, I researched this controversial topic and found out that some women become so besotted with killers that some of them even immigrate to be near their prison love, buying them Armani suits and paying their legal fees.


Serial killer Ted Bundy who was arrested in connection with 30 murders and who definitely was not everybody’s idea of the perfect son-in-law had no trouble whatsoever to find himself a prison bride.

The notorious serial killer Richard Ramirez who admitted to killing 20 people was bombarded with letters from women that declared their love and dedication to him despite his chilling criminal record.

Skierlik murderer Johan Nel’s mother Corrie, told me about all the girls that had been chasing Johan during his trial, all had wanted to write him letters and support him. Johan was serving four life sentences after having shot dead four people in the Skierlik squatter camp near Swartruggens in North-West in 2008, and having injured 11 more.

He later married 18-year old Maryna Naudé even though he is serving a sentence of 169 years.

She told me they were deeply in love.


Speaking to experts such as psychologists and criminologists  reasons for this are varied and could include the following:

  • The prisoner becomes a dream love to the woman, almost like a phantom limb.
  • Some women are excessively emotionally isolated and feel the need for a safe relationship with limited expectations.
  • It could also be the result of psychodynamic forces, for instance when a woman herself has a strong urge to kill or possesses pathological evils of anger. Her beloved’s murderous deed also becomes her murderous deed.
  • Many of these women have a history of violent relationships and somehow they feel attracted to violent men. They might also have been abused by their parents. The prison is a safe environment where he cannot harm her.
  • Some of these women may be looking for something sensational and adventurous and feel driven to change the person into a good, loving human being.
  • The reasons for such a relationship may also be sexual in nature, for which the term hybristophilia is used. This is where contact with a violent criminal cause’s sexual arousal.
  • Many of these women have low self-esteem and often fall prey to the behaviour of sociopaths and psychopaths.

Benefits for prisoners:

They achieve a certain status or human dignity through a sympathetic and emotionally involved woman. The prisoner may even boast a bank account.

However, should these prisoners be released in the future, these marriages normally only last 2 years, say experts.

Reasons for this could be manipulation, unrealistic expectations and the fact that in many cases the men are extremely jealous or are like a proverbial ‘loaded pistol’ sexually after their release.

The woman realizes that it is no longer a case of sex from a distance and that they were in love with an illusion based on denial.

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