If there is anything the acclaimed Netflix series Mindhunter has taught us, it is that serial killers love to brag about their murderous actions. They love to tell and retell their murderous stories which helps them relive them.
Apparently, reliving these moments is gratifying for them.
This Kenyan serial killer is no different. After he was arrested in June 2010 together with his gang in the kidnapping and murder of a nine-year-old boy, Philip Onyancha had even bigger crimes to confess to. He told the police that he had killed 17 women and that he had targeted to kill 100. As he had been recruited into a cult as a teenager that had promised him great riches after hitting the 100 mark, he was determined to keep going.
He then led police to the various locations including swamps and cheap lodges where he had supposedly committed these crimes and disposed of the bodies. From the video footage, he can be seen enthusiastically leading the detectives and explaining his murders with vigour. He can also be seen smiling and even waving to the cameras in some of these instances and even in court.
When the media caught wind of the story, they covered it extensively as we would expect and based on public interest in it. Onyancha was always willing to be interviewed where he gave detailed accounts of his crimes. So much so that his confession to killing the 17 women completely overshadowed the crime that he had been initially arrested for. The murder and kidnapping of a 9-year-old boy.
Onyancha was convicted of attempted rape and assault of a woman and was sentenced to 12 years in a maximum-security prison. These charges were unrelated to the kidnapping and murder of the 9-year-old boy or the other self-confessed 17 killings. Yet what he is widely known for, is for being the notorious serial killer. Crimes that he might never be convicted of because of the difficulty in proving beyond a reasonable doubt that he was the perpetrator. As there may not be any witnesses or credible evidence against him, he might never be punished for these murders even though he continues to enjoy the notoriety and evil glory for being associated with them.
In prison apart from being a bookkeeper, he doubles up as a preacher having completed a church-sponsored course. He claims to have been born again and in a graduation video, he can be seen smiling as he speaks about how he should not be feared because of his murders and that he is no longer that person having been saved by Jesus.
Based on how he seems to enjoy the limelight with all these interviews and cameras on him, he comes across as a person that is in jubilation that he may have managed to get away with his heinous crimes. Even if he confessed to them in detail and that the public is aware that he committed them, he has not received any punishment for most of them so far.
As a preacher as in the case of many reformed people, the opportunity to preach also gives him several chances of publicly retelling his murderous stories probably with the ending and plot twist of how he got saved from all of them. This gives him several opportunities on the regular to publicly relive his crimes.
He has also accepted several press interviews while in prison where he speaks with clarity about his 17 murders of the women. Note, not about the crime he is serving time for or the murder of the 9-year-old boy that he was initially arrested for. But for these unresolved murders.
Even though he has verbally expressed remorse for his crimes, genuine remorse is lacking from his mannerisms and actions. He still blames dark forces for making him commit the crimes and refuses to take personal responsibility for them. He also blames pornography and childhood sexual abuse from a caretaker which he credits for having taught him that if he wanted anything, force was the way to go about it.
In several interviews, he can even be heard referring to himself as a “serial killer”. It is as though this label gives him internal gratification and satisfaction. He is even planning to write a book about it as he said. This will not only give him another opportunity to relive his evil crimes but will also enable him to share them some more with more detail, to immortalise them and to benefit financially from the proceedings of his crimes.
His preaching and claims to have been reformed should not fool anyone. Benefiting from his crimes is what this man has always done. He was involved in a gang that kidnapped and killed people for ransom. He talked to the press about his crimes often to receive the notoriety.
He is not a man that just snapped out of the blue. He had been committing crimes for decades before he got caught. As a teenager, he was suspended from school for sodomising a younger boy. He even moved away from his village after an attempted assault and rape of a woman. In his residence in the city, he was a bothersome neighbour who taunted others that called him out for his bad behavior with threats that he would hire people to murder them. When he kidnapped people, he wrote the ransom notes himself, made comments about these notes to divert public attention from him, and even joined search parties to look for the people he had kidnapped and murdered.
His case is still pending as a Judge ruled the previous cases to have been a mistrial based on Onyancha’s mental state. As he had been said to be likely to re-offend once released based on the assessment of experts, he had been jailed at the mercy of the president.
As a society, we need to stop glorifying monsters and their crimes. We need to stop giving serial killers and other offenders ‘cool’ titles. In this way, we might just be giving them the gratification they may be seeking.
According to the FBI, it is not that serial killers want to get caught, it is that they think they can’t get caught. And that can explain the Onyancha case. He might never be convicted for most of the crimes he confessed to, which he might have purposefully done to divert the media and public attention from those he was arrested for and that might make him feel like he never got caught.
The media and public should not fall for his tricks anymore. And he should never be made to feel like he outsmarted everyone for his own sick benefits. He should also not be allowed to write that book and if he does, it should never be released to the public.
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