‘Confidant’ of serial killers

Amanda Howard doesn’t like keeping boxes filled with letters she receives from countless serial killers in her family home in Sydney, Australia. Instead, she authored true-crime stories, storing them among other macabre items in her podcast studio.

“There are things you really don’t want to see or keep around,” she says. “Sometimes it’s horrifying to think that I’m writing about these people purely because they killed someone else.”

Howard, 47, has corresponded with serial killers for more than 25 years and is widely known as the serial killer’s “confidant”. She became curious about the minds of murderers while studying criminology at the University of New South Wales.

During a class on Australia’s most heinous murderer Ivan Milat, Howard discovered inaccuracies about the case from his textbooks.

“I thought ‘why do I have to read something from a third party when I can go and talk to these people face to face?'” Howard said.

Since then, she and Milat have been communicating by letter for more than two decades. Convicted of 7 murders, Milat always appeared innocent and innocent before Howard. At the end of each letter, he always signed by drawing a stick figure with a light on his head from famous books by author Leslie Charteris.

Milat was sentenced to seven life sentences in 1996 after killing seven backpackers and burying their bodies in the Belanglo woods, south of New South Wales.

He tricked all his victims by giving them a ride. Among the victims were two Australians, three Germans and two Britons. Milat’s hand was very cruel. One was beheaded by him. Some victims were shot with 10 bullets in the head, others were beaten until their bones were broken.

Milat is just one of many serial killers with whom Howard has maintained contact over the years.

For 20 years, she wrote continuously to Bobby Joe Long, the American serial killer who killed and raped at least 10 women in Florida. However, the “string” connecting the two was broken in May 2019 when Joe Long was executed.

Howard also exchanged letters with notorious American killer Roy Norris or “worst female serial killer” Kathleen Folbigg.

Roy Norris and his accomplice Lawrence Sigmund Bittaker kidnapped, raped, tortured and murdered five young girls in Southern California, USA, for five months in 1979.

Folbigg, from New South Wales, Australia, was sentenced to 40 years in prison in 2003 for killing his four children. However, Folbigg has always maintained her innocence and attributed her children’s deaths to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), the general term for cases where children die unexpectedly. clear reason.

In the late 1980s, Folbigg married and gave birth to a son named Caleb. But at just 19 days old, the baby suddenly died and was determined to be caused by SIDS. Almost two years later, Patrick, the second child, died at the age of eight months. According to the information on the death certificate, the boy was blind, suffered from epilepsy and died of suffocation.

The third child, a girl named Sarah, died in 1993 at the age of 10 months and was also diagnosed with SIDS. In March 1999, Folbigg’s last child, a girl named Laura, died at the age of 18 months of “unspecified” causes.

Folbigg is suspected of child murder due to a complaint from her husband, who arose after reading his wife’s diary. “I feel like the worst mother on Earth, and I’m afraid Laura will leave me, like Sarah. I know I’m short-tempered and sometimes mean to her (Sarah). And she’s gone, with her. a little help. This can’t happen again. I’m ashamed of myself. I can’t tell this to my husband because he will be worried leaving my baby in my care,” Folbigg wrote in his diary.

In a letter sent to the governor of New South Wales in mid-March this year, 90 leading Australian scientists, including two Nobel laureates, voiced their support for Folbigg. According to them, new genetic evidence suggests that four of Folbigg’s children died of natural causes. Since then, scientists have called for Folbigg’s release to end this “unjust judgment”.

Portrait of murderer Arthur Shawcross in the police file in 1990. Photo: AP.

Portrait of murderer Arthur Shawcross in the police file in 1990. Photo: AP.

Howard said he wanted to write to murderers around the world so he could understand their stories and get into their minds.

“They’re all interesting in their own ways,” she said.

The most haunting letter Howard received was from Arthur Shawcross, the Genesee River killer. Shawcross has a monstrous hobby of eating his victims.

“He once sent me a recipe with myself as the main ingredient,” Howard said. “He thinks it’s interesting, I don’t.”

Howard also sometimes encounters “bad jokes” with his “letter friends”. She once rejected two marriage proposals from two American serial killers in prison, received envelopes containing a lock of Joe Long’s hair or handwritten letters sprayed with cheap aftershave.

A letter from Arthur Shawcross to Howard.  Photo: ABC News.

A letter from Arthur Shawcross to Howard. Photo: ABC News.

“They’re really annoying because I’m allergic!” she said.

Howard has written many books on crime and has a podcast called Killer monsters.

She considers writing letters to murderers part of her job. “I talk to them about normal things, ask them how their life, family vacations were when they were kids. I think they enjoyed the conversations with me,” Howard said.

According to her, all serial killers are special in their own way but share one characteristic. “They all want to be worshipped, but they don’t get it from me. I don’t play with these people,” Howard asserted.

Vu Hoang (Follow 9News)

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