Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 14–22 | Cite as

Fantasy, Opportunity, Homicide: Testing Classifications of Necrophilic Behaviour

  • Mark PettigrewEmail author
Open Access


Although one of the more understudied sexual paraphilias, as an increasing number of cases are reported, it becomes pertinent to revisit academic analyses of necrophilia, particularly those attempts at classifying necrophilic behaviour. A case study is presented here of the development and enactment of necrophilic desire to determine the most appropriate means of categorising necrophilic behaviours. The study finds that until a stronger cohort of offenders can be established, a broader classification tool is preferable to excessive subdivisions of behaviour in grouping and understanding necrophilic activities, with the addendum that necrophiles can display a range of behaviours at any one time. Directions for law enforcement and clinicians are offered whilst the literature base is expanded.


Necrophilia Sexual aggression Serial sexual homicide Sexual fantasy Behavioural classification 


Selective but high profile cases of necrophilia have been appearing with some consistency in recent years (see for example, Eleftheriou-Smith 2014; Simms 2016; Lausner 2016; Perring 2015); yet, academic and clinical scrutiny of this, assumed to be rare, sexual paraphilia is sparse. Accounts of necrophilia, however, can be traced back as far back, at least, to Ancient Greece (Drzazga 1960:199) and reports of sexual activity with the dead have featured across Europe ever since. Scholarly and academic attention has only though, predominantly, been devoted to this sexual paraphilia from the twentieth century onwards (Burg 1982). The lack of attention is surely a consequence of its rarity, particularly in comparison to other sexual paraphilias listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). However, when criminologists refer to the ‘dark figure’ of crime—the amount of unknown, unreported and undiscovered offences—necrophilic acts would be a prime example of offence(s) not accurately reflected in statistics. In the USA, for example, only four states have specific laws prohibiting acts of necrophilia, approximately one fifth of states do not have laws prohibiting the practice, and the remaining states offer a patchwork of ‘crimes against nature’ laws (Troyer 2008:134). Yet, even when necrophilia is recognised in law, with no living victim, detection rates are low, and even when detected amongst those who work with the dead, funeral parlour assistants, or morticians, for example, such activity will not always be reported owing to the damage done to the reputation of the funeral home or hospital (Price 1963:121; Heasman and Jones 2006:277).

When the presentation of necrophilia to law enforcement or clinicians is rare, there is a difficulty in establishing a cohort of offenders to construct a classification of necrophilic behaviour. The existing literature features several case studies (see for example Rapoport 1942; Segal 1953; Bierman 1962; Lazarus 1977; Foraker 1976; Lancaster 1978; Boureghda et al. 2011); legal analyses (see for example Brownlie 1963; Price 1963); overviews of the paraphilia with reference to homicide (see for example Smith and Braun 1978; Bartholomew et al. 1978; Stein et al. 2010) and overviews with reference to other sexual paraphilias (see for example Hucker 1990; Peak 1996; Kafka 2009). As a collective, the existing literature shows a range of behaviours extending from transient necrophilic fantasy to those who will commit homicide to secure a corpse. The patchwork of literature notwithstanding, despite relatively little information compared to other sexual behaviours, and the lack of a substantive cohort of offenders, some classifications of necrophilic behaviour have been offered.

In various academic and clinical accounts, there have been attempts at defining and classifying necrophilic behaviour, behaviour which is significantly diverse. Heasman and Jones note, for example, “Necrophilic behaviours can range from touching or stroking a corpse, masturbating on or in the vicinity of a corpse, rubbing body parts including genitalia on the corpse or the act of sexual intercourse with a corpse” (Heasman and Jones 2006:30). Yet, even such a broad definition is to the exclusion of those who will simply fantasise of sexual contact with a corpse, those who will masturbate to images of the dead or those who will ask partners (or prostitutes) to role play sexual activity with a corpse. However, two seminal works have sought to encompass the range of behaviours associated with necrophilia. The first is Rosman and Resnick (1989); the second is the contemporary classification of necrophilia offered by Aggrawal (2009). After providing an overview of the two leading classifications of necrophilia, this paper will provide a case study of necrophilic behaviour within one individual. By examining the development and enactment of necrophilic desires, this paper seeks to determine whether it is the earlier categorisation tool of Rosman and Resnick or the latter constructed by Aggrawal which offers the most utility in classifying and understanding necrophilic behaviour.

Literature Review

Rosman and Resnick, nearly 30 years ago, offered a tripartite model that distinguished between genuine necrophiles and pseudonecrophiles (see Fig. 1). Pseudonecrophiles have only a transient attraction to corpses with a preference for sexual contact with the living (Rosman and Resnick 1989:154). Of ‘genuine’ necrophilic behaviours, they were grouped as (a) necrophilic homicide, (b) regular necrophilia and (c) necrophilic fantasy. The first group comprises those who murder to obtain a corpse to fulfil their sexual desires; those in the second group are more opportunistic, using already dead bodies for their sexual purposes, whilst those in the final group limit themselves to fantasising of sexual contact with the dead (Rosman and Resnick 1989:154). So, those with a persistent sexual attraction to the dead are found in three relatively broad categories: those who kill to secure a corpse those who will use already dead bodies and those who simply fantasise of committing necrophilic acts. The Rosman and Resnick model was constructed after a review of 122 cases, 88 from the world literature and 34 unpublished cases, a classification with a grounding in empirical data. The model offered a categorisation of necrophilia that helped distinguish variations of necrophilic thought and action whilst ostensibly being broad enough to subsume additional behaviours that would be revealed as more cases were presented. However, the utility of the model, particularly in its categorisation of those who may fantasise of sexual contact with the dead, but do not come into contact with any actual corpses, is questioned by the author of a more recent classification system.
Fig. 1

Tripartite model that distinguished between genuine necrophiles and pseudonecrophiles

In replacing, or at least expanding upon, the Rosman and Resnick model, Aggrawal states, “A new classification is... desirable, because it tends to put an end of[sic] an enormous confusion currently centring around the term pseudonecrophilia” (Aggrawal 2009:317). Aggrawal asserts that the classification offered by Rosman and Resnick is not broad enough to encapsulate a range of behaviours that do not involve contact with any corpses: role play, sexual arousal in the presence of corpses and those who will have sex with the living but, given the opportunity, would also have sex with the dead (Aggrawal 2009:317). As a result, the ten tier classification was formulated encompassing not only variations of pseudonecrophilia, but also variations of behaviour with corpses (see Table 1). So, like Rosman and Resnick’s model, it classifies a full range of necrophilic behaviours. Aggrawal though does not reference any evidence base for the construction of the classification system but asserts that the ten tiers of classification are “a more scientific mathematically graded system” (Aggrawal 2011:86).
Table 1

The ten tier classification





Role players

No desire to have sex with a corpse but enjoys sex with a person pretending to be dead.


Romantic necrophiles

Pertaining to bereaved people who cannot cope with separation from their loved ones and cannot seem to agree that their loved one has died. They may, exclusively, mummify a part of the body of their loved ones for psychosexual stimulation.


Necrophilic fantasizers

Fantasise about intercourse with the dead. May visit cemeteries and funeral parlours, may masturbate in the presence of corpses.


Tactile necrophiles

Enjoys touching corpses. May manipulate sexual organs of a dead body to achieve orgasm.


Fetishistic necrophiles

Stores body parts of strangers for fetishistic purposes.



Pleasure achieved from more than touching corpses. Pleasure derived from mutilation of dead bodies.


Opportunistic necrophiles

Content with sexual intercourse with living partners. Given the opportunity, however, would not refrain from sexual intercourse with a dead body, i.e. necrophilic mortuary attendants.


Regular necrophiles

Able to have sexual intercourse with a living partner, but without enjoyment. Preference is for sexual intercourse with corpses.


Homicidal Necrophiles

Would kill in order to have sex with a corpse. Capable of sex with living partners, yet the urge for sexual intercourse with a corpse is so great it is fulfilled by homicide.


Exclusive necrophiles

Sexual intercourse only possible with the dead, to the exclusion of living partners.

(adapted from Aggrawal 2009)

Despite a mathematical formulaic underpinning, however, the first three tiers of ordering necrophilic behaviour in Aggrawal’s model seems illogical. There are the necrophilic role players in the first tier (no contact with the dead), romantic necrophiles in the second tier (those who maintain the corpses/parts of corpses of loved ones and continue to sexually ‘relate to them’) and necrophilic fantasisers in the third tier (those who fantasise about sexual activity with the dead). The description of those three categorisations is accompanied by the assertion that “most paraphiliacs in the first three classes never get to touch a dead body” (Aggrawal 2009:317). There is then, at best, something contradictory about the description of class II necrophiles who would mummify a part of a dead loved one, keep it with them and use that body part for psychosexual stimulation. Moreover, such behaviour would, by necessity, involve some level of dismemberment to secure a body part, as hair, nail clippings, and such, cannot satisfy the ‘mummification’ that Aggrawal stipulates. From there, further dissatisfaction with the ordering of behavioural classifications arises; those who may seize upon the opportunity for sex with a corpse (class VII necrophiles) are, for example, placed above those who would mutilate the dead for sexual gratification (class VI necrophiles) and without any discernment of whether the corpse was found by opportunity, whether it is that of a stranger or that of someone known to the necrophile. In sum, the presentation of these classifications is, on face value, not wholly satisfying.

A case is presented here of a necrophile whose desires, motivation and behaviour did not remain static, but escalated over time. The spectrum of his behaviour is then analysed to determine whether the expansive yet reductive behavioural categorisation offered by Aggrawal does in fact offer more utility in organising and understanding necrophilia or whether the Rosman and Resnick model it replaces remains preferable to understanding this sexual paraphilia.


The following paper adopts a case study approach. Valsiner asserts, “the study of individual cases has always been the major (albeit often unrecognized) strategy in the advancement of knowledge about human beings” (cited in Robson and McCartan 2017:151). Similarly, Stake contends ‘case studies prove invaluable in adding to understanding, extending experience and increasing conviction about a subject’ (cited in Gray 2014:266). A case study is the optimum research design when, as here, it can play a significant role in testing a hypothesis and when, as here, it represents a unique or extreme case (Gray 2014:275). It is recognised, however, that the results of a case study are not readily generalised, but until a contemporary and comprehensive cohort of offenders can be established, the case study approach is the most appropriate research method. Moreover, in this instance, it is the most apt means to test current leading classifications of this sexual paraphilia given that a range of necrophilic desires and behaviour can be found in one individual. Other researchers have successfully utilised a case study approach in their exploration of offending behaviour, ranging from serial killing to child sex offending (see, for example Levi-Minzi and Shields 2007; Wilson and Jones 2008) and also, as here, with regard to necrophilia (Foraker 1976; Boureghda et al. 2011).

As Nee notes, “...aside from a thin but tenacious strand of empirical research, we rarely pay heed to offenders’ view of things, and relatively little investment is made into looking at their perspective” (Nee 2004:3). This study addresses that concern and uses the necrophile as a source of information. Similar to Weber’s concept of verstehen, the interpretivist approach, utilised here, advocates understanding human behaviour and action from the perspective of the human actor; in this case, all quotes are supplied, retrospectively, by the offender himself. In the same manner that has been successfully utilised in other case studies, after ethical approval was granted by an institutional ethics board, data was collected during a 3-year correspondence (Culhane et al. 2011:3).

Supplementing data supplied by the offender, in person and in correspondence, access was also given to various self-report materials such as letters, diaries and an unpublished autobiography. In addition, the offender’s background has been widely reported and, as noted by Lynes and Wilson in their case study approach, “[although] it is accepted that true crime accounts can often mislead the public with regard to the actualities of crime... the fact that they [present] a thorough biography of the offender [provides] a different data set with which to triangulate other information” (Lynes and Wilson 2015:271). Through the process of triangulation, a method employing numerous sources of data, the researcher can be confident that information and details are being conveyed as truthfully as possible (Lynes and Wilson 2015:271; Merriam 1995:54). Here, the data supplied by the offender was easily cross referenced to other sources of data to ensure its veracity. It is acknowledged that the case presented is similar to that of the serial killer necrophile Jeffrey Dahmer; analyses of his case, however, now have to be confined to a secondary endeavour owing to his death. In this instance, the offender’s perspective could be utilised to provide a unique perspective on the onset and development of necrophilic behaviour.

The case proceeds with the hypothesis that necrophiles can display such a range of behaviours that excessive subdivisions of necrophilia only serve to circumscribe understanding of this sexual paraphilia; instead, until a stronger cohort of offenders can be gathered, a broader categorisation tool remains preferable.


Subject encountered death at an early age. Upon the death of an older male relative who regularly sexually abused him, he recalls being confused by the sight of his abuser ‘at peace’ in his open top casket. The loss of his abuser was also the loss of tactile contact, of warmth and of ‘affection’. Other than the ‘paradoxical embrace of a paedophile’, he was without comfort or tactile love recalling that his mother did not care to hug or to hold him as a child, despite the comparative affection lavished on his siblings. With an absent father, a cold and unloving mother, and rejection by his siblings, his dependency for any comfort or emotional or physical warmth rested upon the relative that sexually abused him.

Growing up, he was ostracised by his peers due to his poor and impoverished background and further marginalised by his burgeoning homosexual desires. As such, he took solace in his isolation, spending much of his time daydreaming and, later, indulging in sexual fantasy accompanied by masturbation. He would often find a secluded spot in the desolate surroundings of his home and lie in the grass, imagining that he was rendered unconscious and found by his abuser, or found by another boy, or man, or that he would find someone in such a state. Upon discovery, the unconscious body would be sexually abused by the ‘discoverer’,

...there were the personal fantasies when I was alone. When on my own I would lie on my back in the grass, free of people, and imagine another boy fondling my body and I his. I would simulate this with my own hands. I was always in fear of discovery.

The fear of discovery not only pertained to episodes of public masturbation, but of his homosexual feelings growing up, as he did, in a community, and at a time, when homosexual activity was not only socially unacceptable, but criminal.

Forced to repress his sexual feelings, he left home as a young adult to join the military. Repression of those feelings was necessary in that environment but, keen to explore them, he would, as often as possible, physically seclude himself in his own room; “by sheer needs and willpower I could make these scenarios seem real. I would lock my door, on an afternoon off, drew the blinds and entered the fantasy”. In that private space, he was able to explore, in his fantasies, how he would like to manipulate and explore the bodies of other men. On one occasion, however, he seized upon an opportunity to realise those fantasies. After an episode of heavy drinking with a friend, he caused his friend to fall from where he was sitting, thus rendering him unconscious. Satisfied that the head trauma, combined with the stupor induced by alcohol, had the desired effect, he molested his friend’s unconscious body. Whilst sexually gratifying, he afterwards became seized by the fear that he, and his actions, would be exposed. Until that time, his attraction to corpses was not exclusively fixed. After that episode, he increasingly spent time alone engaging in fantasy which no longer centred on the temporary state of unconsciousness but the permanent state of death.

As his fantasy life deepened and grew, his military career continued relatively uneventfully, although he felt the pressure of having to keep his sexuality hidden from his peers. After leaving the military, he joined the police force, another environment characterised by machismo where his homosexuality could not be safely exposed. When possible, he would though frequent gay bars and would often be successful in securing sexual partners. Often, however, he would render his partners comatose by plying them with excessive amounts of alcohol so that he could use and manipulate their unconscious bodies as props in the enactment of his sexual fantasies. His work did not, as a rule, expose him to death or corpses with any frequency, yet he recalls an occasion which necessitated him to visit a morgue, an experience which he recalls sexually aroused him. Indeed, despite access to willing sexual partners, in a city much more tolerant of homosexuality than anywhere he had lived previously, his indulgence in sexual fantasies involving corpses continued unabated. In fact, when the pressures of city life began to mount, debt, work stress and lack of fulfilment in his life, he would withdraw into that sexual fantasy life, locked away at home, and with the aid of alcohol and music he would explore fantasies of having at his disposal a pliable young man to do with as he wished.

As he withdrew further from life, socially isolating himself, and with an increasing amount of time indulging in his fantasies, his ‘external’ problems escalated; loneliness and financial worries, particularly, which fostered an increasing dependence upon alcohol. He notes those mounting problems as pivotal in how fantasy broke into reality,

I had reached a stage where NOTHING at all was going right, and on all fronts. I had never before had all my problems dumped in my lap all at the same time. Something had to give.

After spending a night with a man he had invited home from a bar for sex, he awoke in the morning and, gripped with the panic that the man would leave and return him to a state of loneliness, he strangled him. After death, in a ritual that would be repeated several more times, he bathed and dressed the body, before masturbating over it, and performing fellatio with it. Ultimately, he would kill more than ten men before his capture to enable the enactment of his necrophilic fantasies. He would frequent gay bars and lure men back to his home on the pretext of a sexual encounter. Once there, he would render the men unconscious through alcohol and when sufficiently comatose he would strangle them to death, a means of killing that would not maim the bodies he would later use in the enactment of his sexual fantasies.

The most common sexual expression was through masturbation as he fondled the corpses. With some victims, however, he would perform intercrural sex and, on at least one occasion, attempt anal intercourse. On the occasion that he attempted penetrative sex with a corpse, he found his erection could not be maintained and so resorted to masturbation and, from there on, would contain sexual contact with his victims to that activity. On some occasions, masturbation was accompanied by fondling the body but at other times simply being in their presence provided enough sexual stimulation to achieve orgasm. More than the performance of sexual acts though he would mimic relationship behaviours with his victims, post-mortem. Outside of sexual contact, he would fantasise that the corpse was a willing relationship partner and so he would treat the bodies as sentient; caring for them, sleeping in the same bed, eating meals ‘together’, ‘conversing’, and watching television; behaviour that Hickey would term, ‘necrofetishism’ (Heasman and Jones 2006:274). When the corpses began to display outward signs of decay and decomposition, when their physical appearance began to betray their role as a willing partner for the offender, they would be dismembered and disposed of most commonly through burning.


The case presented does not seek to answer the perennial question of whether human behaviour can be reduced to a mathematical formula but, simply, to determine if a case of necrophilic behaviour is best described and elucidated using a broad or narrow categorisation tool.

A caveat, worthy to note, is that the case presented involves a homosexual male with male victims. Whilst very few accounts exist of such behaviour, and necrophilia has even been defined in gendered terms (a male perpetrator and female victim (Smith and Braun 1978:259), it has not yet been determined that any distinct and separate categorisation is required according to sexual orientation. Notwithstanding the sexual orientation of the subject presented in this case, his behaviour does not fit, exclusively or neatly, into the finite categories offered by Aggrawal, but neither does it using the Rosman and Resnick model.

It is important to note that the aetiology of sexual fantasy occurred in the shadow of sexual abuse by an older relative and the illegality and social unacceptability of homosexuality. That does not suggest, however, that the case is so unique it cannot be used to test existing classifications of necrophilic behaviour. Deviant sexual fantasies are often reported to develop in context of childhood abuse, serving as a coping mechanism, a means of mitigating or avoiding memories of that abuse; the content of which is then reinforced by high levels of masturbation (Marshall and Marshall 2000; Maniglio 2010, 2011). Prentky et al. (1989) assert that when fantasy is increasingly rehearsed, it acquires more and more power, which strengthens the association between fantasy content and sexual arousal, from there stronger associations between fantasy and ejaculation develop over time (Prentky et al. 1989).

As Gee and Belofastov note, deviant sexual fantasy is often rehearsed as an accompaniment to masturbation so sexual arousal then becomes conditioned to the deviant sexual fantasy which can then produce deviant sexual arousal patterns. Sexual fantasies can then take on a preparatory role and can move an individual closer to the point where they attempt to act out the fantasy in reality (Gee and Belofastov 2007:52).

Indeed, this case corroborates Gee and Belofastov’s observation: fantasy life can only satiate the sexual need for a finite period, offenders can build up a tolerance to their deviant sexual fantasy and imagery (Gee and Belofastov 2007:56). As with a case presented by Carabellese et al. (2011), in this case, and possibly others, fantasy provided a refuge, as such, but, ultimately, the content needed to be acted out. The more time spent in a fantasy world, the more real it becomes and, at some point, the fantasy world has been so invested in by the person that it needs to be acted out through sexual offending (Carabellese et al. 2011: 259).

The transition from fantasy to acting out will depend upon environmental factors; in this case, increasing social isolation, stress, loneliness, low self-esteem and alcohol abuse. Notwithstanding external factors or the aetiology of sexual attraction to the dead, the range of behaviours exhibited over his lifespan means that he occupies several categories in both Rosman and Resnick’s and Aggrawal’s models.

With regard to Aggrawal’s taxonomy, firstly, he would be considered a ‘role player’, class I necrophile, in that his fantasies involved him role playing, albeit with himself, and the use of a mirror, costume and make up, to achieve the desired ‘effect’.

I put talc on my face to erase the living colour. I smear charcoal under my eyes to accentuate a hollow dark look. I put pale blue on my lips. I rub my eyes to make them bloodshot. I have put three holes in my old tee-shirt. I make a mixture of cochineal and saffron to synthesize blood. I soak the ‘blood’ into the holes and the liquid stains my shirt and runs down my body. I lie, staring-eyed, on the bed in front of the mirror. I step outside myself in detached imagination. There is another imaginary person in the room who finds my body out in the woods...

He could also be considered a class III necrophile in Aggrawal’s model: the necrophilic fantasiser. His work necessitated him visiting a mortuary, which sexually aroused him and would feature in his masturbation activity, albeit not at the scene.

It was exactly like an army butcher’s shop. It was the first time in my life that I was fully confronted with the, behind the scenes, official view of dead people treated like commodities of dead meet to be processed... what produced a sexual frisson in me was that when [the mortuary attendant] had pulled [a female child’s] arm off the trolley he let if flop limply against the naked thigh of the old man in the next trolley which was hard against hers. It was, for me a very potent image... As we left that image stuck with me. Added to this was a short, day-dreaming, fantasy which had, as a proviso, [the mortuary attendant] (after we had gone) spending his lunch hour playing with the girl’s naked body and having intercourse with it.

Ascending through the Aggrawal classifications, had available materials permitted, the subject in this case could also be categorised, by intent, as a fetishistic necrophile. In particular, the offender recalls that he would particularly liked to have kept the scrotum and penis of his victims but he lacked the knowledge, skills and materials necessary to preserve them.

The regular necrophile, those in the class VIII tier are those, according to Aggrawal, who are able to have sex with the living, but have a preference for sex with the dead. There was a chronological gap of more than a year between the subject’s first killing (and subsequent indulgence of his necrophilic desires) and his second killing: during that interim period, he had sexual contact with the living. Also, in that time period, the offender would revert to being a necrophilic fantasiser and role player, behaviours associated with class I and class III necrophiles. His fantasy life may have sustained for longer, if he had the means to store parts of his victims which he could then incorporate into his role playing. The class IX necrophile, the most dangerous according to Aggrawal, undoubtedly applies to the present case, killing in order to have sex with a corpse. However, his behaviour would not remain static within a particular category and he would continue to display behaviours associated with lower categorisations.

Similarly, the offending behaviour was also not contained within one of the categories offered by Rosman and Resnick. The offending behaviour was a linear progression through those three categories: fantasy, necrophilic behaviour and homicide to acquire a corpse for necrophilic acts. However, in this case, behaviour moved back, forth and between categories, a regression and movement which is not presented as possible in that model either.

It is pertinent to note that multiple sexual paraphilias are frequently found in the same individual (Marshall 2007), particularly when necrophilia is identified (Gayford 1997:312), and when, as in this case, a sexual offender has experienced an adverse childhood experience such as sexual abuse (Drury et al. 2017). As such, those behaviours related to necrophilia in similarity could perhaps offer guidance to the construction of a necrophilia classification system in the future. Somnophilia, the attraction to the sleeping and unconscious, is closely related to necrophilia, sharing a common attraction to the helpless and passive state (Fedoroff et al. 1997; Pettigrew 2017. Both necrophilia and somnophilia overlap with biastophlilia, sexual arousal to rape, when power and dominance over the passive and helpless body is the driver for fantasy and action (Pettigrew 2017). Given the similarities necrophilia shares with such paraphilias, the classification of behaviours within those paraphilias should be consulted (see for example Canter et al. 2003) for direction on how and why an offender may escalate behaviours within a single sexual paraphilia.


The escalation in behaviour, compared to the ten classifications offered by Aggrawal, was not a linear progression of seriousness, reaching a final point. Whilst the fantasies of sex with the dead, those behaviours in the lower tiers of the classification system, preceded the more serious behaviour in the latter tiers, they did not cease once necrophilic behaviour escalated: fantasy, in fact, remained central.

However, the offender in the current study would not be satisfactorily categorised using the tripartite model offered by Rosman and Resnick (1989). Whilst fantasy did not sustain him in the long term and he became a homicidal necrophile, like Aggrawal’s model, there is no caveat that a person can move backwards and forwards through categories; the different categories are by no means mutually exclusive. As such, the hypothesis is only partially confirmed; excessive and narrow subdivisions of this sexual paraphilia offer little utility in understanding that spectrum of behaviour within a single person. However, a broader categorisation tool still does not capture the range of behaviours exhibited in this offender. The broader categorisation requires the stipulation that an offender can regress, as well as progress through classifications, and can occupy more than one behavioural category at any one time. Whilst case study findings are not readily generalised, and not all necrophiles will escalate in their behaviour and some may remain within in one category, it should be noted in any categorisation tool that progression, as well as regression, is possible. When Aggrawal asserts that most who fantasise of sexual contact with the dead do not come usually to have any contact with a corpse, that is not borne out here and, it is asserted, conditional upon the prolonged fulfilment achieved in sexual fantasising. Further research should focus upon the factors that cause an escalation in behaviour, particularly from fantasy to reality, and from opportunity to homicide.


This case would largely refute the mathematical and logical ordering of the Aggrawal classification. Here, the offender would kill to secure corpses, he would thereafter continue to have sex with the living, he would, if possible, store parts of bodies for sexual gratification, he would kill again, and ultimately become an exclusive necrophile. All the while, however, he was indulging in a rich fantasy life involving sexual activity with the dead. Aggrawal makes no mention of movement between categories, nor of regressive or random movement in behavioural severity, and nothing of concurrent behaviours that are distinguished in the ten tier classification. As a homicidal offender, he would be categorised as a class IX necrophile in Aggrawal’s model. It is contended here though, that for treatment, prevention and detection purposes, placement in this category should not eclipse behaviours exhibited by the same person that would be classified in the lower rungs of Aggrawal’s model. Currently, the model provides no clarification on how a person comes to be placed in a certain category, nor is there reference to those whose behaviours span more than one category and, pivotally, no discussion of a progression through, or movement between, categories. Instead, the model seems one predicated, not even on harm, but on the display of aberrant desire, and assumes direct entry at a certain classification. Aggrawal asserts, for example, “most paraphiliacs in the first three classes never get to touch a dead body”, this case study would suggest otherwise. It would seem in fact that a spectrum of necrophilic behaviour is not easily translated into a mathematical system, particularly when the dataset is unidentified, and the earlier classification that Aggrawal derides as confusing is the more appropriate and useful classification of the two.

Pivotally though, Rosman and Resnick also make no mention of movement between categorisations. However, their broader model will capture some offenders who do not progress in their behaviour, and without unnecessary and complicating subdivisions. In fact, an excessive division of behaviours seems an unwarranted and obfuscating endeavour, at the present time. The Rosman and Resnick classification, that Aggrawal found needed revision, would seem more suitable until further cases can be identified and investigated; it need only be revised with an addendum that necrophiles are not bound within a particular category, and a fantasising necrophile can become a ‘tactile’ necrophile. It should be noted, however, particularly by law enforcement personnel when investigating cases of necrophilia, and by clinicians dealing with the presentation of necrophilic fantasy in a patient, that behaviour and desire can escalate. Although this is an extreme case, necrophilia linked with serial murder, and not all will graduate from fantasy to such extreme action, it is contended that the full range of necrophilic desire and behaviour can be found within one individual and attempts at classifying behaviour and desire should not preclude awareness of that spectrum, or movement between levels of behavioural severity.

As such, a categorisation tool would be desirable that charts a possible progression of behaviour and describes activities associated with each step in that progression, whilst noting that each step builds upon the last, rather than replacing the behaviours in the previous stage. Such a model would allow for observation of what preceded the current level of behaviour that is presented to clinicians, and what may possibly follow: from fantasy to opportunity to homicide.


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research Involving Human Participants and/or Animals

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. Aggrawal A (2009) A new classification of necrophilia. J Forensic Legal Med 16:316–320Google Scholar
  2. Aggrawal A (2011) Necrophilia: forensic and medico-legal aspects. CRC Press, Boca RatonGoogle Scholar
  3. Bartholomew A, Milte KL, Galbally F (1978) Homosexual necrophilia. Med Sci Law 18(1):29–35Google Scholar
  4. Bierman JS (1962) Necrophilia in a thirteen year old boy. Psychoanal Q 31:329–340Google Scholar
  5. Boureghda SS, Retz T, Philipp-Wiegmann W, Rosler F, M. (2011) A case report of necrophilia – a psychopathological view. J Forensic Legal Med 18(6):280–284Google Scholar
  6. Brownlie AR (1963) Necrophilia: need parliament trouble? Med Sci Law 3:313–315Google Scholar
  7. Burg BR (1982) The sick and the dead: the development of psychological theory on necrophilia from Kraft-Ebing to the present. J Hist Behav Sci 18(3):242–254Google Scholar
  8. Canter D, Bennell C, Alison LJ, Reddy S (2003) Differentiating sex offences: a behaviorally based thematic classification of stranger rapes. Behav Sci Law 21(2):157–174Google Scholar
  9. Carabellese F, Maniglio R, Greco O, Catanesi R (2011) The role of sexual fantasy in a serial sexual offender: a brief review of the literature and a case report. J Forensic Sci 56(1):256–260Google Scholar
  10. Culhane SE, Hilstad SM, Freng A, Gray MJ (2011) Self-reported psychopathology in a convicted serial killer. J Investig Psychol Offender Profiling 8(1):1–21Google Scholar
  11. Drury A, Heinrichs T, Elbert M, Tahja K, DeLisi M, Caropreso D (2017) Adverse childhood experiences, paraphilias, and serious criminal violence among federal sex offenders. J Crim Psychol 7(2):105–119Google Scholar
  12. Drzazga J (1960) ‘Necrophilia’ in Drzazga, J. Charles, C. Sex crimes and their legal aspects. Chicago, ThomasGoogle Scholar
  13. Eleftheriou-Smith LM (2014) Morgue worker admits to having sex with up to 100 dead women, independent, August 18Google Scholar
  14. Fedoroff JP, Brunet A, Woods V, Granger C, Chow E, Collins P, Shapiro CM (1997) A case controlled study of men who sexually assault sleeping victims’, in Shapiro & McCall smith ‘forensic aspects of sleep. Wiley, LondonGoogle Scholar
  15. Foraker AG (1976) The romantic Necrophiliac of key west. J Fla Med Assoc 63(8):642–645Google Scholar
  16. Gayford JJ (1997) Disorders of sexual preference, or Paraphilias: a review of the literature. Med Sci Law 37(4):303–315Google Scholar
  17. Gee D, Belofastov A (2007) Profiling sexual fantasy: fantasy in sexual offending and the Implications for criminal profiling. In: Kocsis RN (ed) Criminal profiling: international theory, research, and practice. Humana Press, TotowaGoogle Scholar
  18. Gray DE (2014) Doing research in the real world’, 3rd edn. Sage Publications, LondonGoogle Scholar
  19. Heasman A, Jones E (2006) ‘Necrophilia’ in hickey, E. Sex crimes and paraphilia. Prentice Hall, New JerseyGoogle Scholar
  20. Hucker S (1990) Necrophilia and other unusual philias. In: Bluglass R, Bowden P (eds) Principles and practice of forensic psychiatry. Churchill Livingstone, LondonGoogle Scholar
  21. Kafka MP (2009) The DSM diagnostic criteria for paraphilia not otherwise specified. Arch Sex Behav 39(2):373–376Google Scholar
  22. Lancaster NP (1978) Necrophilia, murder and high intelligence: a case report. Br J Psychiatry 132:605–608Google Scholar
  23. Lausner A (2016) ‘Man, 25, 'killed 52-year-old grandmother and stole her credit card to buy waffles before returning to have sex with her corpse', daily mail, April 30Google Scholar
  24. Lazarus AA (1977) A case of Pseudonecrophilia treated by behavior therapy. In: Fischer J, Gochros HL (eds) Handbook of behavior therapy with sexual problems, Vol. 2. Pergamon, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  25. Levi-Minzi M, Shields M (2007) Serial sexual murders and prostitutes as their victims: difficulty profiling perpetrators and victim vulnerability as illustrated by the Green River case. Brief Treat Crisis Interv 7(1):77–89Google Scholar
  26. Lynes A, Wilson D (2015) Driving, pseudo-reality and the BTK: a case study. J Investig Psychol Offender Profiling 12:267–284Google Scholar
  27. Maniglio R (2010) The role of deviant sexual fantasy in the etiopathogenesis of sexual homicide: a systematic review. Aggress Violent Behav 15:294–302Google Scholar
  28. Maniglio R (2011) The role of childhood trauma, psychological problems, and coping in the development of deviant sexual fantasies in sexual offenders. Clin Psychol Rev 31:748–756Google Scholar
  29. Marshall WL (2007) Diagnostic issues, multiple paraphilias, and comorbid disorders in sexual offenders: their incidence and treatment. Aggress Violent Behav 12(1):16–35Google Scholar
  30. Marshall WL, Marshall LE (2000) The origins of sexual offending. Trauma Violence Abuse 1(3):250–263Google Scholar
  31. Merriam SB (1995) What can you tell me from N of 1? Issues of validity and reliability in qualitative research. PAACE J Lifelong Learn 4:51–60Google Scholar
  32. Nee C (2004) The Offender’s perspective on crime: methods and principles in data collection. In: Needs A, Towl G (eds) Applying psychology to forensic practice. Blackwell Publishing, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  33. Peak KJ (1996) Things fearful to name: an overview of sex crimes and perversions. J Contemp Crim Just 12(2):204–214Google Scholar
  34. Perring R (2015) Cannibal son murders his parents and has sex with their corpses before EATING remains, express, October 3Google Scholar
  35. Pettigrew M (2017) Comorbid, sequential, or different desires? Exploring the relationship between Somnophilia and necrophilia. J Sex Aggress 23(3):351–359Google Scholar
  36. Prentky R, Burgess A, Rokus AW, Lee F, Hartman AL, Ressler C, Douglas R, J. (1989) The presumptive role of fantasy in serial sexual homicide. Am J Psychiatr 146:881–891Google Scholar
  37. Price DE (1963) Necrophilia complicating a case of homicide. Med Sci Law 3:121–131Google Scholar
  38. Rapoport J (1942) A case of necrophilia. J Crim Psychopathol 4(1):277–289Google Scholar
  39. Robson C, McCartan K (2017) Real world research, 4th edn. Wiley Publishing, LondonGoogle Scholar
  40. Rosman JP, Resnick PJ (1989) Sexual attraction to corpses: a psychiatric review of necrophilia. Bull Am Acad Psychiatry Law 17(2):153–163Google Scholar
  41. Segal H (1953) A Necrophilic fantasy. Int J Psychoanal 34:98–101Google Scholar
  42. Simms A (2016) Katie Locke murder: teacher's killer Carl Langdell sexually assaulted her dead body. The independent, June 2Google Scholar
  43. Smith SM, Braun C (1978) Necrophilia and lust murder: report of a rare occurrence. Bull Am Acad Psychiatry Law 6(3):259–268Google Scholar
  44. Stein ML, Schlesinger LB, Pinizzotto AJ (2010) Necrophilia and sexual homicide. J Forensic Sci 55(2):443–446Google Scholar
  45. Troyer J (2008) Abuse of a corpse: a brief history and re-theorization of necrophilia Laws in the USA. Mortality 13(2):132–152Google Scholar
  46. Wilson D, Jones T (2008) In my own world: a case study of a Paedophile’s thinking and doing and his use of the internet. Howard J Crim Just 47(2):107–120Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Leeds Beckett University City CampusLeedsUK

Personalised recommendations