A murder with a ghost face mask and the Scarface gang: do criminals get inspiration from films?

A murder with a ghost face mask and the Scarface gang: do criminals get inspiration from films?
A murder with a ghost face mask and the Scarface gang: do criminals get inspiration from films?

Can a film or series in which a murderer kills his victims in a characteristic way lead to copying behavior among real criminals? “The number of cases in which the copycat effect clearly plays a role are extremely scarce,” says Marieke Liem, professor of safety and interventions, in De Misdaadlijn of the radio program Het Crimebureau.

It may be rare, copycat behavior does indeed occur. For example, in 2011 the so-called Scarface gang in Belgium attracted the attention of the police. The group of robbers owed their name to the popular thriller Scarface, in which actor Al Pacino played the role of drug lord Tony Montana. During a robbery at a gas station, the suspects dressed as Montana.

Although the Scarface gang was probably largely rounded up in 2011, reports resurfaced in Belgian media in 2017 and 2021 about crimes committed by men dressed as Tony Montana.


And there are more examples. At the beginning of this century, the then 24-year-old Belgian Thierry Jaradin killed his date with thirty stab wounds because she rejected him. He did this in a similar way to the movie Scream. Jaradin even wore the well-known ghost face mask. The Belgian was sentenced to life imprisonment.

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There are also perpetrators who compare themselves to Dexter. The main character from the series of the same name plays a police officer who leads a double life as a serial killer. Dexter hunts murderers who avoid punishment. A 21-year-old woman from Sweden who killed her father by stabbing him in the heart compared herself to Dexter during questioning with police.

‘Extremely scarce’

So copycat behavior exists. But professor at Leiden University Liem emphasizes that this is a rare phenomenon. “In society we generally do not see evidence of copycat behavior in murders.” But, Liem acknowledges: “There are examples where we have seen it. This concerns a few situations.”

“We do see that the more detailed information about certain matters is reported in the media, the greater the chance that this can lead to a possible copycat effect,” says the professor. “And sometimes we see that perpetrators have collected newspaper clippings, like in films. But the number of cases in which this occurs is extremely scarce.”

If you also have a question about crime, please send it as an audio message to the Crime Bureau on 06 57 83 28 94. Who knows, your question may be answered in the next broadcast!

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By: Peter Visser

The article is in Dutch

Tags: murder ghost face mask Scarface gang criminals inspiration films


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