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3 Convicted Killers Who Are Now Free

Astrid graduated with a Bsc Hons in Criminology and Psychological Studies in 2017 and currently works as a professional ghostwriter.

In an era when interest in serial killers is growing by the day, we seek to learn everything we can about the most well-known killers—especially with new shows arriving on Netflix almost weekly to give us our true crime fix. But what if I told you that some of the most violent, reprehensible killers to walk the Earth have not only been released, but are free right now?

Warning: Please do not read any further if you find depictions of violence distressing.

Issei Sagawa

Issei Sagawa

1. Issei Sagawa

Issei Sagawa, otherwise known as the Kobe Cannibal, killed Dutch student Renee Hartevelt in 1981. After luring her into his apartment in Paris by asking her to give him German lessons, he then shot her in the back of the neck and raped her. Shockingly, he then removed 15 lbs of her flesh and ate her.

For the young Sagawa, cannibalism had been a fantasy gnawing at the back of his mind since he was a child. Although we don't know why he harboured such a dark fantasy, we do know he began to fixate on the idea of eating a person when he was still very young. He would dream about being boiled alive inside an enormous cauldron along with his brother, and he was heavily inspired by the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty. However, his take on the story most likely doesn't match our own. In Sagawa's fantasies, he saw the titular character as a supernatural being, a beautiful women he could eat in order to show how much he loved her.

Sagawa being led from the apartment in which he killed Renee.

Sagawa being led from the apartment in which he killed Renee.

Despite recalling this fantasy with a psychotherapist, the urge to kill and eat a human being grew until the thought eclipsed all others. He even said in later years that “I was determined to eat someone before I was too old, before my passion died out.”

After the killing of Renee, Sagawa admitted everything. Most disturbingly to those around him, he recounted his evening with the student in a cool monotone that was devoid of remorse. He said, unflinchingly, “I killed her and I ate her flesh.”

So it would seem it was an open and shut case. Sagawa would spend the rest of his life in prison, right? Well, not quite. A French judge would go on to rule the young student as clinically insane and therefore not fit to stand trial. He was then deported back to Japan and committed to a mental health ward where he remained until the authorities cast judgement on what to do with him.

Renee Hartevelt

Renee Hartevelt

In a spectacular turn of events, because French authorities were not able to turn over their case documents to the Japanese police, Sagawa was not able to be legally detained. This meant he could freely discharge himself from hospital and walk out a free man.

To this day, the Kobe Cannibal is still free and has become quite a cult icon and celebrity in Japan. Not only has he appeared in talk shows, but he has also performed roles in exploitation movies, authored numerous books, and has even contributed some restaurant reviews to Japanese magazine Spa.

Pedro Alonso Lopez

Pedro Alonso Lopez

2. Pedro Alonso Lopez

Also known as the Monster of the Andes, Pedro Alonso Lopez is one of the most terrifying serial killers ever known. Born in 1948 to a prostitute mother named Benilda, he was the seventh of 13 children. Frequently, while growing up, the young boy was exposed to his mother's job, which unsurprisingly had a highly damaging effect on his psychological development. When he was eight years old, Lopez was discovered by his mother to be sexually assaulting his sister. He was immediately ordered to leave the house.

With nowhere to go, the young boy drifted toward the capital of Bogota, where his life would only get more tragic and depraved. On the streets, he would become the victim of sexual abuse and violence. By the time he was 18, he had grown into a hardened criminal.

However, murder wouldn't enter his repertoire of crimes until his first spell in prison after he was arrested for stealing cars and selling them to chop shops. While in prison, he was reportedly gang raped and made a vow to himself to enact revenge on his attackers. He hunted down each of his rapists and murdered them while still in prison.

Another photo of Lopez.

Another photo of Lopez.

This turn of events would set him on a deadly path that would see him traveling over borders and committing dozens of murders. By 1978, he claimed to have killed over 100 Peruvian girls before entering Colombia and then Ecuador. Horrifically, he is estimated to have murdered an average of three girls a week.

However, it wasn't until he was caught trying to abduct a young girl that he was finally arrested. And he was eager to confess to his crimes, telling the police he had killed up to 300 people. The police, not believing him, were keen to dismiss his claims. That was until a flash flood dislodged the mass grave he had dug for his victims.

He remained in prison in Ecuador until 1994 before being arrested an hour later by Colombian authorities. However, he was not to be imprisoned again. Instead, he was declared insane and was instead committed to a mental hospital. Horrifyingly, he was released in 1998 on $50 bail and has remained free ever since. Currently, his location is unknown.

Louis van Schoor

Louis van Schoor

3. Sybrand Jacobus Lodewikus "Louis" van Schoor

Known in the South African media as the Apartheid Killer, Louis is suspected for shooting and killing 39 people. However, when interviewed by the press, he claimed to have murdered over 100 victims. The murders took place when the former policeman was hired as a security guard. When burglars entered the premises, tripping the silent alarm, he would immediately fire his 9mm pistol at them.

What is significant about his killings is that the great majority of his victims were black males. This led to the public assuming his crimes were racially motivated. However, Louis strongly denies this, saying, “It was nothing to do with race. I was purely protecting people's property.”

Regardless of his motives, Louis found himself in jail. However, he was only convicted of nine killings and was sentenced to 20 years. However, he was released on parole after just 12 years due to displaying leadership qualities and behaving like an “exemplary prisoner.”

Right now, he is a free man, but will he kill again? It appears from his statements that his experience in the South African police had numbed him somewhat to the violence he both experienced and perpetrated. He has said, “The time I spent in the police made me used to shooting and killing.”

Whether or not his former career helped facilitate his passion for murder, we will never know. What we do know is that he now claims to be remorseful for what he has done. He has even gone as far as to contact the family of his victims to apologize. Furthermore, he even contacted the media to make a public apology. He said, “I apologised for the pain, suffering my actions caused them. I meant this sincerely.”

Now a free man, he asks the public to not judge him for his past. This is not a task that will be easy for people.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.