Criminal logo

Dhu Shanatir, Killer King: Power, Deceit, and Parallels with Other Historical Serial Killers

What a Royal Killer Has in Common with Other Serial Murderers In History

By Wade WainioPublished 3 years ago 5 min read
Portrait of Elizabeth Bathory, AKA "The Blood Countess." (NOTE: I could not find a picture of Dhu Shanatir himself, so I went with another historical figure who used her position of privilege to kill).

As rulers go, Dhu (or Zu) Shanatir was not only a king (of the Himyarite Kingdom) in the region now known as Yemen. He was truly a special case, according to what I've read. Rather than only being corrupt or war-like, the historical record forever has him pegged as a serial child rapist and murderer, who reigned from the years 478-490.

If I'm being honest, I could not find a great deal of information about Dhu Shanatir. Aside from the basic fact that he was accused of these murders, he was apparently sometimes called "The Man with Earrings." However, if the information I've seen is correct, his M.O. wasn't entirely different from that of Pakistan's notorious child murderer, Javed Iqbal, who bizarrely sought to murder exactly 100 children between 1998–1999 (and who I've written about before). In fact, I found a number of interesting parallels between Dhu Shanatir and other serial killers I've written about.

So, yes, I am basically going to compare and contrast serial killers here, almost in the same way people compare sports hero stats or superhero and supervillain powers and histories. That might instantly come off as an icky premise for an article, but if you can look past the awkwardness, maybe it'll provide food for thought.


How was Javed Iqbal Umayr similar to what we can learn about Dhu Shanatir? Iqbal was a rich, well-connected guy. That might not have made him a King, but it did give him (and others like him) a vantage point. In addition to whatever twisted thrills he derived from his deeds, it's established that Iqbal had some degree of rage feelings toward society, and regarded his murders as a twisted form of revenge.

To reiterate, yes, Iqbal was never officially crowned a king, nor did he seem to have wealth perfectly equivalent to that power. However, both he and Dhu Shanatir would lure victims with things like money (or, in Iqbal's case, video game tokens for his arcade).

Luring with wealth and gifts is pretty common among serial killers of this type. John Wayne Gacy (Chicago's "killer clown") would lure victims in with promises of work, or maybe just offering to get high with them. Colombian serial killer Luis Garavito ("The Beast") would lure children with promises of money, candy, or work (while sometimes even dressing up as a Priest).

So, ultimately, these killers pretty much always struck from a point of advantage (though, on occasion, might take risks, depending on their unique mindstates). Not only did they target children, but often poorer children. Dhu Shanatir was somewhat different in this regard, apparently. It's said (by every source I found) that he would target royal children (that is, children of privilege), but nevertheless used luring techniques similar to those already mentioned.

Royal Serial Killers (and a Deadly Noblewoman)

Interestingly, Dhu Shanatir also has a surprising similarity to another serial killer I've written about before: Liu Pengli, a 2nd century BC Han Prince, and often considered the first known serial killer. Both Shanatir and Pengli had high positions in their societies, using them to abuse and kill others.

Though I'm not aware of him targeting children in particular (or at all), Pengli comes across as a spoiled, rich, Princely, murdering marauder. That's still bad enough. Also, even though it's not clear Pengli derived sexual pleasure from his deeds, he no doubt enjoyed them. His sprees were not things he needed to do, even for his position of power, but rather things he wanted to do.

Pengli ultimately got in trouble for his murdering and thieving sprees. However, rather than being imprisoned or executed, the Emperor refused to harm his nephew in such a way, instead banishing him and making him a lowly commoner (it's not clear if he continued murdering people after this minor punishment).

The Blood Countess

Now, after hearing of these privileged serial killers, yet another one might come easily to mind: Elizabeth Báthory. That Hungarian noblewoman has become legendary for murdering as many as 650 young women, earning her nicknames like "The Blood Countess" and "Countess Dracula." Much like Pengli, she was not put to death. However, they at least imprisoned her in the castle of Csejte, under a sort of house arrest.

Some accounts suggest she was walled in, which may be plausible due to her notoriety. However, it's more likely that she was able to move around freely within the castle, as apparently observed by priests who visited the castle. Though some believe Báthory was actually innocent of the crimes, most historical accounts seem to find her guilty as charged, citing hundreds of witnesses and (apparently) the presence of dead or tortured women and girls on her property when she was arrested.

Scams, Schemes, and Killer Thieves

Bathory used her position of power to abuse, torture, and kill young women, much like "The Man with Earrings." None of this is to say one must be super-privileged to be a serial murderer. In fact, plenty of serial killers have been drifters, thieves, and/or scam artist-types. Regarding scammers and thieving killers, H. H. Holmes (the so-called "Beast of Chicago" with his "murder mansion") was at least partly captured for all of his scamming behavior. The notorious Ted Bundy would have eventually been in serious trouble over his thieving, even had he not been in trouble for serial rape and murder.

Also, in case you're deluded and think only men get off as thieving, scheming killers, look into Dana Sue Gray. She murdered three elderly women to take their credit cards and go on shopping sprees! If that's not enough, this wasn't just the stereotypical poisoner-woman. Some at the time assumed her murders were ritual sacrifices for some mysterious cult.

Why? For one thing, they found one of her elderly victims with a utility knife in her neck and a fillet knife in her chest! Clearly, Dana Sue Gray was no less deadly than any other opportunistic, greedy killer. Even if she was too incompetent to hide her paper trail, there was nonetheless a trail of victims.

More Complex Motives?

As I write these things, there's always a danger I'll sound like I'm oversimplifying these murderers and their motives. I don't wish to do so. While I don't wish to overcomplicate them, either, it does seem important to not just say "Oh, this is why they did it," then act like the case is totally closed. In reality, many of these cases likely involve complex motivations and mindstates that could never truly be encapsulated by a single article or argument.

In fact, as I've admitted, I am no expert on Dhu Shanatir, nor do I know how or why Dhu Nuwas could become his successor after thwarting his attack (by stabbing Dhu Shanatir in the anus!). I don't have a wealth of resources or a special forensics database where I can access endless pools of valuable information.

In fact, some things will never be fully (properly) investigated. Some details about such people might be myths or only half-truths. For example, it's often claimed Liz Bathory inspired Bram Stoker to write "Dracula," though there is apparently no solid proof of that. At the same time, it's very tempting to let that be part of the legend stand simply because it is so...well, legendary.

That these people are disturbing only adds to their legendary character. At the same time, some characters will be remembered more than others, due to the unique circumstances which help them get caught up in the vast net of the popular imagination.


About the Creator

Wade Wainio

Wade Wainio writes stuff for Show Snob, Undead Walking,, Vents Magazine and Haunted MTL. He is also an artist, musician and college radio DJ for WMTU 91.9 FM Houghton.

Enjoyed the story?
Support the Creator.

Subscribe for free to receive all their stories in your feed. You could also pledge your support or give them a one-off tip, letting them know you appreciate their work.

Subscribe For Free

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

    Wade WainioWritten by Wade Wainio

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.