World's deadliest female assassins - including mum-of-two who killed 115 (2024)

With her cunning disguises, unflappable nature and stomach-churning imagination for murders, Killing Eve's Villanelle has become one of the most iconic TV characters of all-time.

Taking inspiration from Luke Jenning's novel, Codename Villanelle, the BBC series recently won a BAFTA for the Best Drama Series. And it's cat-and-mouse killings have got the whole nation talking.

In the show we see female assassin, Villanelle, played by Jodie Comer, stab a victim through the eye, break a child's neck and even castrate one of her targets.

However, the fantasy spy-drama may not be all too far from the truth. For, psychologists who worked on the show drew on prison work with psychopaths to help bring Villanelle to life.

Mark Freestone, a senior lecturer at the Centre for Psychiatry at Queen Mary University, London, who worked on the show, said: “One of the defending characteristics of psychopaths is they are not anxious at all about the things that you and I are anxious about.

“So, Vilanelle doesn't seem to experience any anxiety about killing people or being caught and her dynamics with the security services is like a flirtatious relationship rather than something where there is a real threat to her.”

Here, we look at some of the deadliest real-life female assassins to see how they compare...

Maria Jimenez (AKA La Tosca)

Mexico's most prolific female assassin Maria Jimenez confessed to murdering 20 people for the notoriously dangerous Zetas drug cartel.

Nicknamed La Tosca, Maria was paid around £1,400 per month to kill her victims – including rival drug traffickers and a police officer.

Maria confessed to her crimes in 2012 and was charged with murder, car theft and kidnapping.

Although Mexican police have previously arrested other female assassins for similar reasons, none have been suspected of so many murders.

Idoia Lopez Riano (AKA La Tigresa)

One of ETA's most notorious recruits, Idoia took part in the massacre of 12 police officers in the Spanish capital in 1986 as part of the violent campaign for Basque independence from Spain.

However, Idoia was perhaps best known for her rumoured sexual prowess and was said to have slept with policemen before shooting their colleagues – earning her the nickname of La Tigresa.

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The assassin was sentenced to 2,000 years behind bars but only served 23 before her early release in 2017, which caused outrage amongst her victims' families.

In letters she wrote to the judges at the national court, she expressed great remorse for her crimes and said: “I committed an immense, terrible and awful error to believe that I should be a member of ETA. It is an irreparable error I feel every time I breathe."

She was kicked out of the group as a result of her admissions.

Jeanette van Nessen

Perhaps the most famous female assassin of modern times was Jeanette van Nessen. Born in the Netherlands, she worked as a freelance killer and lived on a houseboat outside Hoorn.

She reportedly charged over £80,000 per hit and did most of her work in South America.

Her downfall came when she killed a Mossad agent named Carl. His colleague, Avner Kaufman, was desperate for revenge and made it his mission to track her down.

He along with two other members of his force went to her houseboat and cornered her.

Keeping her cool, Jeanette made an attempt to seduce Avner by sliding off her robes and saying it would be a “waste of talent” to shoot her. But as she reached for her gun, the men shot her and she hugged her cat before falling into a chair and bleeding to death – with her naked body still exposed.

The dramatic scene was later brought to life in the Steven Spielberg film, Munich, in 2005.

Brigitte Mohnhaupt

A prominent member of the Red Army Faction, Brigitte, was once described as the most evil and dangerous woman in Germany.

Part of the radical left's “German Autumn”, Brigitte was involved in a series of hijackings - including one on a plane – alongside 30 assassinations and bombings throughout the 70s.

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She was finally arrested in 1982 and given five life sentences for her crimes as well as an extra 15 years for her part in nine of the killings – including one where she shot a banker at close range, after handing him some flowers.

Nevertheless, she was released on parole in 2007 and is still alive today.

Kim Hyun-hui

Despite being a mother-of-two, Kim Hyun-hui is also a mass murderer – responsible for the deaths of 115 people.

She claims to have been recruited from university by intelligence services in Pyongyang to become a North Korean agent.

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She trained for six years to appear to be a Japanese citizen and, in 1987, she was ordered to take down a South Korean airliner, in a bid by Kim II-sung and Kim Jong-il to stop the Olympic games happening in Seoul.

Hyun-hui placed a bomb in the overhead compartment and got off during a stopover – before it detonated and killed everyone on board.

She was sentenced to death for her actions, but president Roe Tae-Woo pardoned her. And now, she is married to a former South Korean intelligence officer and has two children.

World's deadliest female assassins - including mum-of-two who killed 115 (2024)


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