Peter Vronsky was born in 1956 in Toronto, Canada. As independent historian and documentary filmmaker, he is a producer of investigative-themed television programs in Canada, the United States and Europe.
During his career he has gone undercover in sects such as the Ku Klux Klan and in groups engaged in smuggling radioactive materials into the rebel republic of Chechnya in Russia.
His research and interviews have been featured in various books and television programs. He got a Ph.D. in espionage and teaches the history of terrorism, espionage and international relations in the history department at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU).
He participated, as an expert, in the second season of the TV series Culture of serial killers available on the Amazon Prime.com and in the miniseries directed by Joe Berlinger On the scene of the crime- the Times Square killer produced and available on Netflix.
Peter Vronsky’s writing career is closely linked to the fleeting encounter he had with the “torso killer”.
In 1979, in a New York hotel, he accidentally crossed paths with what would come to be identified as “the Times Square Ripper,” Richard Cottingham who was leaving the hotel after having just murdered, in his room, two women.
From this moment he began to take an interest in the phenomenon of mass murder, at a time when the word “serial killer” was not yet used.
In 1990 Vronsky went in Moscow under-covered documenting the Chechen separatists’ illegal market in nuclear materials. Right there accidentally meet Andrej Romanovič Čikatilo arrested a few months later as “The Butcher of Rostov” or the “Red Ripper,” .
Prof. Vronsky is the author of best-selling books such as Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters (2004), Female Serial Killers: How and Why Women Become Monsters (2007), The Ken and Barbie Killers: Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka (2015), Sons of Cain: A History of Serial Killers from the Stone Age to the Present (2018), American Serial Killers: The Epidemic Years 1950-2000 (2021), In Italy by Nua Edizioni Genesi Mostruose (2021) and American serial killers- gli anni dell’epidemia (2023). Vronsky has interviewed the serial killer Richard Cottingham several times, since his arrest in May 1980.
Peter Vronsky is the founder and director of the NY-NJ Joint Cold Case Open Data Portal to facilitate cross-jurisdictional investigations related to the Cottingham murders in New York and New Jersey.
The website [https://www.nynjpd.org/] collects all unsolved cases with names, dates, circumstances of death or disappearance with the goal of continued investigation.
Justice is not just prosecuting a criminal but naming a murdered and unidentified person, giving them back to their family, bringing them home.
When Prof. Vronsky is not working in the field in New York and New Jersey, he lives in Toronto, Canada, and Venice, Italy.
The following is the interview he very kindly and willingly gave us.
Prof. Vronsky, we know that you are an investigative historian expert in international relations. You teach at the Metropolitan University of Toronto and you are also a director and an author. You are one of the top experts in serial killers. You stated different times that the interest towards homicides started since you bumped into Richard Cottingham, the ripper of Times Square. Can you please tell us which feeling led you to dedicate your life to serial killer studies?
I bumped into “my two serial killers” in 1979 and 1990, when I was working as a documentary filmmaker. But I did not start writing about them until the early 2000s – my first book on the history of serial killers was published in 2004 – Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters – a history of male serial killers primarilly in the 19th-20th centuries – starting from Jack the Ripper in 1888, but I also explored briefly the theme of pre-modern serial killers like Gille de Rais. It’s my most popular book, but the publisher has the foreign language rights on it, and it confounds me why they won’t release it in Italy. My other serial killer books, I kept the foreign rights too, and that is why they recently began appearing in Italian. But, I did not go deeply into the early history of serial killers until 2018 when I wrote Sons of Cain: The History of Serial Killers from the Stone Age to the Present which is going to be published soon in Italy.
I do not consider myself an “expert” on serial killers. I took a decade break from documentary filmmaking and writing on serial killers to complete a Ph.d in history at University of Toronto, but my degree is not in serial homicide – my Ph.d field of expertise is the history of espionage. But spying is also a serial type crime, and often spies – those who betray their own country have the same psychopathology that serial killers have.
To be honest with you, I wrote my first two books as a “true crime history” writer as a way of making additional income when the television business changed for me. And I chose a subject of serial killers from many that I was interested in because at the time there was no book on their history and I believed one on their history would sell well. It did. It was instantly a bestseller and opened the road to my subsequent books.
But when I wrote all those books, I had randomly encountered the two serial killers “in the wild” – before they had been identified and appended, but I never wanted to meet and interview any serial killers in person, or visit them in prison. I saw all the interviews with serial killers on television and on YouTube, and the questions that were asked of them were the same questions I would have asked, and the answers they gave were unsatisfactory. I wrote three books, including Sons of Cain without sitting down with any serial killers based on police reports, news media, forensic literature, other true crime books, etc, but without interviewing any serial killers in person.
But as I was finishing Sons of Cain, the daughter of one of the victims of the serial killer I first encountered in 1979, contacted me in 2017 and offered to introduce me to him: Richard Cottingham, the Torso Killer. That is the first and I hope last serial killer I am meeting with and interviewing.
And once he started confessing to us to other murders from the past that were never solved, suddenly I no longer was a historian of the past, but I became part of the investigation and closure of to date nine cold cases in New York and New Jersey.
If I am an “expert” on anything, then it is on one serial killer: Richard Cottingham. He once said to me, “You know me better than I know myself.”