Psychology Of Real-Life Serial Killer ‘Alfredo Galan,’ Explained: Why Did He Become The Playing Card Killer?


The Playing Card Killer tells the story of an infamous murderer who wreaked havoc in Spain in the early 2000s. It was one of those cases where even after a confession was made by the perpetrator, the law enforcement authorities had a hard time proving his guilt, and from a legal standpoint, we believe that the evidence presented in court was not that strong. The biggest problem that was faced by the court and the police was that there was no motive behind these killings, and that is why it became difficult for them to catch the killer.

If Alfredo Galan hadn’t come forward, we don’t think that the police would have been able to catch him. The first victim was found dead on February 5, 2003, near a bus stop in Alameda de Osuna, and subsequently, there was another murder that happened on the same day in a bar in Alcala de Henares. The owner of the Rojas Bar had been killed, but the mother, Teresa, had somehow, miraculously, managed to survive. Teresa became the key witness in the case against Alfredo, along with two more survivors, Ana and Eduardo. Though Alfredo confessed to his crimes, he later said that he was not the perpetrator and had only provided weapons to the people behind the killings. He said that they were blackmailing him and had threatened that they would kill his sister if he didn’t take the blame for all the murders.

Alfredo Galan had reached the police station inebriated, and a few experts involved in the case did feel that this story might be true and that he was actually not The Playing Card Killer. Alfredo was sentenced to 142 years in prison, but when we look back at all the evidence presented by the prosecutors on the basis of which the judgment was made, we feel that there were a lot of discrepancies, and something didn’t add up. Though a cartridge was found at Alfredo’s house that matched the bullet the investigators had collected from one of the crime scenes, his DNA was never found on the victims, which in itself was a very surprising thing. Alfredo, during his confession, did hand over a particular marker to the police, which, according to him, he used to mark the cards with. But the ink did not match the marks made on the cards. Even after all this, his guilt could have been easily proven if the gun he used to kill the victims had been found. The police conducted a huge search, but they were never able to retrieve the Tokarev gun, which Alfredo said he had stolen when he was stationed in Bosnia. 

It might have been possible that Alfredo was not lying when he told the police that he had only supplied the gun to the perpetrators, or maybe he was involved but was not acting alone. In such cases, a government always wants to ensure that there are no conspiracy theories and that the citizens believe that the real perpetrator is caught because otherwise, there is a chance that the general public might raise questions about the competence of the decision-makers. For a moment, let’s look at the motives of The Playing Card Killer and decipher what triggered him to become such a predator. There was no particular motive that the law enforcement authorities could ascertain, but there were a lot of things that had happened in Alfredo’s life that probably triggered this kind of behavior. Firstly, let’s talk about the story he wrote from prison, in which there was a character who was homosexual and was bullied by his classmates in school. No matter how far-fetched it sounds, it could be possible that Alfredo was homosexual, and maybe he had been subjected to bullying when he was young, and it had an adverse impact on his subconscious. Maybe that anger and resentment were always buried inside him, and after he joined the forces, something might have brought them to the surface.

Alfredo was suffering from mental health issues when he was serving in the army, and he had anxiety attacks now and then. After he came back from Bosnia, his colleagues and friends said that he had become very aggressive and lost his temper more often. The psychiatrist who studied his case during the investigation said that he had a predator instinct and, in addition to that, an utter disregard for human life. He was a narcissist of the highest order, and killing somebody was a part of his experimentation, as he wanted to know how he felt after doing the act. The experts said that a lot of personality traits that they associated with the killer did not match the profile of Alfredo and that even they believed that he wasn’t lying when he said that he hadn’t murdered anybody. But keeping that speculation aside, we believe that Alfredo Galan Sotillo, a.k.a. The Playing Card Killer was suffering from some kind of mental disorder. In the psychometric and projective tests that were conducted on him, the experts came to know that how he saw himself was in stark contrast to the life he was living in reality. Maybe Alfredo was never able to live the life he aspired to, and that would have caused a deep-rooted resentment. There was another speculation where it was said that Alfredo had started spending a lot of time with some people who had far-right ideologies. Alfredo was not the kind of person who was moved by political agendas, but being with those people radicalized his perspective. But then again, a direct link cannot be established between the victims he chose and how they were in conflict with his ideologies.

Cases like that of Alfredo Galan have happened in other parts of the world as well, where a deranged individual kills without any motive. His case reminds us of the infamous Indian psychopath Raman Raghav, who used to kill slum dwellers and homeless people back in the 1960s. Maybe after Alfredo killed his first victim, he started enjoying the process, and when he saw that the police weren’t able to catch him, his confidence rose even more. Many people tried reaching out to Alfredo while he was in prison in order to know the truth because, even though the court had given the judgment and the people believed that justice had been served, there were a lot of questions that were not answered. But Alfredo never responded to anyone. He will be released in 2028 after spending 25 years in prison, and probably then, he will speak the truth and remove the cloud of ambiguity that has been hovering since the time he made his confession.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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