The single female becomes the lady killer

ELAINE PARENT is known as the Chameleon Killer. She stalks single women, murders them and then steals their identity. And now she has been traced to Britain. Sisters beware.

According to a Sunday tabloid, Parent is wanted in connection with the gruesome murder of a woman called Beverley Ann McGowan and is wanted for questioning about five other murders. She says that she is fascinated by numerology, and cons women into revealing their driving licence, passport and credit card numbers, then using this information to commit fraud.

Serial killers always fascinate. But what is particularly interesting about this case is that it feeds into both men's - and women's - fear of single women.

In the past, women who did not marry were seen as an object of pity. But as Jane Austen's eponymous heroine points out in Emma there was nothing wrong with refusing to marry if you had means. Now, with more and more women having enough money of their own as well as no desire to live off any man, the well-off singleton is seen as both victim and attacker.

Yvonne Roberts, in her novel The Trouble With Single Women skewers our fear of women who refuse the play the game. Her heroine, Fiona announces her desire to live without a man and is viewed with suspicion by her friend Gill, who cannot believe this wish to be genuine and assumes that married men - particularly her husband - are Fiona's target. Fiona's pleas that she is just not prepared to settle on Mr Wrong fall on deaf ears.

Likewise in Madeleine Wickham's new novel, The Gatecrasher, Fleur Daxeny "beautiful, unscrupulous and [with] a large collection of black designer suits" reads the death notices in the Times, turns up at funerals of the wealthy, preying on rich vulnerable men, charming her way into their lives and their gold credit cards, takes what she can and moves swiftly on.

Horrors! Single women are refusing to conform to the stereotype and live in decent obscurity. Instead they are going out earning decent money, choosing to live their lives in the way they wish, and having a fantastic time. In the past we'd have taken a long look at their cat and called them a witch. In these modern times we patronisingly whisper about their emotional emptiness and think that, despite the designer clothes and beautiful flats, what they really want is a man - as the popularity of sub-Bridget Jones books testifies.

But now, when single women continue to remain perfectly happy, it's getting nasty. Live without a man? You'll end up with a Single White Female flatmate. Spinsters can't rely on their sisters: it's women beware women out there. Fictional Fleur may have preyed on men, but now single women without a masculine arm to protect them will find Elaine Parent ready to milk them for all they've got. Or people think they are Elaine Parent in disguise - about to wreak havoc.

The situation is akin to children being told that if they are not good the bogeyman will get them. If you don't accept that what society wants is decent wives and mothers - despite the fact that one in five women will now remain childless - then being stalked by the Chameleon Killer is your fate.

"It is incomprehensible to a man that a woman should ever refuse an offer of marriage," said Jane Austen sardonically, herself a woman who never married. Two centuries on she would be appalled to see that what society still appears to want from spinsters is that they should be happy to remain like her other character, Miss Bates, humble and grateful for charity and resigned to being the butt of Emma Woodhouse's wit. Otherwise, who knows what might happen to you?

Sport
premier leagueLive: All the latest news and scores from today's matches
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
News
politics
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Maths Teacher

    £110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

    Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    ***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    ***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

    £35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker