Thiago Henrique Gomes da Rocha
Thiago Henrique Gomes da Rocha, has reportedly confessed to 39 murders in the Brazilian state of Goiania. Reuters

Police in Brazil say that a 26-year-old security guard has confessed to 39 murders, which would make him one of the world's most prolific serial killers. Thiago Henrique Gomes da Rocha allegedly targeted homeless people, women and homosexuals, according to a report from BBC News.

Police said that Gomes da Rocha approached his alleged victims on a motorbike with his face hidden, and that he often demanded valuables from his victims before shooting them and leaving without their possessions. He was arrested Tuesday, after being stopped by police for having a fake number plate on his motorcycle. This led to a search of the home he shared with his mother, where police discovered a .38 revolver, which is thought to be the weapon used in the murders. Gomes da Rocha reportedly confessed to the killings while in custody.

CCTV footage has been released, which purports to show Gomes da Rocha stealing the license plate off of a motorcycle.

According to the police in Goiania, Gomes de Rocha committed the murders in order to "alleviate his personal suffering and anxiety," though his lawyer said his client confessed to crimes he did not commit under aggressive questioning, according to ITV News. Sixteen of his alleged 39 victims were women.

Relatives of people who had been murdered in the Goiania region had staged protests earlier this year, to pressure authorities to find the person responsible for their loved ones' deaths. Gomes de Rocha's killing spree triggered a 70-day manhunt by police.

Police chief Joao Gorski said: “I believe he is a serial killer. To start with he killed at random but towards the end he established a pattern,” according to a report from the Daily Mirror.

An investigator on the case, Norton Ferreira, said police had linked items found in Rocha’s home to the killing of at least six women this year, while he confessed to at least 33 other murders dating back to early 2013, according to the Independent.

Gomes da Rocha reportedly attempted suicide while in jail, by slashing his wrists with a metal fragment from a broken light bulb in the cell where he is being held pending legal proceedings. He was prevented from taking his own life by a guard, according to a report from Business Standard.

Luis Garavito is currently regarded as the world's most prolific serial killer. He is confirmed to have killed 138 victims, who were children, but authorities in his native Colombia suspect that the number is closer to 400.