Profiling a Killer
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PROFILING A KILLER
Professor Glenn Wilson, Gresham College, London
THE REAL CRACKERS Psychologists like Fitz in Cracker excite public imagination with their uncanny insights and intuition. Modern profilers are more prosaic and scientific – working from cold logic and experience collated from research findings. Nothing magical, mystical or “psychic” about criminal profiling.
JACK THE RIPPER Case is famous because it occurred at the beginnings of tabloid journalism and was never solved. Speculation about perverted sexual motives of Jack would not have narrowed the search. Known details of choice of victims, times and places of attacks could have. Suggestion that Jack used professional skill in removing organs is an early instance of profiling.
TYPICAL SERIAL KILLERS 1. By definition, kill 3+ with downtime (thus distinguished from spree killers). 2. Usually, young (20-40) males. May seem ordinary to neighbours/colleagues. 3. Move house frequently (distancing themselves from crimes?) 4. Unstable relationships and employment (itinerant jobs like bouncer, driver, wheel-clamper). 5. Often solitary (“loners”) but not always. 6. Not usually mad but often psychopathic (irresponsible, cruel, liars, lacking empathy). 7. Background of assault, trespass & burglary
CHARM AND INTELLIGENCE? Serial killers are often said to be charming and intelligent. Only likely to be true for famous, successful serial killers (like Ted Bundy, The Campus Killer, and Gary Ridgway, The Green River Killer) who evade capture for a long time. Those less bright make mistakes and are caught early (usually before achieving 3+ victims). Not necessarily white (also down to selective reporting of eloquent, middle-class killers?)
COMMON MOTIVES 1. Driven by deviant sexual fantasy and passions like lust, empowerment or revenge. 2. May enjoy pain/suffering of victim. Kill strangers with contact methods (beating, knives, strangulation). 3. Overkill (e.g. multiple stabbing, mutilation) suggests pleasure in act. 4. Some take souvenirs/trophies (clothing, jewellery, body parts) to help relive crimes. 5. Some are thrill-seekers who enjoy media attention and the “game” of evading capture. 6. Some claim to be mission-oriented (e.g. ridding society of immoral people like prostitutes). This is likely to be “rationalisation”.
M.O. vs SIGNATURES Modus Operandi refers to common aspects of the criminals activities that might change according to circumstances (e.g., means of access, availability of weapons). Signatures are unique and stable, revealing psychological needs (e.g., ritual aspects of crime, nicknames, posing the corpse, inserting objects). Latter more useful for linkage analysis – determining if same individual is responsible for various crimes.
THE YORKSHIRE RIPPER The signature of the Yorkshire Ripper was a wound to the stomach gauged with a screwdriver after hitting victim on head with a hammer. Apparently reconstructing an exhibit from a waxwork museum that excited him when young (a series of female torsos with windows in their belly depicting “the nine stages of pregnancy”). Sutcliffe claimed to be inspired by God to rid the world of prostitutes but was probably more driven by lust and detestation of women.
ORGANISED vs DISORGANISED TYPES Organised : 1.Above average 1Q. 2. Plan carefully, abducting and killing in one place and disposing of body in another. 3. Operate in daytime. 4. Engage victims in conversation and lure them with clever ploys. 5. Control the crime scene so as to leave few clues. 6. Socially adequate, with friends, lovers, wives. 7. Knowledge of forensics; follow case in media.
Disorganised : 1. Below average IQ. 2. Impulsive, using any weapon to hand; no attempt to hide body. 3. Operate by night. 4. Depersonalise the victim. 5. Leave chaotic crime scene. 6. Socially inadequate; often history of mental illness. 7. No interest in police work or media.
SUBTYPES Holmes & Holmes (1998) propose five subtypes: 1. Visionary – psychotic, acting on voices from God or the Devil. Killing seen as “job to be done”. 2. Mission – compelled to rid the world of some undesirable group. 3. Lust – fantasy driven (may include necrophilia or cannibalism). 4. Thrill-seekers – seek adrenalin rush of hunt & kill. Torture victim but lose interest after they are dead. 5. Power/control – seek total domination over victim. Like to extend the process for a long time. Much overlap among these categories and empirical support lacking.
RADEX MODEL OF KILLER’S ACTIONS (Canter & Youngs, 2009)
THE SUFFOLK STRANGLER Steve Wright is a typical serial killer. Strangled 5 prostitutes in Ipswich (2006) probably because he found it sexually exciting and empowering. Prostitutes targeted because they were vulnerable and already sexualised. Background of unstable employment and relationships, gambling, drinking, theft and two suicide attempts. Never settled long in any one place. Age 48 when arrested but may have killed earlier . Several unsolved murders around Norwich, where Wright had lived, bear his trademarks (prostitutes abducted, strangled, left in water-filled ditches).
ATYPICAL KILLERS Not all serial killers are men targeting young women. Those targeting men are usually homosexual themselves (Dennis Nilsen; Jeffrey Dahmer). Like usually kills like with respect to race also. Some target older women (e.g., Delroy Grant, The Night Stalker). Gerontophilic? Or seeking “revenge on mother”? Yorkshire doctor Harold Shipman, “euthanised” 218 elderly women, apparently re-enacting his mother’s death by morphine (witnessed at age 17).
FEMALE SERIAL KILLERS Tend to use poison, kill those close to them and profit or “mercy” is the motive. Black Widows – kill husbands for inheritance or insurance. Angels of Death – often health professionals who kill “because they can” or out of a sense of mercy. Folie a deux – women who engage in lust killing usually do so in tandem with a male partner (e.g. Myra Hindley, Rose West).
Mary Ann Cotton: Durham woman who, in the 19th century, killed 21 people, including her mother, 3 husbands, 10 of her own children, 5 stepchildren, a lover and her best friend.
GEOGRAPHICAL PROFILING Originated with study of cholera outbreak in Soho, 1854. Dr John Snow traced it to a well in Broadwick St (theorised that contaminated water was responsible for transmission). Works on principle that criminal lives within the range of crimes (distance decay) but may avoid own doorstep (buffer zone). Several programmes developed (e.g., David Canter’s Dragnet). Other factors need to be considered, such as access/transport limitations.
GEOPROFILE FOR JACK THE RIPPER (after Wesley English)
PSYCHOLOGICAL BARRIERS Some criminals seem to have a separation line between their home base and their operating area (so as not to soil their own doorstep). For Jack the Ripper this could have been the Whitechapel Rd. For Levi Bellfield it may have been the M4.
MARAUDERS VS COMMUTERS Marauder Static, commits crime in a confined area. Operates and lives within an awareness/comfort space.
Commuter Mobile, commits crimes over large areas, away from home.
RANGE OF THE NIGHT STALKER Delroy Grant assaulted, raped and burgled countless elderly women SE London/Kent over a long period. Because focus was Shirley area it was thought he may have been a Bethlem Hospital patient. Actually lived in Brockley but stalked victims in leafier suburbs to the south.
DISPOSAL SITES Bodies may be transported to remote, wooded places for concealment or to deflect attention from killer’s home. Direction may change when vigilance is raised, but distance often similar, yielding a radial pattern around the home base. Steve Wright moved in different directions but centred on Ipswich.
HOME COMFORTS Fred and Rose West were ultimate marauders, taking their victims home to torture and kill. Their own children also suffered. This is the opposite of the “buffer zone” concept.
The Wests also typify the folie a deux that sometimes occurs when couples support each other in deviant fantasies (c.f., Brady & Hindley).
THE RAILWAY RAPIST An early instance in which profiling helped find a killer was that of John Duffy. In the 1980s there were a series of rapes and murders around North London railways. David Canter helped police draw up a profile: living in centre of crime zone, mid- to late-20s, righthanded, blood type A, probably married, criminal record including violence, semiskilled, weekend work, knowledge of railways. Duffy had been 1505th on a list of suspects but quickly promoted and caught. He lived in Kilburn, was in his 20s, right-handed, Type A, separated from his wife (whom he had raped at gunpoint) and a railway worker.
“THE MARDI GRA EXPERIENCE” The Mardi Gra Bomber (self-styled) targeted Barclays Banks around London in an attempt at extortion. Pattern at attacks was in the vicinity of underground stations on lines running NW from Chiswick (hence supposed he lived there and travelled by tube). He then switched attacks to Sainsbury’s stores in SE London (not served by tube). Although intended to confuse police regarding his home base all it did was show they were wrong about his mode of transport. Eventually caught being driven by his brother and indeed lived in Chiswick.
A PROFILE IS NOT EVIDENCE Recent excitement about psychological profiling has led to inappropriate use as evidence in murder trials. Famous case is Colin Stagg, charged with the Wimbledon Common murder largely because he fitted a preconceived profile of the killer. After his acquittal the real murderer was found by DNA. Barry George, a fantasist loner who lived near Jill Dando, was initially convicted of her murder despite minimal forensic evidence (overturned on appeal). Now thought she was killed by a Serbian hit man avenging her support of Kosovo and the NATO bombing of a Belgrade TV station three days earlier.