Sunday, 24 October 2010

Through The Eyes Of A Killer

I fainted yesterday while getting ready for a friend's party. No, it's not because I treat getting ready as an extreme sport... Parachuting from 5 zillion feet with my wardrobe while simultaneously getting out my clothes and putting them on. And showered, can't forget that. No, I don't treat it like an extreme sport. But it was almost certainly my own fault: I've spent the last two weeks feeling progressively worse with some sort of tonsillitis-flu-hybrid, and have afforded myself next to no rest during this time, due to the ridiculous amounts of work I've managed to get. Mum's had and got the same thing, and nearly fainted at work. No small wonder that I keeled over and then felt too weak to go out.

I did, however, use the time as productively as I could, and read a book. John Douglas' semi-autobiography, Mindhunter. Here is what Wiki tells us about Mr. Douglas:
"John Edward Douglas (born June 18, 1945), is a former special agent with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), one of the first criminal profilers, and criminal psychology author."
And here is the link for his entire life, in blessedly brief, and occasionally incorrect Wiki form: Knock yourselves out.

Criminal Profiling is something that one could see as almost witchcraft, or impossible psychic ability. It certainly looks that way to those who rarely encounter it. It is not an arcane process at all, however. It works in the same way as developing an antidote from a poison: a profiler develops a murderer from the murder.

If that sounds like it could lead to someone being charged with a crime he did not commit, you'd be right. We only need to look at the tragic case of Rachel Nickell in this country, in which criminal psychologist Paul Britton was asked to give a profile of the killer. The police then zealously used this profile to target their prime suspect, Colin Stagg, while the actual killer was Robert Napper. Britton was unfairly persecuted by the tabloid press. It was not his fault the police decided to use his profile (and any profile is always built on speculation, although educated) to target the wrong man. Ultimately, cock-ups can happen.

Profiling is the result of guesswork, albeit educated guesswork. Allow me to give an example of a fictional murder...

A young woman is walking alone, late at night. A male stranger walks up to her, and explains that it's dangerous for a young lady to be out alone this late. He offers to escort her to her destination. She agrees. When the stranger is sure they are alone in a secluded enough location, he suddenly grabs her, wrestles her down to the floor, and attempts to rape her. When he fails, he stabs her repeatedly and ferociously in the chest, with a switch-blade he had in his pocket. He strips her, commits necrophilia, and then de-feminizes her, with a handful of nearby mud. No effort is made to hide the body, and it is found early the next day.

A profiler called in to assist with this case may draw the following conclusions (bearing in mind he did not see the murder take place, and only effectively know what he can see:

  • The killer was male, likely in his teens to late 20's. This is evident in the choice of victim: a young woman. They are often targeted by male killers because they do not seem to pose much of a threat. Moreover, the obvious signs of sexual abuse, both before and after death, make the intentions of the killer obvious.
  • Murder was not the original intention. When it became obvious that he was unable to rape this woman, he entered a rage, and stabbed her to death. She was presumably on the floor at this time, so the killer could have strangled her. Stabbing however, carries sexual connotations, and is a highly personal murder method. It is also quicker than strangulation.
  • The killer is somewhat misogynistic. From the intention of rape, it is evident that the killer at least has little respect for women. That he had sex with the body, and then de-feminized her, shows that he more likely hates them. He has probably had little luck with women, and so enjoys the feeling of power that comes from overpowering them... Almost 'possessing' their bodies. He has almost certainly raped women before.
  • He is probably local and knows the area. She was killed in seclusion, and no-one had seen either her or anyone with her, although people were out that night. Therefore, we must assume that he knew where to lead her where there'd be no people.
  • The killer is sane, but proud of what he's done. The legal definition of 'insanity' is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. He clearly knows the difference because he did not attack where he felt he might be seen. He is proud of what he's done because he made no effort to hide the body, and went to the effort of leaving a signature in her de-feminization. This pride also indicates that he is now likely to kill again, leaving more signatures.
  • The killer's age is evident in that he carried a knife, and panicked when he was unable to rape her. He likely has little experience with women, and so feels the need to be 'accepted' by them. By forcing himself upon them.
Pure speculation. It is, however, educated speculation, and fairly accurate. Furthermore, the killer's necrophilia is a symptom of a particular breed of sexual killer, just as it was with Ed Kemper and Ted Bundy. I believe it was also a characteristic of the Vampire of Dusseldorf, Peter Kurten. But you see, it is the job of a profiler to reverse-engineer a murder to give us a murderer. It's as Douglas says in Mindhunter, "to understand the artist, you have to look at the painting."


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