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  • Writer's pictureMona Ray

Who killed? Crime Scene Profiling Part 2

#serialkillers #FBI #profiling #crimescene

Unknown Offender

Today I would like to continue the topic of psychological profiling based on the crime scene settings. Thus, Howitt (2012) sees profiling as akin to clinical judgment. Similarly, Dr Bond made a profile of Jack the Ripper, in 1888, in London, who was described by Dr Bond as having physical strength, coolness and daring, a loner, who commits periodic attacks, inoffensively looking, middle-aged, neatly and respectively dressed, solitary, eccentric in habits, with no regular occupation and, with a small income or pension.

Profiling is usually employed when there is a small pool of suspects while crime scenes have psychopathological features.

Still, from the scientific perspective methodology employed by the FBI is not rigorous, developed by studying only 36 cases.

Still, Schlesinger, (2009) describes profiling as a useful tool for identifying an unknown offender.

For example, by deduction and use of reverse prediction in the mid-1950s, psychiatrist James Brussel analysed letters, photographs, and descriptions of homemade bombs and produced a profile of Eastern European descent, over 40, that lives with siblings, paranoid, attended church, soft spoken, polite, neat in appearance, single, roman-catholic, wearing a buttoned suit. This narrowed investigation to George Matesky, who terrorised NY for 16 years.

This kind of profiling is based on a psychiatric statement that compulsive individuals do not change patterns of thinking and behaviour, which enables the FBI technique to profile serial murderers, rapists, and arsonists and can be used in cases of hostage negotiation or analysis of anonymous letter writers.

Collecting crime scene information about decision processes from meaningful patterns about victims and offenders enables reconstructing offender motivations and descriptions of offenders' features leading to the apprehension of the offender, and then the profile verification is possible (Schlesinger, 2009).

Profilers do not have access to the suspects' list to avoid influencing. The victim risk might be high (prostitution), moderate or low. Similarly, offenders' risk is assessed as high(daylight), moderate and low (night- no obvious witnesses) which indicates the type of offender. Escalation of offending might evolve from voyeurism to burglary, assault, rape and eventually murder.

Staging aims to misleading for example a husband who killed his wife might stage a rape. Then, the time and location reveal a lifestyle.

A place of abduction, killing and the body disposition help in deduction about the type of offender.

For example, organised offenders' personality characteristics include psychopathic, antisocial, and narcissistic attitudes. But, also pleasant looking, being in an intimate relationship, has good verbal skills and a history of behaviour problems.

Conversely, disorganised offenders represent personality characteristics such as borderline schizophrenic, strange looking with a little experience with females. Live alone or with family members, have poor verbal skills and have a history of psychiatric treatments along with conflicts with authority.

This classification of offenders is like trait theory based on grouping similarities from a big sample of individuals and finding different groups of personalities like Eysenck's big five.

Still, individuals with a paranoid form of schizophrenia and paranoid personality disorder do not necessarily commit unplanned offences while individuals with intact personalities might commit impulsive offences due to intoxication (Schlesinger,2009, p.82).


Ainsworth (2006) states that serial killers are statistically rare, however, the question is whether those not apprehended could give a different insight into a typology of profiling.

Recently, Groth (1977) (Ainsworth, 2006) propose this typology of rapists: 1. Power reassurance – most common, ‘pseudo-unselfish' (removal of doubts about masculinity, planned). 2. Power assertive (more violent, macho self-perception, like domestic violence - date or spousal rapist, virility, dominance). 3. Anger-retaliatory (even higher violence, expressing hostility towards women in general, impulsive, selfish, resentment), 4. Anger-excitement (planned, rehearsal many times before strikes including transport and weapon) (pp.106-107).

Michaud and Hazelwood (1998) also recognize ‘Opportunistic rapists' (during burglary or kidnapping, drunk or high on drugs) and ‘Gang rapists' where there is a leader, and a reluctant one is present. Investigators should focus on the investigation of the reluctant offender, (victim seriously injured) (p.81-98).

However, critics state that it is hard to make a typology of rape in a real-life. For instance, the FBI subgroup "increasers" is described as rapists who escalate their use of force, offending more frequently and in a more sadistic way. This is hard to distinguish even based on direct interviews. Thus, this typology consists of a methodological problem.

This typology is functional and enables one to differentiate whether a series of offences were carried out by the same offender, whether the person is likely to strike again, and if so within what time frame, whether the assailant's next attack is likely to be, and whether it might lead to the death of a victim.

Thus, typologies might help the investigator to predict future actions (p.108).

Ainsworth (2006) argues that the FBI-profiling techniques are useful only if the offender's behaviour at a crime scene reveals himself. Even interviewing rapists to find out about the type of offenders, their motivations and beliefs are not helpful as rapists do not always fit stereotypes. They appear well-adjusted to family and friends, average or above background, well-pressed, intelligent and have skilled jobs.

Still, knowledge about typical behavioural patterns might enable police officers to ask appropriate questions of friends and family of a suspect (pp.109-111).

How useful is the FBI technique, does it involve something more than educated guesswork?

The credibility of the FBI profiling needs to be established. Ressler (1988) spots methodological weaknesses due to retrospective, self-reports of offenders about their backgrounds, criminal and family history and motivations. Serial killers, and psychopaths, with antisocial personalities, are seen as the least suitable for using retrospective self-reports that intuitive profiling is based on. The FBI claims the monopoly on profiling, but it is hard to prove if is it worthwhile as they are reluctant to test their techniques.

Typologies and motivation might mislead as the motives of any offender are pretty much the same (Coleman and Norris 2000:98, p.113).

Additionally, the FBI states ‘our techniques are examples of ‘Psychological profiling, however, Howitt (2012) points out that there is little psychology in the intuitive approach. Thus, this may be a misleading use of such terminology. Thus, to find a satisfying conclusion more research must be done'. I leave you here now and I will continue the topic next time.

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