Article by: Kylie Fox
A specially trained detective walks around a crime scene, not swabbing for blood stains or measuring the size of the stab wounds that have penetrated a victim’s body. He notices instead the position her body lies in, whether any attempt has been made to cover or hide the body, the area of the body the wounds are administered, the type of weapon used, signs of struggle and items on or near the body.
This specialist learns all he can about the victim – victimology – so that he can walk in her shoes for a time, figure out why she was targeted. Was there something in her daily routine, in her recent or past history or in the way she looks that could have triggered this response?
He reconstructs the victim’s final day, final hours, final minutes in this world and plays them over in his mind until they make some kind of sense. He feels her horror, her fear and her pain emotionally and physically until he’s certain he has those last moments right.
Then, using all of the physical and psychological clues that he’s gathered, he inserts himself into the mind of a killer. Possibly an even more terrifying place to be than the mind of the victim. He walks the path the murderer would have taken, reconstructs the crime and, more importantly, the thought process that the perpetrator used.
He can tell us the age and sex of the killer. Possibly a range of occupations and his social status. He may tell us we’re looking for a plumber or a postman or an unemployed loner.
He cannot tell us his name.
But this kind of information can help narrow down a long, and ever growing, list of suspects. It can help police feel more confident when they make an arrest – this suspect fits the profile.
Criminal profiling is still looked upon by some as a bunch of hocus-pocus with no real place in criminal investigations. But when the police have run out of ideas or where there is no physical evidence to go on, the criminal profile is often the next point of call for investigators.
What are those clues that a profiler can see that leads to their often frighteningly accurate profiles? What do they see that other police cannot?
Using a series of case studies, many referencing John Douglas, one of the founders of the FBI’s profiling unit and author of the Mindhunter series, we are going to explore exactly that in this new regular column on the Tara Sharp site.
Next time – we’ll begin with the basics of the serial killer. The triad of symptoms almost always displayed in the perpetrators of serial murders.