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Why do Behavioural Profilers fail to catch Serial Killers? Why do Behavioural Profilers fail to catch Serial Killers? The Thirty Year Hunt for the BTK.

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Presentation on theme: "Why do Behavioural Profilers fail to catch Serial Killers? Why do Behavioural Profilers fail to catch Serial Killers? The Thirty Year Hunt for the BTK."— Presentation transcript:

1 Why do Behavioural Profilers fail to catch Serial Killers? Why do Behavioural Profilers fail to catch Serial Killers? The Thirty Year Hunt for the BTK Murderer Professor Craig A. Jackson Head of Psychology Centre for Applied Criminology

2 The Problems with Criminal Profiling Has never led directly to the capture of any serial murderers Behavioural Profiling based on spurious science in 1950s- 1960s Small Data setsSmall Data sets Limited numbersLimited numbers Biased sampleBiased sample Profiles too vague to be helpful to policeProfiles too vague to be helpful to police Given too much credibility as a scientific discipline Behavioural profiling is not open, replicable or repeatable No scientific test of the usefulness of this method

3 The "Cracker-Basher" article Wilson D, Jackson CA, Kaur-Rana B. Against the Medical-Psychological Tradition of Understanding Serial Killing by Studying the Killers. Amicus Journal, 2010; 22: 8-16.

4 UK Serial Murderers and Victims 12 (38.7%) 7 (22%) 5 (15.3%) 8 (25%)

5 Current serial murder case: UK Stepping Hill Hospital 7 inpatients murdered over 7 weeks Insulin overdose via saline tampering Arrest of 27yr Female nurse Rebecca Leighton Remanded for 1 month Released - no grounds for prosecution Offender space VictimsUn-subSuspect 4000 staff 700 possible “unsubs”

6 Joanna Yeates murder case

7 Myths about Serial Murderers Are dysfunctional loners Don't change the way they kill as they develop Travel far and wide when killing Insane or evil geniuses Are white males Are motivated by sex Cannot stop killing Want to get caught

8 While forensics yielded little...

9 The suspect fits the profile...





14 We were worried about John… Night-terrors Emotional breakdown Paranoia Cardiovascular problems

15 “Understanding Serial Killers... in order to Capture Serial Killers” Why? Prevent serial murder by understanding the killers’ minds? “Climbing inside the heads of monsters" FBI Behavioural Science Unit 1972 Questionnaire Interviews with 36 convicted serial killers – a biased sample 57 page questionnaire: “Thousands of questions”


17 Killers who Talk too Much Killlers’ accounts of their crimes and motives Suit nature and circumstances of their arrest Motivated by imprisonment / freedom / needsParole Prison / wing transfer ActivityImage Book deals 111 pages of autobiography 145 tape recordings 6,189 transcribed pages “(Fred) West’s interviews were worthless except to confirm that nothing that he said could be relied upon as anything near the truth.” John Bennet SIO Cromwell St Murders

18 ... and Those who Don’t Talk at all

19 False Leads & Faulty Profiles Yorkshire Ripper investigation Three letters & one cassette tape "You've had no luck catchin' me" "Wearside Jack" Police believed it was the genuine killer Focused efforts on men from north bank of river wear Distracted investigation - three possible deaths John Humble – sentenced 8 years for perversion

20 The Crimes of the BTK Serial killer in Kansas active from 1974 to 2005 Murdered 10 people from 1974 – 1991 (caught in 2005) Victims 1974 Mr Joe Otero, Mrs Julie Otero, and children Jo jr & Josephine 1974Kathryn Bright and wounded her brother Kevin 1977 Killed Shirley Vian 1977Killed Nancy Fox 1985Marine Hedge, was murdered 1986Vicki Wegerle was killed 1991The last confirmed victim of BTK was Dolores Davis

21 BTK's MO Entered houses while occupier out Cut phone wires outside house Force way in with false ID and.22 revolver Talked victims to compliance "Escaped prisoner on the run" Victims allowed themselves to be tied up Strangles several times before killing Sometimes sexually gratified himself at the scene Steals tokens / souvenirs

22 Shirley Vian murder scene


24 Kathryn Bright murder scene

25 Dolores Davis murder scene

26 BTK's First Letter to the Police

27 3 letters from BTK to media (1 was a poem) "Oh Death to Nancy" A letter sent to a potential victim who accidentally evaded him in 1979, Anna Williams "Oh Anna why didn't you appear" A recording of his voice calling for an ambulance after killing Nancy Fox Witnesses by an off-duty fireman The Taunting Begins...

28 "Oh Anna Why Didn't You Appear" T'was a plan of deviant pleasure so bold on that Spring nite My inner feeling hot with propension of the new awakening season Warn wet with inner fear and rapture, my pleasure of entanglement Like new vines so tight Oh Anna why didn't you appear

29 A Gift for the Profilers… Two teams of FBI profilers assessed all case details 1979 The Hot Dog squad & 1985 The Ghostbusters Used best known Profilers from FBI Profiles were so varied as to be useless ContradictoryVagueNon-Specific

30 Unhelpful Criminal Profiles “Look for an American male with a possible connection to the military. His IQ will be above 105. He will like to masturbate, and will be aloof and selfish in bed. He will drive a decent car. He will be a ‘now’ person. He won’t be comfortable with women. But he may have women friends. He will be a lone wolf. But he will be able to function in social settings…he will be either, never married, divorced or married, and if he is married his wife will be younger or older. He may or may not live in a rental, and might be lower class, upper lower class, lower middle class or middle class. And he will be crazy like a fox, as opposed to being mental.” Gladwell (2007)

31 BTK Goes Quiet… From 1991 - 2004 BTK was silent - no murders, no letters Was he dead Was he in prison Was he bored of killing Was he too old or not fit

32 BTK Returns… Resumed taunts in 2004 14 years after last killing in 1991 14 letter drops 2004-2005 Wrote to Chief Detective Kenny Landwehr via local papers Began leaving packages and notes in parks, libraries and car parks

33 BTK Returns

34 The Taunting Continues...

35 BTK Returns



38 New Victims Selected

39 Pen Pals again with SuperCop “COMMUNICATION. Can I communicate with Floppy and not be traced to a computer. Be honest. Under Miscellaneous Section, 494, (Rex, it will be OK) run it for a few days in case I’m out of town-etc. I will try a floppy for a test run some time in the near future – February or March.”

40 At the End of it All..... BTK sent the floppy disk to detectives Contained a word processed letter Metadata of the disk showed the following words"Dennis“ "Christ Lutheran Church“ "Park City Community Library"

41 Who was BTK? Dennis Lyn Rader Married father of two Heterosexual ADT home security installer (1980s) Scout Leader Church Minister City dog warden (1990s)

42 Who was BTK?

43 BondageBDSM Violent sexual fantasist Combined offending with his job



46 Questions about BTK? Why undetected by wife and children? Why so long between kills? How evaded Police for so long? Why correspond with police and journalists? Why not stay undercover – 14 years after his last kill? Any more kills after 1994?




50 Preventing Serial Murders People from marginalized groups are the focus of serial killers If we want to reduce victims of serial murder...... We need to treat those groups better Gay people Older people Homeless Immigrants Sex workers Young people

51 Refrences Canter, D.V., Alison, L.J., Alison, E. and Wentink, N. (2004), ‘The organized/disorganized typology of serial murder: Myth or model?’, Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 10, pp. 293-320. Douglas, J. and Dodd, J. (2007), Inside the Mind of the BTK: The True Story behind the Thirty Year Hunt for the Notorious Wichita Serial Killer, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Douglas, J., Ressler, R., Burgess, A. and Hartman, C. (1986), ‘Criminal profiling from crime scene analysis’, Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 4, pp. 401-421. Jackson CA, Wilson D, Kaur-Rana B. The usefulness of criminal profiling. Criminal Justice Matters, 2011; 84: 6-7. Keppel, R.D. and Walter, R. (1999), ‘Profiling killers: A revised classification model for understanding sexual murder’, International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 43, pp. 417-434. Snook, B., Cullen, R.M., Bennell, C., Taylor, P.J. and Gendreau, P. (2008), ‘The criminal profiling illusion: What’s behind the smoke and mirrors’, Criminal Justice and Behavior, 35, pp. 1257-1276. Snook, B., Eastwood, J., Gendreau, P., Coggin, C. and Cullen, R.M. (2007), ‘Taking stock of criminal profiling: A narrative review and metal-analysis’, Criminal Justice and Behavior, 34, pp. 437-453. Trager, J. and Brewster, J. (2001), ‘The effectiveness of psychological profiles’, Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 16, pp. 20-28. Wilson, D., Jackson, C.A. and Rana, B. (2010), ‘Against the medicalpsychological tradition of understanding serial killing by studying the killers: The case of BTK’, Amicus Journal, 22, pp. 8-16.

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