The examination of the salience of offence actions indicates that the consideration of any action in isolation from the others that may co-occur with it can be misleading.
Any single action may be so common across offences or so ambiguous in its significance that its use as a basis for investigative inferences may suggest distinctions between offenders that are unimportant. Models of differentiation therefore need to have foundations in an understanding of the processes that give rise to co-occurring patterns of criminal activity. These studies have tended to explore the hypothesis that these themes reflect the mode of interpersonal transaction that the offender uses to carry out the crime.
One elaboration of this mode of interpersonal transaction is that put forward by Canter (1995a). He takes a more social psychological perspective on what Canter and Fritzon (1998) call the 'locus of desired effects'. The locus here is the role the offender assigns his victim during the crime. This model is a distillation of the findings reported by Canter and Heritage (1990). Rather than the five-fold model they proposed, Canter (1995a) argued that in more general terms the five modes of transaction can be reduced to three general roles to which a victim may be assigned.
1. Where the offender treats the victim as an object (something to be used and controlled only through restraint and threat, often involving alternative gains in the form of other crimes such as theft).
2. Where the offender sees the victim as a vehicle for the offender's own emotional state, e.g. anger and frustration (the victim is subjected to extreme violence and abuse).
3. Where the offender sees the victim as a person (some level of pseudo-intimacy with attempts to create some sort of rapport or relationship).
Canter (1995a) presents some evidence for this model as a basis for differentiating rapists. More recently Canter, Hughes and Kirby (1998) have shown that the model is supported with data from 97 paedophiles. Salfati and Canter (1999) used a somewhat different vocabulary in their study of 82 stranger homicides but still presented an analogous three-fold model. More recently Fritzon, Canter and Wilton (2001) have found support for the model in their study of attempted murder. Hodge (in press) also found the model to be of value in her study of 88 US serial killers. Her particularly detailed argument and MDS results provide one of the clearest examples of this approach.
She hypothesised that for those sexual serial murderers where the role of victim was as an object, the crime scene behaviours would reflect few emotional elements with little interpersonal interaction. The offender would be unlikely to be influenced by the victims' responses, acting out a personal ritualised script, in which the victim plays no part as a human being. She also hypothesised that post-mortem injuries and sexual acts as well as excessive violence and dismemberment would co-occur with these other indicators of the 'victim as object'.
Hodge (in press) took the thematic focus on the role of victim as a vehicle to reflect more overtly emotional reactions. She points out that although the offender may well subject his victim to extreme violence similar to the offender who sees his victim as an object, there will be a difference in the concern the offender has for the sort of people his victims represent to him in his personal life. Therefore, there is likely to be a substantial level of interpersonal interaction between victim and offender. Associated crime scene behaviours may include the use of restraints and there may be evidence that the victim was kept alive for a period of time.
Where the role of the victim is as a person, Hodge (in press) hypothesised that the crime scene behaviour will reflect the importance of the victim as a particular person. She proposes that this will be shown in the co-occurrence of variables that indicate the degree and style of interaction between the two. Excessive violence would be rare, sexual activity would be more likely to be 'normal' ones such as full sexual intercourse prior to death and violence directed at specific areas of the body, especially the facial area.
As the earlier discussion of the radex model makes clear, this three-fold classification is not meant to indicate distinct types of offender but rather themes that will be present in all offences to some degree. The differences between offenders are in the emphases that any particular offender exhibits.
Hodge (in press) tested these hypotheses by carrying out an MDS analysis of 39 crime-related actions of the 88 killers she studied. The resulting two-dimensional configuration is shown in Figure 2.4.9. For full details of this analysis the original
paper should be consulted. As Hodge hypothesised, regions of the MDS configuration can be distinguished that indicate the different emphases predicted by the three-fold interpersonal model. To the right of the plot are those variables that suggest that the victim is dealt with as 'an object'. These activities have similarities to those associated with sadistic/lust murderers (Becker and Abel, 1978). Necrophiliac activities, cannibalism, hacking the body, leaving it in a posed position as well as other postmortem activities all are consistent with the victim being little more than something to use. There is no indication that the victim carries any emotional significance for the offender.
To the bottom left of the plot are those actions that indicate that the victim acts as a vehicle for the offender. The victim being held captive and being involved in the script of the offender elaborate the underlying brutality of the offence. As Hodge (in press) points out, the significance of the victim to the offender can result in the direction of excessive violence to areas of the body that hold importance for the offender. Specific types of victim are selected, and restrained, sometimes using designed crime kits (kit) and restraints (blindfold).
Hodge (in press) points out that at the top left of the plot are those behaviours that indicate that the offender perceives his victim as a person with whom his desire for some degree of interpersonal interaction is fulfilled. This theme may be indicative of the category of rape murder as proposed by Groth, Burgess and Holmstrom (1977). In such cases, the victim's responses are more likely to influence the offender's behaviour. In other words, the interaction is two way rather than from only offender to victim. Here, the victim is not only integral to the offender's script but has a 'speaking part'. The variables of sex (full sexual intercourse) and dressing the victim after the sexual assault (redress) suggest some degree of emotional significance to the victim as a person. The taking of personal documents and belongings from the victim also show an interest in the person rather than just her body.
This study of serial killers illustrates how crime-related actions can be differentiated as a first step towards the development of models that will characterise the dominant themes in criminal behaviour. It is of especial interest because it replicates findings from a number of different studies of criminal behaviour, lending support to the proposition that there may be underlying themes that differentiate all crimes.
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