Friday, August 21, 2015

Victim Profiling...

As crime writers we spend a lot of our time thinking about murder and murdering. Or is that just me?

A question I get asked often is 'How can I possibly spend so much time thinking about such horrible things?' To which  I answer 'well yes, but the horrible things get  sorted out, the bad  guys get caught- they  do not get away  with what they  wanted to get away with!' It’s the modern day morality tale.

 As result, I tend to write about murderers that have a ‘good reason’, in their heads anyway, to murder. I don’t think I could write about a Yorkshire Ripper type of murderer where there is no good psychological reason – that  sounds as if I think there ever is a good psychological  reason  for murder but what  I mean is – a good one that I as a writer can get my emotion behind. A bit of  – there  but for the grace  of God ...

But what about victim selection… how much do crime writers think about that?

Last week in Glasgow, a man was sentenced to life without parole for the horrific murder of a student and while everybody agrees that it was brutal and that he is guilty, it’s her, the victim, who is the talking point of the case.
Why her? Why that victim?
He was a predator, he knew what he was looking for when he went out that night.
Why did he choose her? Out of all the young women out in nightclubs in Glasgow that night, why her?
What made her walk in to his line of vision?  He watched and waited as she isolated herself from the herd so to speak, and all he had to do was wait and watch, watch and wait until the time was right, then he pounced.

For some reason she left her friends in the nightclub, left her outdoor jacket behind and went out into a busy street.   Outside, without her friends, he approached her and struck up a conversation.
She got into the passenger seat of his car where he knocked her unconscious with a spanner, killed her  and her body was found a few days later, cut up and  partially dissolved in acid.…. To a perfectly sober, fit, healthy, young intelligent woman, in a busy city centre street at night.

Are there born victims and born survivors?
After all, nowadays much is gained from profiling the victim as well as the offender.
In the 1949 book, The Criminal and his Victim by Hans Von Hentig, the suggestion is made that the  victim may be as responsible for the murder as the perpetrator is.
                                                        Von Hentig
30 years earlier Franz Werfall the book Not the Assassin/ Murderer but the Victim is Guilty (1920) has the narrative based on the same lines. Both these works say that some people initiate violence towards themselves.  It is an unpopular thing to say. 
But I’m sure we have all seen it, people who take risks, who constantly make bad choices. People who do dangerous things, as if their self-preservation switch is easily turned off. And they make the same mistakes again and again. We do see it in the clinic, women who perpetually play Russian roulette with their health,  making bad choices in relationships, going from one abusive man to the other, getting drunk, going home with men they don’t know, and not knowing where their children are …


 There is of course a theory that women who behave like that are lacking in self-esteem but there is another theory which is non pragmatic psychology; some people are just born victims.  Colin Wilson purports a theory which in my mind somehow interrelates with the ideas of traditional Chinese acupuncture; that some people bounce back from bad luck and refuse to absorb it, the whatever 'doesn’t kill you makes you stronger' theory. Whereas others almost absorb bad luck and continue to repeat patterns of behaviour that bring more bad luck and they then wallow in self-pity and a lack of self-responsibility until they are just beyond help. Even their own health takes a downward spiral that is beyond their reach although to a clinical mind it is very easy for them to get themselves better.

Colin Wilson also mentions the Jungian theory of synchronicity; the non-coincidence which takes us back to some people being the bad luck magnet.  Sounds more like karma to me.
                                                         Colin Wilson
To take it one step further, there are those who seem to attract bad luck, apparently through no fault of their own, it just follows them around.
My pal who on the surface appears to be, luckiest man alive.Tall, dark, handsome, intelligent – jet set life style, knew many world leaders personally, no money worries, does a job he adores.  Then lost his mum, dad and brother. No family left. Got married. The child never happened, then really serious illness, twice! Going round the world looking for a cure. It’s a manageable, he’s alive but two of his greatest loves;  fine wine and a good curry (not together) now denied him due to his condition.
The Black Dahlia said “something sure hexed me” but when you consider the life that she led .. was she in some way responsible for her tragic death.… While researching this blog I read that the true crime writer Colin Wilson purported that Jack Kennedy was also a born victim; for somebody who was so lucky, he was also extremely unlucky.  His childhood illnesses, his war experience and then the theory – any theory of his assassination that he was either shot by someone who seemed capable of missing a cow’s backside with a banjo or shot by a stray bullet from one of his own security men entirely by accident.  Does that mean that fate actually just caught up with him?
I have another friend who brother was murdered when he was 18, her other brother and sister are ill.  She doesn’t keep well, jobs go wrong, bullied, house burned down. You name it... lucky white heather as we say… but somehow… does she attract it.
Some of us would say it was Karma.

It was Goethe who said “would I be so stupid as to be born unlucky”

I don't necessarily agree with the above. I'm just putting it out there so to speak. I think I'll end with a Val McDermid quote that I know came from elsewhere. It's funny that the harder I work, the luckier I get.

Caro  21 08  2015


  1. I have also run across those who seem to attract misfortune and I tend to stay away from them lest some of their jinxed life should rub off on me. Another saying along the lines of McDermid is that you've got to be successful to be lucky and you have to be lucky to be successful.

  2. Obviously, not all coins are minted equally, and some coins get put in glassine envelopes while others get put on railroad tracks. The number of variables is almost uncountable.

    However, in the "putting yourself at risk" group, there was my uncle (my dad's oldest brother) who was a "skirt chaser." He didn't see marriage (his or anyone else's) as any kind of impediment, if anything, it added to the spice of the game. He had an affair with his wife while she was married to her first husband, then cheated on her with many other women, finally having an affair with the wife of the man who, after his divorce, decided enough was enough and shot (and killed) my uncle with a deer rifle.

    Just unlucky I guess...

  3. IMHO, EvKa's uncle was asking for it. But I REFUSE to say the girl outside the nightclub deserved to be murdered. The murderer is to be blamed, NOT his victim. When I was sixteen years old, I was at my friends birthday party. I cannot remember what drove me outside, but something that happened at that party was breaking my teenage heart. As it happens, I wound up lying in the dark on her parents lawn, looking up at the stars. I did not learn until years later that what I saw was the Perseid meteor shower. I saw a score or more of shooting stars. Had the been in the 21st century and at a nightclub in Glasgow, I might have been dead. The killer would have been the monster, not me.

    Luck is another matter. I am a very lucky person, to my way of thinking. But there are a lot of people who would say I have been supremely unlucky lately. I had 38 years of a great marriage. My husband came down with Alzheimer's disease when he was only 67 and I was 63. Now I am married but I find myself alone. I prefer to think I was supremely lucky to have had the time great times I had. A lot of people never get five years of a great marriage, much less 38. Lucky me!!!
    Perhaps luck, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

  4. I believe in being observant of your surroundings at all times. Even in the shower. Especially when not alone.

    The world is a dangerous place, and if you want to go out and play in it, you must exercise diligence and common sense. Luck is when the safe doesn't fall on you. Foolishness is getting drunk or drugged and wandering about in strange locales alone. Male or female.

    On the JFK point, Jim Benn is substituting for Cara on Tuesday with an eyeopening expose on JFK's true PT 109 story, including the back pun intended.

  5. Fascinating post, Caro. A lingering question I have is whether one can do something to change the 'luck' or more importantly the 'ill luck' someone else constantly experiences. Like somehow open their eyes to their self-damaging behaviours. I'm sure we all know people we'd like to help in that regard.

  6. Stan, I think for some people their 'Bad Luck' is hard wired, for some reason. In the UK there is a Tv programme filming the same people at 7 year intervals. They are now at 56 years of age and the ones who made bad choices at 14 and 21, are still doing it at 56. Others have been knocked down by fate, picked themselves up and carried on, vowing not to repeat that mistake. It's fascinating stuff for nosy folk like writers!

  7. Annamarie, I accept your point and it is a difficult subject to broach as, of course, only the man who murdered Karen is responsible for her death. Nobody else. But if twenty drunken Scottish crime writers had come round the corner while you were heart brokenly watching the meteor shower - you would have moved sharpish, I'm sure.
    I recall a cop saying to me, having a dog like that doesn't mean you won't be broken into, but it will make a burglar choose an easier target. Same logic I supppose.