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Can Criminologists Provide An Adequate Explanation To Serial Killers

2020 words - 9 pages

This essay aims to provide an answer to whether or not criminologists can provide an adequate explanation for serial killing. Academic experts and police believe that serial killing is the rarest form of homicide, however a serial killer is categorised as an individual who has killed three or more people, who were previously unknown to the killer, with a ‘cooling-off’ period between killings. Psychological explanations of crime provide a unique way of looking at criminals. They are more focused on the individual itself, rather than its surroundings and thus have huge input into trying to explain and categorise serial killing. However, this is not dismissing the relevance of other theoretical approaches to crime such as sociological explanations. The study of serial killing has been dominated by an individualised focus on the aetiology and biography of particular offenders (Haggerty, 2009). Movies and nightly television shows appear to emphasize highly efficient regimens in forensic science and criminal investigative analysis (profiling) that result in capturing serial killers and other perpetrators of homicide (White, Lester, Gentile, Rosenbleeth, 2011). These shows can be unrealistic but they do highlight the huge advancements that have been made in the fields of forensic science and criminal psychology. This paper will explore some of the most resent research in the areas being discussed and the information will be gathered from a variety of sources.


Difficulties arise when trying to explain the concept of serial killing, as high profile cases have proven to be so diverse, however it is not a new one. Nowadays, there are claims that serial killing is a practice that is ‘at least as old as the human species’ (Schechter, 2003: 318). By convention, a serial killer is someone who has killed three or more people who were previously unknown to them. There must also be a ‘cooling off’ period between each murder. This definition has been accepted by both the police and academics and therefore provides a useful frame of reference (Haggerty, 2009). Experts believe that these killers are rational thinkers and that they should not be considered mentally ill. They strategically plan these horrendous acts of deviance and it is believed that they get a sense of pleasure or release out of it which lasts them until they strike again. In both public and scholarly discourse, serial killers are routinely presented as unknowable, and their actions beyond comprehension. Irrespective of how many case studies we analyze, or how much data we collect, the heart of serial killers remains a black hole (Haggerty, 2009). However when trying to understand ‘why they do it?’ it seems obvious to take into consideration ones possible motives. Their motivation could range from simple greed, lust and thrills, right through to grand plans for saving the word. The killers may have suffered an abusive childhood, had strict parents, poor education (but high IQ’s) or...

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