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Offender profiling is a set of techniques used by law enforcement
agencies to try to identify perpetrators of serious crime. Profiling
techniques have been used increasingly by police forces in many parts
of the world, while fictional representations in films and television
series like Silence of the Lambs and Cracker have generated a huge
fascination with the topic.
In 1994, as a result of the work by David Canter, the potential of
offender profiling was discovered. His involvement in the John Duffy
case proved vital in convicting the railway rapist who was originally
in a list of about 2000 suspects for two murders and five rapes.
Canter believed that the offender was a man who had or had previously
been in a long-term relationship with a woman, most likely with a
violent history within this relationship. He was right because Duffy
had first come to police attention after raping his ex-wife at
knifepoint. His need for sexual dominance was clear at this early
stage. His ex-wife recalled incidents throughout their marriage where
he had bound her and forced her to have sex with him against her will.
Canter also suggested that the offender would be living in the
Kilburn area of London where the most of the crimes were committed, in
places the attacker was familiar with.
12 of Canter’s assumptions were spot-on, Surveillance was carried out
and Duffy’s activities convinced detectives that he was their man. He
was later arrested.
Following a series of interviews with Duffy and further forensic
investigation, his childhood friend David Mulcahy was also arrested.
He was found guilty and sentenced to 3 life sentences for murder and
also received 24-year jail terms on each of the 7 rapes and 18 years
each for 5 conspiracies to rape.
The outcome of this case really did help the reputation of offender
profiling which was thought to be very unreliable up until David
Canter proved how useful it could be in solving a crime.
There were some aspects of his method though which were unconvincing,
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Duffy because the profile was still pretty broad. Canter mentioned
that the offender would like hardcore pornography, would have a
fascination for weapons and would have an interest in martial arts
which are each quite popular with many men. Canter failed to discover
that Duffy was not alone in his crimes and he had a partner only
discovered 13 years later when Duffy confessed to a prison
psychologist that his childhood friend, David Mulcahy, had been
involved in the rapes and murders.
However, Duffy was originally part of a list of 2000 suspects which
Canter’s profile managed to narrow down to a small number of main
suspects. Also, thanks to the profile they knew a lot about the
offender and about his hobbies and interests making it whole lot
easier to interview suspects, this was also said to be the deciding
point in their conviction that John Duffy was their man.