The Psychology of Serial Killer Investigations

1st Edition

The Grisly Business Unit

Print ISBN: 9781493301348
eBook ISBN: 9780080515397
Imprint: Academic Press
Published Date: 20th August 2003
Page Count: 232
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Serial killers like Seattle's Ted Bundy, Maryland's Beltway Sniper, Atlanta's Wayne Williams, or England's Peter Sutcliffe usually outsmart the task forces on their trail for long periods of time. Keppel and Birnes take readers inside the operations of serial killer task forces to learn why. What is the underlying psychology of a serial killer and why this defeats task force investigations?

This is the first book of its kind that combines state-of-the-art psychological assessment experience with the expertise of a homicide investigator who has tracked some of this country's most notorious serial killers. The author also brings to the book hands-on best practices gleaned from the experience of other task forces.

Readers, both professionals and students, will benefit from the comprehensive and critical case reviews, the analysis of what went wrong, what went right, and the after-action recommendations of evaluators in the US, UK, and Canada.

The book covers:

  • The nature of the psychology of a serial killer
  • How crime assessment profiling reveals that psychology
  • Why psychological profiles fail
  • How serial killer task forces defeat themselves
  • How the media can, and usually does, undermine the task force operation
  • The big secret of all serial killer investigations: police already have the killer's name
  • The best practices for catching a serial killer

Key Features

  • Comprehensive case reviews of some of the US's and UK's most baffling serial killer cases
  • A list of best practices for serial killer task force investigators
  • Recommendations for how to manage comprehensive files and computer records
  • Practical advice on how to manage the media: what to say and not to say
  • Insight into what a serial killer might be thinking and doing to stay away from police
  • Recommendations for setting up and administering long-term investigations
  • Practical tips on how to maintain a task force's psychological edge and avoid defeatism


Criminologists, forensic psychologists and psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, social/organizational psychologists, police executives and instructors

Table of Contents

Introduction. Recognition and Acknowledgment of Serial Murder. The Archetypal Serial Killer Task Force Investigation: The Yorkshire Ripper Case. Anatomy of an Investigation. The Consulting Detective. The Paul Bernardo Case. Profiling the Serial Killer: The Efficacy of Profiling. Taking Control of Denial and Defeat. The Playbook. Best Practices. Index.


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Academic Press
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"...This book combines psychological assessment experience with the expertise of a homicide investigator who has tracked some of this country's most notorious serial killers." -LAW ENFORCEMENT TECHNOLOGY