`Cracker' of Yard solves rape riddles

NEW RESEARCH by Scotland Yard's own female "Cracker" is helping the police to catch some of the country's most dangerous rapists and predict future sex offenders. A previously unreported Home Office study of 210 solved sex assaults has found that nearly all convicted rapists who attacked strangers had previous convictions for burglary and theft, rather than sexual offences.

The person behind the advances in profiling rape suspects is Anne Davies, one of the country's top analysts and criminal behavioural psychologists. She is helping the police to narrow down likely rape suspects in "stranger" attacks - traditionally among the most difficult cases to crack.

There were 33,500 reported sexual offences in England and Wales in 1997, including 6,700 rapes. About 80 per cent of rapes are solved - because most are carried out by someone known to the victim.

The new research for the Home Office involved the examination of 210 solved stranger sexual assaults involving a male assailant and a female victim. Most of the attacks took place in the Metropolitan police area, West Yorkshire, Humberside, Greater Manchester and Northumbria. The researchers found 84 per cent of the serious sexual offenders had a criminal record before they attacked a woman. Of those, nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) had convictions for theft, over half (56 per cent) for burglary, and exactly half for violence offences. Only a third of the sample had been caught and convicted for a previous sexual offence.

The findings have already proved useful in predicting likely suspects. The Home Office report, "Predicting the Criminal Record of a Stranger Rapist", concludes: "Analyses used in the study explicitly identify offending behaviours which, alone, or in combination, could suggest to an investigator that an offender would have previously come to the attention of the police for a particular type of crime."

Ms Davies' work, as head of analysis at the Metropolitan Police's directorate of intelligence, involves examining what a stranger rapist, sometimes a serial attacker, actually does and says. She examines statements from victims about how they coped and how the attacker behaved towards the victim.

One of the keys is whether there are indicators of previous criminal experience, for example if the man reveals he has knowledge of how the police will investigate the crime.

Ms Davies looks to see how the offender controls his victim - either verbally or via a weapon. The recent trial of the serial rapist Richard Baker heard how he loved to control his victims with threats.

The rapist's sexual behaviour also provides clues, including whether the woman was able to negotiate. "You are looking to see how violent he is and whether he has a previous record, or has beaten his wife.

"A lot of rapists often have difficulty in getting an erection. There's a gap between reality and fantasy," she explained. "Some do it for fun, it's a thrill. Others enjoy asking people whether they want to die. Someone who is turned on by death and dying is considered potentially very dangerous."

Clues to the social background of an offender are given by the level of intimacy and aggression. "You try to build a picture of the guy. You look for signs of planning and fantasy. If signs of planning it's likely he will do it again."

Ms Davies is keen to distance herself from the intuitive methods used by her television equivalent in Cracker.

She believes the techniques should become increasingly based on science. "Insights and intuition can lead to horrible mistakes - I think Cracker is just entertainment."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine