Police study guide to catch serial offenders

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The Independent Online
A guide to catching serial killers, multiple rapists, kidnappers and armed robbers, is to be issued to senior detectives for the first time. The confidential manual also supports the use of offender profiling in major investigations and gives a list of recommended psychologists who can be used in trying to track down serial offenders.

Police officers believe that new investigative techniques and modern technology such as DNA sampling will reveal that there are many more serial murderers and rapists than previously thought. They also predict that many major crimes, previously believed to have been one-offs, are linked.

The handbook is being drawn up by the Association of Chief Police Officers following a number of serial crimes, including the murders carried out by Frederick and Rosemary West, and the case of Michael Sams, who was jailed for life in 1993 for the murder of Julie Dart and the kidnapping of the estate agent Stephanie Slater. The police believe important lessons have been learnt from these types of linked cases. They also want to draw together all the forensic and technological advances of the past decade.

Until this publication the police had not produced their own guide to catching major criminals. In 1983, following the conviction of the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, the Home Office produced a circular called The Investigation of a Series of Major Crimes, but that it now considered out of date and inadequate.

Among the subjects covered in the book are the latest interview techniques, the use of computerised incident rooms, how to manage a major investigation, training, how the media can help in investigations, and what help detectives can get from the newly-established Crime Faculty.

The book, which will only be available to senior investigating officers, says offender profiling - the technique of predicting the likely characteristics of an offender - can be a useful tool in major investigations. There have been remarkable successes using such techniques. John Duffy, the so- called Railway Murderer who was convicted of rapes and murders near railway lines in London in 1986, was caught as a direct result of a profile compiled by Professor David Canter.

The manual follows a year-long inquiry by a working party of Acpo's crime committee, headed by Detective Chief Superintendent Michael Jenkins, of the West Midlands police.

Inspector Clive Parsons, the group's secretary, said: "You have got to except that we are going to find more links between serious crimes in the future. We are trying to get officers not to treat major crimes as one-offs - we want people to consider links with other incidents. The police now acknowledge that they should be looking for over-all patterns of crime."

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