Letter: Use and abuse of profiling

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The Independent Online
NICK COHEN, commenting on the Rachel Nickell case ('Gross, wrong, tragic', 18 September), refers to 'the supposed science of psychological profiling' and later asks whether it is scientific.

No, Mr Cohen, it is not and nobody associated with it has ever claimed it to be. Robert Ressler, the former FBI agent who helped to pioneer the technique, has always insisted that it is 'an art, not a science'.

What was at fault in the Nickell case was not psychological profiling but the way the result was handled. If Ms Nickell's murderer is ever caught we will probably find that the profile drawn up was remarkably accurate. Such profiles have been accurate in the past. Mr Cohen's remark that 'there have been successes' is a very uncharacteristic understatement.

A B Scott

West Harrow, Middlesex

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