He­len Pilcher talks to foren­sic psy­chol­o­gist and au­thor Kerry Daynes.

Foren­sic psy­chol­o­gist Kerry Daynes talks to He­len Pilcher about psy­chopaths, stalk­ers and the sur­real side of work­ing with se­rial killers

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What do you do?

I’ve spent a lot of my ca­reer work­ing with peo­ple who have se­vere per­son­al­ity dis­or­ders, in­clud­ing psy­chopaths and sex­ual of­fend­ers. It was my job to make them less of a risk.

What’s it like work­ing with these peo­ple?

It can be sur­real. I worked with one se­rial killer, a trained butcher, who dis­mem­bered peo­ple. You have to build up a rap­port with peo­ple in or­der to work mean­ing­fully with them, so we cooked to­gether. He taught me how to bone a turkey! All along I was aware these were the same skills that he used on his vic­tims.

Which are you more like, Clarice Star­ling or Cracker?

Nei­ther, these fic­tional char­ac­ters are ‘pro­fil­ers’. Cracker was an emo­tion­ally dam­aged Scot who tramped all over crime scenes. It’s an in­ac­cu­rate por­trayal of what peo­ple like me do. But any­thing that sparks the pub­lic’s in­ter­est in sci­ence and psy­chol­ogy is okay in my book. What was it like the first time you met one of these of­fend­ers? It was a bap­tism of fire. I was 21 years old, do­ing re­search in a high-se­cu­rity prison, in­ter­view­ing men who had raped and mur­dered their vic­tims. While it was daunt­ing, I was able to sep­a­rate my­self from it emo­tion­ally and get on with the job. In the end, the prison of­fi­cers were more dif­fi­cult than the of­fend­ers.

How do you mean?

It was an in­ces­tu­ous, in­sti­tu­tional male en­vi­ron­ment. The guards or­dered me to re­move my shoes be­cause they were ‘too sexy’. They even ran a book on who would be the first to sleep with me! Things have moved on since then and I don’t work in pris­ons any more. Foren­sic psy­chol­ogy is ac­tu­ally a very fe­male world.

Does your pro­fes­sional life ever spill into your pri­vate life?

I be­came the vic­tim of a stalker. He watched me, bought web­sites in my name and said dam­ag­ing things about me in pub­lic. The po­lice could only is­sue a ha­rass­ment warn­ing but I took civil ac­tion against him. It stunned me how in­ad­e­quate the cur­rent laws are, but it did give me first-hand knowl­edge of what it’s like to be a vic­tim.

Do you ever think about quit­ting?

I’ve worked with the most misog­y­nis­tic, dan­ger­ous men imag­in­able. It takes its toll. I made a con­scious de­ci­sion a while ago to stop work­ing with them and start work­ing more in gen­eral men­tal health and with vic­tims. I’ve also branched into the cor­po­rate sec­tor. Do you meet many psy­chopaths in the busi­ness world? Yes! One in ev­ery 100 peo­ple are psy­chopaths and 20 per cent of CEOs score highly on psy­cho­pathic traits. Mod­er­ate lev­els of psy­cho­pathic-like traits can be use­ful, as long they’re tem­pered with com­pas­sion and hu­mil­ity. I draw on my unique ex­pe­ri­ences to teach

skills to busi­ness lead­ers. I think I am go­ing to worry about you. Prom­ise me you’ll be okay? I’m pretty re­silient. I come from a very sta­ble and ‘nor­mal’ back­ground; that helps. I also have two enor­mous dogs, Humphrey and Foz­z­chops. When the com­plex­ity and in­hu­man­ity of some hu­mans feels a lit­tle over­whelm­ing, the sim­plic­ity and in­no­cence of a happy dog is a great an­ti­dote.

Kerry Daynes is a con­sul­tant psy­chol­o­gist who has worked with some of the most no­to­ri­ous crim­i­nals in the UK. Her most re­cent book is Is There A Psy­cho In Your Life?.

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