Be­havioural anal­y­sis can help an­swer ‘why’ in B.C. mur­ders: ex­pert

The Prince George Citizen - - News - Amy SMART

A be­havioural in­ter­pre­ta­tion will never have the cer­tainty of a fin­ger­print com­par­i­son or bal­lis­tics com­par­i­son. That’s the na­ture of hu­man be­hav­iour.

— Jim Van Allen

VAN­COU­VER — A crim­i­nal pro­filer says in­ves­ti­ga­tors should find clues about why two men might have killed three peo­ple in north­ern Bri­tish Columbia and whether there was a leader and a fol­lower.

Jim Van Allen, a former man­ager of the On­tario Provin­cial Po­lice crim­i­nal pro­fil­ing unit who has stud­ied 835 homi­cides, said ev­i­dence can de­ter­mine what hap­pened in most cases. But it can be harder to de­ter­mine mo­tive, and that’s where be­havioural an­a­lysts come in.

“The ev­i­dence is go­ing to take them so far. It’s go­ing to tell them who did what to whom, at what time and how,” Van Allen said.

“But it’s prob­a­bly not go­ing to an­swer the big ques­tion on ev­ery­body’s mind: ‘Why?”’

“That’s one of those be­havioural is­sues that has to be in­ter­preted to some de­gree from peo­ple’s con­duct, their be­hav­iour dur­ing the crime, what was done to the vic­tims” and other factors, he said.

The RCMP has said its be­havioural anal­y­sis unit is as­sist­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tors in the case of Bryer Sch­megel­sky and Kam McLeod, who were found dead from self­in­flicted gun­shot wounds in the north­ern Man­i­toba wilder­ness last week.

The fugi­tives were suspects in the July killings of Leonard Dyck, a Uni­ver­sity of Bri­tish Columbia botany lec­turer, and Aus­tralian Lu­cas Fowler and his Amer­i­can girl­friend Chynna Deese.

Once Moun­ties have com­pleted a re­view of the case over the next few weeks, they’ve said they will pro­vide fam­i­lies with an up­date, then re­lease it pub­licly.

Van Allen said an­a­lysts in the case are likely re­view­ing crime scene ev­i­dence, in­ter­view­ing friends and fam­ily of the suspects and look­ing over other ma­te­rial, in­clud­ing on­line posts by the men be­fore their deaths.

It’s not an ex­act sci­ence but be­havioural anal­y­sis has been used to cre­ate pro­files of un­known suspects, to de­velop strate­gies for in­ter­view­ing wit­nesses and to de­ter­mine the truth­ful­ness of state­ments in tri­als, he said.

“A be­havioural in­ter­pre­ta­tion will never have the cer­tainty of a fin­ger­print com­par­i­son or bal­lis­tics com­par­i­son. That’s the na­ture of hu­man be­hav­iour.”

Van Allen, who now lives in B.C. and works for In­ves­tiga­tive So­lu­tions Net­work, has no knowl­edge about the McLeod and Sch­megel­sky case be­yond what’s been made pub­lic. But in gen­eral, he said, po­lice can learn many de­tails about be­hav­iour from a crime scene.

Par­tic­u­larly bru­tal killings sug­gest explosive anger and of­fer di­rec­tion to in­ves­ti­ga­tors in cases with no suspects.

“If you see an an­gry crime, then we’re look­ing for an an­gry of­fender,” Van Allen said.

“Who has been mis­treated in the last few weeks? Who’s been evicted from their home? Ter­mi­nated from their job?”

Crime scenes can also show that more than one killer is in­volved, he said.

“I’ve looked at crime scenes where you see two dis­tinct styles of con­duct,” he said.

“You’ll see one (vic­tim) is treated more bru­tally or un­em­pa­thet­i­cally than the other. You might have a mi­nor act of con­sid­er­a­tion for one vic­tim. And those are two dif­fer­ent think­ing per­spec­tives – they come from two dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties.”

If a killer’s on­line his­tory re­veals a search for sim­i­lar crimes, that can in­di­cate that it was planned, he added.

An­a­lysts will pay at­ten­tion to whether a killer and vic­tim had any re­la­tion­ship be­fore an at­tack.

If some­one kills mul­ti­ple peo­ple with whom he or she had no prior con­nec­tion, espe­cially if there’s ev­i­dence of in­tended suf­fer­ing, it sug­gests a “thrill killing spree,” Van Allen said.

Thrill killings are rare and are espe­cially dif­fi­cult to process be­cause the of­fender op­er­ates with a com­pletely dif­fer­ent set of moral rules, he said.

“In these crimes, the of­fend­ers get a high level of sat­is­fac­tion out of just com­mit­ting the mur­der.”

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