David Wilson
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Criminology and the legacies of Clarice Starling
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This chapter explores the enduring myths about the phenomenon of serial murder generally and serial killers in particular, in Britain between 1960 to the present. The Chapter argues that many of these myths have been created and continue to be perpetuated by the print and broadcast media. It is suggested that this process was ignited by American popular culture about serial murder, to the extent that many British students engaged on university courses do so because they want to emulate the heroine of the popular novel The Silence of the Lambs and become the fictional character, Clarice Starling. This observation is used to explore other myths about offender profiling, the role of the profiler in police investigations and the idea that this involves entering the mind of the serial killer by the profiler. Based on his own applied work with serial murderers and on police investigations and after their conviction, the chapter reveals the realities of the phenomenon of serial murder, serial killers and the limits of offender profiling. The chapter uses a number of situations encountered during police investigations and with serial killers to illustrate its arguments. It concludes that we need to harness, rather than dismiss, student interests in this territory in more productive ways. It adopts a structural/victim perspective about serial murder, as opposed to a relentless focus on what might motivate the serial killer to kill. The chapter suggests how this might be done both within the academy and, more broadly in public policy.

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Law in popular belief

Myth and reality

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