Lundrigan, Samantha and Canter, David V. (2001) A multivariate analysis of serial murderers' disposal site location choice. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 21 (4). pp. 423-432. ISSN 02724944

The application of environmental psychology principles and findings to the work of criminal investigators is gaining ground. This paper presents one particular application of these principles to the study of those very rare criminals, serial killers. An environmental psychology perspective looks on the rational processes that may underlie these disturbing and highly emotive crimes. For, although the murders committed by serial killers may not be considered rational, but rather a consequence of heightened emotion and lack of impulse control, environmental psychology hypotheses predict that their choice of disposal site location may be guided by a recognisable rationality. Support for this rationality would be evident through their spatial patterns of disposal locations, but these spatial patterns themselves would vary depending on the range over which the offender was operating. It was therefore hypothesised that their spatial patterns would reflect the importance of a) the centrality of the home location for determining the disposal site locations, b) the relevance of maintaining distance between sequential disposal site locations themselves. Further, c) the nature of the influences of home and sequence would vary with the size of the area over which the offender disposed of his victims' bodies.

The hypotheses were tested by examining three sub-sets of a sample of 120 American serial murderers, each sub-set travelling a different average distance from their homes to their crimes. The Multidimensional Scaling Procedure, Smallest Space Analysis (SSA-I) was used in order to examine the trends across the distances between each disposal site and every other and their distances from the offender's homes. A three dimensional space was used so that the ‘dimension’ of temporal sequence could be revealed as well as the two dimensions of geographical distances. All hypotheses were supported. Firstly, the home was central to the SSA disposal patterns for each of the three sub-sets. Secondly, the location of each subsequent disposal location tended to be in a different direction from that immediately prior to it. However, thirdly, this sequential process was strongest for the sub-set of 36 offenders who travelled on average less than 10 km and weakest for those 40 offenders who travelled on average greater than 30 km. The implications these results have for modelling offenders' geographical behaviour are discussed

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