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Criminology Research into sadistic sexual murders of children could aid police


Offenders use ruses to lure their victims and commit their crimes in isolated places so as not to be noticed


Sexual homicides involving children are often highly publicised and traumatic for victims’ families and the public, especially while the offender remains unidentified and not sentenced. A study highlighting specific patterns to these murders could help police in their investigations. 

With support from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), Julien Chopin, a Swiss postdoctoral researcher and criminologist at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, examined an as yet unexplored aspect of these homicides: sexual sadism. 

In his studyexternal link, published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Chopin highlights patterns associated with these homicides. 

For example, very young victims are almost always male, their torturer is still relatively young, and the crimes are mostly committed outdoors. As the age of the criminal increases, the victims are more often pubescent, female and the crime scene may also be in the home. 

“Our study provides new knowledge to police that can help them to reconstruct the sequence of events even when the evidence present at the scene of a crime is confusing,” says Chopin. 

The findings may also contribute to the search for relevant profiles, to identification of suspects and to their possible arrest. 

“They also show that we can’t continue to apply blindly what we know about cases involving adult victims to the specific case of crimes committed against children,” he says. 

Crime scene clues 

The researchers pointed out that crimes of sexual sadism committed against children have unique characteristics that distinguish them from both crimes of sexual sadism committed against adult victims and conventional sexual crimes committed against children. 

The study shows that there is a certain logic to the way offenders plot their crime. They think about it and plan it at length. 

“They target areas of predation and children or teenagers who are unsupervised, for example while riding their bikes or hitchhiking. They use subtle ruses to lure the children. They commit their crime in isolated places so as not to be noticed,” Chopin says. 

“Since they may be recidivist offenders, it is in the interest of the police to systematically collect clues at the scene of the crime and compare them with their databases,” he adds.

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