All over the world serial and mass killings occur almost daily somewhere. This criminal activity is best known in the usa and the uk where the freedoms of society allow murderers to act out their psychotic murders with the protection of rules that ensure freedom of movement, rights to silence and privacy. In the past in China society was so regulated that crime in all areas was extremely difficult to conceal. However in modern China the serial killer has emerged but with backward police and communication methods for detection they often kill for years until accidentally caught more by luck than professional investigations. In this paper we will look at the patchy criminal profile of Chinese serial killers that is starting to emerge.
Background & Cases:
China has a very strict reporting system for crime – it is after the fact reporting – so the police and government keep hidden from the public many aspects of crime as the failure of authority and police to capture or control crime means losing face. Even after a long investigation and pure luck, they actually arrest someone they pay the reward money to the police investigators not the public that provided the information to capture the killers. With this level of inefficiency and low level of intelligence and cooperation within and between police authorities it is not surprising that serial killers can operate and avoid detection for long periods of time. Most of the killers come from low educational backgrounds and rural up bring from poor families which makes it even more surprising they get away with their criminal activity for so long.
A few examples of serial killers in China it will be sufficient to give a feeling for the seriousness of the situation rather than go into detail, the writer will merely give some general overviews, and (for those who would like to know more, then a quick search of Google will suffice to see many of these cases in more detail).
A 33 year old male kills six children and molests five others by luring them to his home and then sexually abusing them and then death.
A 20 year old male murders seventeen young boys by suffocation.
A male age 20, murders ten adults by knifing.
A male truck driver, murders fourteen women, raping first then killing them.
Gang of Four thieves rob, mutilate and murder seventy seven people in their homes.
Male age 29. Known as the Red Dress Killer, murders thirteen known plus numerous attacks.
A 32 year old male, kills twenty children, sexual assault and mutilation.
The Monster Killer, male, murdered sixty five people.
Male 29 year old farmer, murders twenty three young boys age 16 to 20.
A couple lures twelve women with promise of work and then murders them.
Male 34, murders seven during shop robberies.
Unlicensed male doctor poisons over 150 victims charged with three deaths for court purposes.
Male age 38, murders ten people mainly females, including a pregnant woman and mental patient.
As you can see from the above examples compared to the serial killers in the usa or EU it is hard to compare the sheer scale of the problem in China and the amount of victims in each case is much higher than other countries reported except perhaps the USSR where mass serial killers exist. To have a successful profiling system you first have to have access to information in detail about how the crimes were committed, a good developmental background of the killer and the social environment that allowed the situation to arise in the first place.
Criminal Profiling Background:
There are two profiling systems in the world that are sufficiently funded and have had some success in detecting criminals and helping to apprehend them by assisting police to narrow down the suspects in a case and to develop a strategy to capture them.
The most well know is the criminal behavioral unit of the FBI in the usa. Although not based on any real science, it does have a lot of historical data based on past serial killers and their motives, modus operanda, interviews with convicted serial killers for biographies and background. The FBI has a basic model that they train other security forces around the world to follow, one is, data assimilation, collecting information about each case, second, crime classification, looking at the type of crime for example organized or disorganized, third, crime reconstruction, looking at victim behaviour as a clue to why they were chosen by the killer and fourth, profile generation in which an outline of the killers behaviour and motives are assessed with demographics, physical profile and likely perpetrator type. The success rate of the FBI profiling is actually very low at only 17% of profiles actually helping to an arrest. This is thought to be because the FBI’s methods are fundamentally flawed as they have no control group in which to compare and contrast results. They accept the interview often at face value from criminals that lie constantly even after arrest. The other most well known profiling methods are from the UK, mainly led by consulting psychologists who have been employed by the British police to help in difficult cases. Alas on review the uk system does not fare much better than the FBI at 16% of cases when reviewed led to an arrest based on profiling. The British system was based in science where people tend to act consistently and follow patterns of behaviour. The British system was more in-depth, looking at speech patterns, social constructs, interests and obsessions. This approach although still lacking over-all success just as with the FBI, was far more accurate when post analysis was applied. In other words, although the criminal was arrested by chance (the most common way a serial killer is caught), detection or self confession, the profiles tended to be very close to the killers real life, habits and identity although they did not actually help to catch the criminal at the time.
Profiling in China:
As far as the writer is aware of there are no profilers in China and probably very unlikely to happen due to one simple reason, there are no qualified criminal/forensic psychologists in China. Also the police here are in the main street crime orientated which is why they find it so difficult to investigate any crime that is not immediately obvious. The level of education in the police is no more than glorified security guards in most cases. Having said that – one always hopes for change. The education system at all levels in China is dogged by corruption and payments for results – and so Chinese qualifications are not trusted around the world at this time. Until they organize foolproof external examinations systems such as those in the uk and USA this will continue to be the case.
An Attempt at Profiling in China.
Taking the case studies above can we identify in China the most likely suspect in a serial killing case? Here is a preliminary outline, but by know means scientific or proven. This is just an overview of the current situation from reports surfacing after convictions.
Gender: Almost always male.
Age: 20 – 35
Education: Failed high school cannot read and write very well.
Background: Rural upbringing, countryside. Ex-army
Developmental: Mother only after divorce or abandonment.
Mental Health: delusional, grandeur, no empathy shown to victims.
Method: Suffocation, Knifing, Strangulation
Other motives: robbery
Lure/Victimology: money, offer of work
Trophies: Taken in most cases, belts, clothing, and jewelry.
Disposal of Victims: often buried, but some left at scene of crime.
Type of Victims: mainly female adults and children.
History: Most had some criminal backgrounds and prison sentences for lesser crimes.
Other: Cannibalism in one or two cases.
This outline profile of course is quite wide and based on just a few cases. However even from this we can make some useful deductions. A lack of access to guns (as in the uk too) means most murder is committed using knives or strangulation methods. Some societal restriction on the sale of hunting knives as in the uk would go some way to removing access to certain weapons. Lack of access to mental health professionals is clearly a problem in China which is stuck 50 years in the past in the hospitals using outdated psychiatric methods of drugs and confinement. Failure of the education system to support rural children who cannot pay for schooling. Lack of social opportunities makes it easy to lure victims with offers of money or work. Police should cross reference their systems of information – a central data bank – that does not currently exist in China. Most of the killers at some point were still living at home with family – not loners as such – until they started to avoid the police – then moving about from province to province made them difficult to track and find. Most serial killers are statistically married with children unlike the supposed image of the lone lunatic.
Profiling in Fiction:
One of the problems with criminal profiling is television. The first TV program to highlight the science came from the UK with a series called. Cracker in which a psychologist helps the police crack all the difficult cases of murder by smart deduction based on psychological principals. However if you analyze the content most of the outcomes were as in all fiction pure luck. In the usa, there was, Criminal Minds, this was in the beginning trying to be a serious attempt at using profiling in a scientific way but soon as most of these programs lost its way in characterization and mundane stories from any other police series and so in the end was a very poor program from a real life point of view. Other programs such as the CSI were more scientific but just as far from real life as any other TV when the series moves into later seasons. The conclusion is that TV psychology vastly over-estimates the abilities of criminal profiling and that in the real world it is just not that essential to the capture of killers who by and by get caught more by chance that any other reason. A new program called. Lie to me, shows psychologists who use body language and micro-expressions to catch criminals out in a lie. This is pure fiction and not based on any credible science at all.
Profiling in China:
For the Chinese authorities to start to appreciate the support psychology could give to them – they first have to have a mind-set change to enable them to use more modern ways of looking at crime and victims. They need to allow research at prisons of past offenders to start to build a data- base similar to the FBI model but also to allow in-depth interview of motives by deception psychologists who would use cognitive interview techniques developed in Britain to ascertain real information. This is also difficult as most serial killers are executed every quickly after conviction in China. Also to enable cross fertilization of information across provinces without beucratic defenses. It would certainly benefit China to have a Criminal Intelligence Squad that was made up of experienced detectives, psychologists and criminologists working as a team on any crime, country-wide, with full powers over the local police force to investigate major serial killings when they occur. This would mean just like the FBI’s BU team specialists can be on call to help when the local police stumble and fail to protect the victims of crime. However even before all this – you have to have a teaching regime of criminal and forensic psychology available at university level and experienced teachers to give the courses. That is a long way off – as psychology in China is so poor in general here. The universities tend to concentrate on the soft sciences in psychology such as child development and cognitive work with little attention to the hard sciences in neuropsychology, biopsychology and abnormal psychology. You need good scientists to do forensic work otherwise it is all subjective as in the example of the TV shows that use the science as background to a drama about love and relationships within the characters of the show rather than project real life.
Criminal profiling in China is a distant idea right now – the necessary backgrounds, education, experts and science are just not available in the education system or the wider society. The police are too unsophisticated and untrained to be able to handle real investigations. If it is not obvious – then forget it. Corruption with in China is still wholesale in all aspects of life and so paying off the system still happens if you are rich enough and the authorities are underpaid and under-educated and so an easy mark for taking money and turning a blind eye to crime.
As China modernizes in its cities and lifestyles, so more crime from the area of those without and those with wealth will continue. The gap now between the middle classes and the rural poor is getting wider everyday and so creating the right conditions for crime where material gain is the most important thing. In China everyone seeks money as a God and empathy for others is non-existent. Perfect society in which to breed major crimes against the person such as the serial killer.