Behavioural crime linking in serial homicide

Pekka Santtila, Tom Pakkanen, A Zappala, D Bosco, M Valkama, A Mokros

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)


The present study aimed to identify dimensions of variation in serial homicide and to use these dimensions to behaviourally link offences committed by the same offender with each other. The sample consisted of 116 Italian homicides committed by 23 individual offenders. Each offender had committed at least two homicides. As some offenders had worked together and some murders involved more than one victim, there were 155 unique pairings of offenders and victims. Dichotomous variables reflecting crime features and victim characteristics were coded for each case. Using Mokken scaling, a nonparametric alternative to factor analysis, seven dimensions of variation were identified. Five of the dimensions described variations in the motivation for the killings. Three of these were concerned with aspects of instrumental motivation whereas two of the motivational scales described variations in sexual motivation. The two remaining dimensions dealt with the level of planning evident in the crime scene behaviour of the offender. Two dimensions were identified: one consisting of behaviours suggesting a higher level of control and another describing impulsiveness. Using discriminant function analysis with the dimensions as independent variables and the series an offence belonged to as dependent variable, 62.9% of the cases could be correctly assigned to the right series (chance expectation was 6.2%). The implications of the results for serial homicide investigations are discussed.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)245–265
Number of pages21
JournalPsychology, Crime and Law
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • behavioural consistency
  • crime linking
  • offender profiling
  • serial homicide

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