Offender Profiling – How Reliable is it?

One role of a forensic psychologist during an active investigation, can be to assist by creating an offender profile. An offender profile is the creation of a psychological profile on an offender based on the evidence and state of a crime scene. We saw this method of investigation be used in the case of Rachel Nickell. However, can this method cause more problems than solutions?

In the case of Rachel Nickell, an offender profile was built by the very well-known psychologist Paul Britton. However, this profile actually proved to be more of a barrier in the investigation then a helping hand. Due to the profile created matching a male named Colin Stagg down to a tee, the Metropolitan police built an obsession with Stagg, even after there being no evidence to convict him and public calls into the police describing Robert Napper as matching the description. Due to this, Robert Napper was not arrested for the crime for many years, which as a result, allowed him to go on and murder many other victims.

However, in the case of Ted Bundy, offender profiling was the main thing that helped in his capture. That and the fact that after a while Bundy became sloppy. In the offender profile, the offender was described as being ‘an intelligent man, but one who was very insecure’ (Flow Psychology, 2014) The profile also stated that the offender was not a wealthy man, however, was surrounded by wealthy people. In this case, it would be Ted Bundy’s classmates in his law school.

Both of these cases used the investigational technique of offender profiling, however, both had very different results. Do you think that this method is reliable enough to be relied upon in such serious cases such as murder or rape?


Flow Psychology, 2014. Ted Bundy Psychological profile. [Online] Available at;


By Shelby Keppel

CILEX Apprentice

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