Sunday 9 November 2014

The Trials Of A Crime Writer: When Your Friends Ask You About Murder

The Trials Of A Crime Writer: When Your Friends Ask You About Murder

It's a running joke between me and some of my friends that if they were ever to be driven to the point of committing a crime, such as murder, then I would be the best person to ask about how to get away with it. It's true that for a lot of crimes, I have done extensive research, I even own the "Forensics for Dummies" book which I have used in the past to help  me with plot lines. I also really recommend "The Crime Writer's Guide to Police Practice and Procedure" (link here) if you're in the UK and looking for down to earth and simple explanations of how the police force works. However, while I'd never claim to be an expert, and because the majority of my criminals get caught, I don't actually know the way to commit the perfect crime.

I would imagine that it would take a lot of forethought and planning. While getting ready to write a book about someone who works in a Forensics lab took a lot of research, I don't think I have the commitment, or the stomach for a life of crime. The added knowledge of watching shows such as NCIS or Castle, is that no matter how careful you are there is always going to be something you leave behind which will lead the cops right to your door. I have though, in the past, thought about the validity of so called unsolved crimes. On TV they usually get their guy...eventually, but in real life there are so many "cold cases" which may go unsolved for decades if not longer. So, how does one go about committing the perfect crime?

Well, I have some ideas, but feel the need to make it clear to everyone reading that I'm not planning to ever use these ideas in anything other than fiction. First you'd need to pick a victim who is, in no way connected to you. The first thing police will look for is an identification of the victim and then anyone who may have had a reason to want them dead. So, if you're desperate to commit a murder, then you need to make sure there is no way for the police to join the dots from them to you. The problem is that most people are not the kind of people to just randomly murder someone, which is why the perfect crime is so hard to achieve. Unless you're a psychopath or serial killer, you generally would need some kind of motive before you go around murdering random people. The motive is usually your downfall.

The second thing to remember is that if they can't identify your victim then they can't always connect the dots that will lead them to your door. This means you'll need to get rid of the hands, head and any other distinguishing marks that could leave a hint as to who the victim is. That's grisly work, I've never had to amputate or disfigure a body (and I don't think I ever will have need to) but I imagine that it takes a lot of strength and a strong stomach to deal with all the blood, guts and gore. You also need to cut through bone and remember that the CSI people will be able to tell what kind of instrument was used from the cut marks, so you'll have to be extra careful in your choice of hacking instrument.

After that comes the forensics, the human body sheds DNA through skin cells and hair. All it takes is one stray hair and if you're in the system, you're caught. Hell, even if you're  *not* in the system they have something to match you to that body should they catch up with you. All in all, I'm not really sure how you'd go about making sure that there was nothing incriminating left behind. You also have to take into account "Locard's Exchange Principle" that states that for every place you go you not only take something with you, but leave part of yourself behind. So, even if you manage to pick a random victim, remove their identity, the forensics are probably going to get you in the end.

So, while my friends and I joke about the perfect hiding place for a body, the chances are that we'll be caught before it's even cold. There is nothing like the perfect crime, and with my search history, I'd probably get the death penalty, if that was still around in the UK. For the time being, I'll stick to fictional murder, it's less messy and doesn't carry a life sentence!

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