Hazelwood and Douglas (1980) – ‘The Lust Murderer’

Hazelwood and Douglas (1980) – ‘The Lust Murderer’, FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin 49 (4), 18-22.


This is the first study we look at from the ‘Making a Profile’ section of ‘Making a case’. As part of your OCR A2 Psychology Exam. It is further categorised into ‘Top Down.

This study is also referred to as:

  • Hazelwood et al., (1980)
  • Douglas et al., (1980)

Firstly, what is profiling? Profiling is a range of characteristics proposed by a psychologist of an offenders to the police in order to narrow the scope of their investigation.

The background study for this theory, is Holmes and Holmes (1989).

Firstly, what is profiling? Offender or criminal profiling is simply the attempt to predict and create the likely traits and behaviours of an offender of a crime. The likelihood is that you already could begin to have a guess at the type of person that committed a crime. For example three women are found strangled and sexually assaulted at three different, but closely located train stations. It is more than likely that a male committed these offences. Criminal profiling done by professionals is in essence what we just did, but it goes into more depth.

Holmes and Holmes (1989) identified 3 aims of profiling:

Aim 1: Social and Psychological Assessments – considering the following: 

  • Personality
  • Age
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Type of Employment (or employed status)
  • Marital Status
  • Level of Education

Aim 2: Psychological Evaluation of Belongings:

Once aim 1 has been completed and a profile of the offender has been made, the profiler should attempt to suggest any possessions that may be linked to the crime scene, for example:

  • Scene Souvenirs (i.e victims shoes etc…)
  • Specific Pornography that could be linked to the crime in question

Completing this aim allows the Police detectives involved in the case the ability to list such potential evidence in a search warrant.

Aim 3: Interviewing Suggestions and Strategies

Once a profile has been made the profiler should make suggestions about how best to interview the suspect. The reason for this is that individuals will respond to questioning differently depending upon: the nature of their crime, their personality and their motivation for committing the crime. For example a person who has committed a crime simply to see if they can get away with it is going to try and outsmart the interviewers, as such the interviewers should prepare accordingly.

According to Boom and Davis (1992) there are two primary approaches to profiling.

  • The Top Down Approach used by the American FBI
  • The Bottom Up Approach used by the British

 The Top Down Approach used by the American FBI

The top down approach was produced from a series of in-depth interviews with 36 convicted sexually orientated murderers including Ted Bundy and Charles Manson.

The profiler uses the evidence from the crime scene to create the profile of the offender and then uses typologies to advise the Police of interview techniques and the potential of reoffending. An example of the typologies: If the crime has been well-planned and it is a murder, then it suggests the likely characteristic of an offender with an above average IQ.

The top down approach attempts to classifies offenders into types. These types are based upon the nature of the crime, the violence involved, the motivations and the offenders likelihood to reoffend.

Hazelwood and Douglas (1980) describe the beginnings of the top down approach in their theory.


Hazelwood and Douglas published their account of the ‘lust murderer,’ in which they advanced their theory of the organised and disorganised offender for the first time. Their theory postulates the beginnings of the typological approach to offender profiling, which has continued to develop ever since.

Their theory suggests that a crime scene is similar to a fingerprint, in that a crime scene can be used to identify the offender in a similar manner to a fingerprint.

There are two main typologies postulated in this theory:

  1. Organised Offenders
  2. Disorganised Offenders

Both of these typologies can be inferred from a crime scene.

An organised offender will exhibit the following qualities:

  • They will lead an orderly life and will kill after experiencing a critical event in their life.
  • Their actions will reflect both planning and control. This can be seen if they have brought restraints to the scene and a weapon.
  • The crime scene will therefore reflect their order and planning.
  • The organised offender is more likely to use a verbal approach with victims.
  • The organised offender is likely to be of high or above average intelligence, socially competent and is more likely to be employed than disorganised offenders.

The disorganised offender will exhibit the following qualities:

  • They are likely to have committed the crime in the heat of the moment.
  • Their crimes will display no pre-planning or thought, this will be shown by they use of items already at the scene.
  • They may have left blood, semen, fingerprints and the murder weapon behind.
  • The disorganised offender is likely to be less intelligent and socially competent than the organised offender.

Hazelwood and Douglas Evaluation

+ It has been successfully used in Canada and the Netherlands and has helped to solve a number of high profile cases. (Ainsworth 2000)

+ The theory works well with crime scenes that present evidence in such a way as to identify the the typology of the offender.

– The theory is not based upon psychological principles, we can therefore say it is lacking in validity.

– The profiles created from the application of the this theory may be based upon the subjective interpretation of the individual profiler.

– Typologies are limited to murderers and rapists.

– Speculating about and offenders motive may not prove helpful in apprehending the offender.

– Classifications are not greatly detailed.

Audio Podcast


Hazelwood and Douglas (1980) – ‘The Lust Murderer’, FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin 49 (4), 18-22.


Further Reading

Mapping Murder: The Secrets of Geographical Profiling

Criminal Shadows: Inside the Mind of the Serial Killer

OCR A2 Psychology Student Unit Guide: Unit G543: Forensic Psychology (Student Unit Guides)


Article Name
Hazelwood and Douglas (1980)
Hazelwood and Douglas (1980) - 'The Lust Murderer', FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin 49 (4), 18-22. Background This is the first theory we will be...