Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Criminal Profiling: Part 1 History and Method

International Influence

The Killer Department
The Killer Department
Profiling may be useful even after an offender is caught, as illustrated with the infamous Andrei Chikatilo, Russias most demented and prolific serial killer. From 1978 to 1990, he raped, brutalized, and murdered at least 53 women and children. Richard Lourie describes it in Hunting the Devil, and Robert Cullen offers The Killer Department, a book on which the HBO movie, Citizen X, was based.

Trying to narrow possibilities for suspects, chief investigator Viktor Burakov, influenced by what he knew about the FBIs program, asked several psychiatrists to draw up a profile. Most refused, but Dr. Alexandr Bukhanovsky agreed to study the few known details, as well as the crime scene patterns, to come up with an extensive profile. The killer, he said, was a sexual deviate, 25 to 50 years old, around 5'10" tall. He thought the man suffered from some form of sexual inadequacy and he blinded his victims to prevent them from looking at him. He also brutalized their corpses, partially out of frustration and partially to enhance his arousal. He had difficulty getting relief.

Andrei Chikatilo
Andrei Chikatilo
Once Chikatilo was caught, the state officials were unable to obtain the confession they desperately needed to prosecute him. Finally, when the probability loomed large that the man would be released, they brought in Dr. Bukhanovksy. The psychiatrist saw right away, writes Cullen, that this was the type of man that he had described in his 1987 profile. So many of the indicators were there - ordinary, solitary, non-threatening. Painstakingly, he read the profile to Chikatilo, admitting that he might have gotten some of it wrong. His description went into the nature of Chikatilo's mental illness and some possible reasons for it. As Chikatilo listened, he heard his secret life described so clearly that he began to tremble. Finally he broke down and said that it was all true. He had done those horrible things and he began to confess to 56 murders, although there was corroboration for only 53: 31 females and 22 males.

The FBI got wind of this case and notified authorities there that they admired the work that Burakov been done to bring this killer in. (The delivery of this news to the lead investigator was the most moving moment in the film.) Despite national boundaries, the method of psychological analysis appeared to have international ramifications.

Just as this case drew media interest, so did others, and eventually a fiction writer was granted access to the BSU.