by Dr Adam Lynes, Lecturer in Criminology at Birmingham City University

You may have heard of Christopher Halliwell, an ex-taxi driver from Swindon, in the news recently for his attack and subsequent murder of two women. It was revealed that Halliwell, operating as a taxi driver, picked up both Becky Godden and Sian O’Callaghan in Swindon prior to murdering them and disposing of their bodies miles from where they were picked up. There appeared to be a sexual motivation behind his crimes, with his victims being discovered semi-naked and in remote areas near water – an important resource often utilised by organised killers in order to remove forensic evidence.

With Halliwell now found guilty for the murders of these two women, questions surrounding this killer’s past have been raised by both the media and the police with regards to whether there may be more victims. With this in mind, I thought I might explore this question in relation to prior research and understanding into the behaviours and actions of previous offenders – in particular serial killers (which is what Halliwell would be if found guilty of one more murder).

One of the most important factors to consider here is Halliwell’s age. At 52 years old, Halliwell was already in his forties when he committed his first known murder – that of sex-worker Becky Godden. Murder is often considered to be committed by much younger men and, in the case of serial killers who are much older when eventually apprehended (Harold Shipman and Fred West, for example), there is evidence that they began murdering at a much younger age. Another important thing to consider is the confidence in which Halliwell appeared to possess when committing his crimes. In particular, he appeared to demonstrate a level of forensic knowledge when disposing of his victims’ bodies, with Halliwell removing certain items of clothing that may have contained his DNA or other forms of forensic evidence that could be linked back to him.

It was also revealed during the course of the investigation that Halliwell had collected a large pile of womens’ clothing. Whilst this of course does not necessarily mean that they belonged to more victims, the collecting of such clothing could indicate that they could be “trophies” collected from previous crimes.  The collecting of trophies are a common feature for serial killers, in which the collection of items from victims (such as clothing, jewellery, and even hair) is done in order for the killer to “relive” the moment in which they killed that particular individual.

Another important factor to consider is Halliwell’s profession as a taxi-driver. Through my own research into the significance of driving as an occupational choice for British serial killers, it was revealed that transient-related professions were by far the most commonly selected form of employment. So too, each serial killer to have held a driving related profession (Peter Sutcliffe; Robert Black; Fred West; and, Levi Bellfield to name but a few) were sexually motivated and predominantly targeted young women.

There are important instrumental advantages to having such an occupation, such as an ability to cross police jurisdictions (and effectively create linkage blindness between their various murders) and hide in plain site as they search for victims. Both of these important practical advantages provide access to isolated young women who may be walking along the road and, more importantly, not raise initial suspicions given the seemingly valid reason of their presence. With such advantages afforded to Halliwell by way of his occupation, and the fact that he was already in his forties by the time he killed Becky Godden, it would be foolish not to take the possibility of other victims seriously.

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