by Zak Martin
I created this website as a forum for discussion and analysis of unsolved crimes, and in particular murder and missing persons cases. I want to make it clear from the outset that I do not intend to use these pages to discuss or reveal details of cases that I have been consulted on in the past, or that I may be involved in at the moment. I accept clients on the basis of strict confidentiality, and that applies whether they are a private individual or a major police department. It is true that details of some of the cases in which I have been involved have found their way into newspapers, magazines and TV programmes. All I can say about this is that these accounts did not originate with me, nor have I ever cooperated in or contributed to the writing of books or articles, or to the making of TV programmes about these cases. Journalists are usually able to piece together events from police statements and from interviews with relatives and friends of the missing person, or the victim, as the case may be.
I want to say a little bit here about what I do, and, more importantly, what I do not do, as there is a great deal of confusion surrounding this subject.
The single most important thing I want to make clear is that I am not a medium. I do not talk to dead people. Nor do they talk to me. Not directly, anyway.
In recent years there has been a plethora of “reality” TV shows dealing with ghosts, hauntings, mediumship and so on, to the extent that many people now understand the word “psychic” to mean communication with the dead. I have lost count of the number of times I have been asked to take part in TV shows dealing with this subject, and each time I have had to explain that not only am I not a medium, but I have no interest whatsoever in ghostly visitations or other “spooky” events that may or may not go bump in the night. And no, I would not be interested in spending a night in a cold and damp castle dungeon with your film crew in the hope of capturing “phenomena” on tape.
My area of interest is things that go bump in the mind.
I have been variously described, in the media, as a “psychic detective”, an “ESP Eye”, and a “psychic profiler”. In fact most of what I do in terms of my detection work is based on conventional psychology and standard psychological profiling techniques. I regard myself, first and foremost, as a psychologist, and my qualifications are in this subject.
The other thing I am not is a forensic profiler. I can accurately be described as a criminal profiler, a psychological profiler or a psychic profiler. But a forensic profiler is a different kettle of phish. Forensic profiling is concerned with the collection, examination and presentation of evidence for judicial purposes – that is, for presentation in court cases. The term forensic refers to “information that is used in court as evidence”. The facts that I uncover are for the consideration of police investigators only, not for the courts. My job is to solve the puzzle, or at least explain those aspects of the case which appear not to make sense. It is then up to the police to collect evidence and build a forensic case on the information or the leads I have given them. My part in the investigation is over once they have gathered enough evidence to make an arrest, or at least to proceed in a particular direction.
While at least 90% of my observations and conclusions are based on psychological analysis (and to this extent I am no different to any other criminal profiler), there is also an element of “quantum perception” in what I do. To put it simply, I am occasionally able to make intuitive leaps to arrive at conclusions not indicated by any of the known or apparent facts. This type of insight, or intuition – or whatever else you want to call it – is not admissible as evidence in court.
In law it is not enough to know that a person is guilty of committing a crime; you have to be able to produce evidence to support any charges you might make against them. Investigators have to obtain that evidence, and there are strict rules governing the methods they can use to obtain it. For example, I might be able to identify a certain individual as the person responsible for a crime, but it is then up to the police to investigate that individual and find evidence proving their involvement. I can only point the police in a particular direction.
A forensic profiler, on the other hand, is required to present psychological evidence in court. They rely heavily on datamining technology moreso than on psychological interpretation, and profiles are generated from large quantities of data. Their conclusions are presented as evidence, whose value has to be weighed and assessed by a judge and jury. In other words, their opinion is presented as evidence in and of itself, and the jury has to decide how much credence to give it.
The problem for them, of course – and for all expert witnesses – is that the defense will be usually be able to produce their own equally qualified expert witness, whose interpretation of the same evidence leads them to a completely different and contrary conclusion. Very often these “battles of expertise” come down to which expert has the most impressive academic qualifications (and that tends to be the one who charges the highest fees).
While, in theory, I could work “within the system” as a forensic profiler, it would mean abandoning the “intuitive” aspect of my approach, and it is this aspect which gives me an edge over other profilers. I prefer, in any event, to work at the “front end” of an investigation, where I am free to explore possibilities and hunches without having to worry about whether I will be able to justify my actions and support my conclusions in court, and without having to worry about things like chain of evidence and other legal formalities. As an independent consultant I am free to go wherever my intuitive nose leads me and explore avenues of investigation that would be off limits to me if I were a cog in the wheel of the legal system.
In a nutshell, then, I work on the investigative side of cases, and forensic profilers work on the judicial side. They have to work within a framework of legal restrictions and protocols that I don’t have to concern myself with. Not because I’m breaking any rules, but because my work is over before these rules come into play.
Finally, I want to dispel a prevailing misconception. Criminal profilers do not solve cases single-handedly. I am often asked how many cases I have “solved”. It just doesn’t work that way in real life (sorry to disappoint). Television and movie plots are constructed so that the solution to a mystery – usually the identity of the killer – rests on the discovery of a single, crucial piece of information. This makes for dramatic effect. In real life, however, cases are invariably solved through team work, with each member of the investigative team contributing to the pool of information. Each piece of the jigsaw is slotted into place until a complete picture begins to take shape. Some pieces of the puzzle may be more important than others, but no single piece gives the complete picture. Similarly, no case for the prosecution relies on a single strand of evidence. Sometimes – very occasionally – a single piece of information can lead to a breakthrough by revealing some important fact that was hitherto unsuspected; but even so – even if the case has been solved as far as the police themselves are concerned – a case still has to be constructed that will convince a jury of the accused person’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Most cases have to be built up slowly and methodically, with multiple strands of evidence that will stand up to scrutiny in court. It is extremely rare for a criminal to be convicted on the basis of a single item of evidence, however damning it might appear to be.
I hope that clears a few things up. The only thing I would add is that the scope of a forensic profiler differs – as do the qualifications required – from one country to another, and even from one state to another in the US. In some countries forensic profilers are involved in the investigative side of cases, as well as in the judicial side.