My Psychological War on Rapists; GRIM WORK OF FEMALE 'CRACKER'

The Mirror (London, England), November 24, 2000 | Go to article overview

My Psychological War on Rapists; GRIM WORK OF FEMALE 'CRACKER'


Byline: DIANE TAYLOR

SHE looks like an attractive businesswoman with her immaculate blonde hair, perfect nails and elegant pink suit.

But Helen Skeltor's business would leave others quivering - she is a psychological profiler, a female Cracker whose mission is to get into the minds of Britain's most evil rapists - and put them behind bars.

Softly-spoken Helen heads a team of analysts at the National Crime Squad, the elite, intelligence-gathering organisation often compared with America's FBI.

She is the only woman boss in the service and every day must deal with cases and sights that would make even the most hardened copper recoil in horror.

It was Helen who helped put away Michael Sams, kidnapper of estate agent Stephanie Slater and cold-blooded killer of prostitute Julie Dart, in one of the most notorious cases of the last decade. But despite the successes and a gradual toughening-up over the years, Helen will never get used to the cruelty men and women inflict upon each other.

She says: "Those emotions don't go away but I have learnt to hide them better. When you spend a lot of time looking at sexual violence, child abuse and murder, you see some of the cruellest aspects of life.

"I studied investigative psychology to learn how one human being can do something like that to another and still carry on."

Helen, who has a masters degree in investigative psychology, specialises in researching the motivations of sex offenders. She collects information from contacts, witnesses and police surveillance and puts it together, using charts to plot the movements and characteristics of the suspect.

In cases where rape has turned into murder, she tries to fill in as many gaps as possible, such as who the victim associated with and what happened immediately before and after the crime. She says: "The analysis I make can generate new leads."

Helen has conducted extensive research into the psychology of rapists and has compared the circumstances of date rape, referred to as non-stranger rape, with rape by an unknown man.

"Rape is a very under-reported crime although a high percentage of rapists have convictions for other crimes," she says. "Around 40 per cent of those who know their victims are serial rapists."

HELEN also points out that the stereotype of a man in a balaclava hiding behind a bush waiting to pounce is rarely the reality.

"A lot of rapists go through a con. It can be something simple such as 'Have you got the time?' to something far more elaborate. One rapist used to chat up his victims in nightclubs. He courted the woman for several weeks before raping her.

"But these men progress fast. By his sixth offence, he picked up a woman at a club, got her straight into his car, beat her black and blue and then raped her. …

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