POLICING IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE: Comparing Firsthand Knowledge with Experience from the West,
© 1996 College of Police and Security Studies, Slovenia


Polona Seliè


Some of the »masters« of Slovenian criminal investigative operative have already in the past tried to think and obtain conclusions in the ways that would be called abroad »a psychological profiling of perpetrators«. Criminal investigators, mostly in the area of homicides and sexual offences, replaced during this »naive« phase of the use of (psychological) profiling their lack of knowledge of psychological concepts rather successfully by an exceptional intuition, experience, abilities of observation and creative gathering of selected information. They obtained great success through their admirable enthusiasm, intuition, creativity and devotion to their profession.

The present time is undoubtedly a turning-point in the development of criminalistic science in the area of investigation of the most serious criminal offences of general crime type in Slovenia ( homicides, sexual offences, offences against property). It would be reasonable to define the cited area of criminal investigative work in a multidisciplinary way and place in it the psychological profiling as one of irreplaceable forms. Considering the past engagement of criminalists and present resources we could exceed the »naive«, »amateurish« use of the cited method and improve the quality and efficiency of work at the same time.


We understand psychological profiling as a special professional support and as a process of creative synthesis of ascertainments obtained at the scene of the crime, first information gathered, forensic medical and psychological, psychodinamicaly oriented skills and cognisance. The applicability of psycho dynamically oriented theoretical concepts and the capability of the psychologist to recognise concrete behavioural patterns and their interpretation in a given situation is based on numerous experiences, specially foreign ones, as well as on the postulate of psychological connection between personal characteristics (or structure respectively) and behavioural manifestations. Any behaviour must be interpreted as the result of an interaction between a personality and circumstantial conditions; vital situations, which could have a breaking impact on behaviour of a certain person, are often the product of the activities of that person. It is therefore reasonable to define the interaction between a situation (which, e.g. culminated in a criminal act) and personal characteristics of an individual ( the perpetrators, whose psychological profile is to be prepared) with psychical phenomena, like desires, expectations, motifs and interests. They all influence the creation and the choice of situations of a certain kind.

The psychological profiling has had an enormous success in the USA in the area of discovering the murderers with sexual motivation, in murders with undistinguished motive when the murderer's possible identity or the relation with the victim is not allocated. It is completely different from so-called Slovenian »folklore« homicides, caused by family - neighbourhood relations, related to the abuse of alcohol, adulteries and similar, often dramatic occurrences, where the motive is practically obvious and the path can lead quite smoothly to the perpetrator. More than two thirds of homicides in Slovenia have been of the described type.

Sexual homicides arise from different, much less transparent and/or stereotype dynamics where the motives are not clear or visible and much less directly applicable data may be obtained by criminal investigation. The serial killers represent special difficulty, often perverts and sadists, with seriously damaged personalities. A lot of useful materials were written about them by psychoanalytically oriented theoreticians, who defined the activities of a serial killer as a murder of a mother, since it supposedly reflects the demand for the prohibition of incest, i.e. a demand for a father who would prevent the access to the mother. The data of the anamnesis of serial killers often testify the absence of a fatherly figure, which obviously confirms the psychoanalytical thesis that the unsolved Oedipus situation and the prevalence of the mother's over-ego (in the sense of normative instance) bring serial killers to commit a series of murders, which protect the perpetrator from threatening the »female« (incestuous) pleasure and they represent on the symbolic level the murder of a mother (the source of these »threats«). The search for the perpetrators with the described personality dynamics requires the methods, which supplement the conventional criminalistic methods, since even the seemingly most absurd deeds could have a major information value and could be painted with a »personal touch« of the murderer. All this must be noticed, recognised, evaluated, understood, explained, psychologically connected and »translated«. In this sense the psychologist may supplement criminal investigators with a new dimension, with an insight into the latent, but not the least determinative motivation of the perpetrator.

It is undoubtedly possible to explain through psychological factors an important part of the activities of the perpetrator, however, always within the framework of a concrete situation and life history , which is for everyone coloured with numerous interactions and inter-personal transactions during the process of socialisation. The psycho-dynamic viewpoint is unequivocally stressing that the quickest and most radical structuring of the personality happens in early childhood, however this process of personality development continues and lasts throughout the whole life. While we follow the intention to form, through our work, a personality profile of a most probable perpetrator on the basis of all the data available, obtained through criminal investigation of a certain criminal deed and through psychological skills, we should understand this personality from the viewpoint of its development. We therefore look for the most probable psychological reconstruction of such development, in which we must define the obtained degree of psycho-sexual organisation, fixation, etc., as well as the level of the objective relationships , both closely knitted between them. The attained stadium of the development of object relations can be seen in interpersonal transactions or in relation to the world in general respectively, and it is therefore necessary to know how and be able to recognise and explain it on the grounds of the data gathered.


The theory of psychodynamics, which belongs to general theories of psychological determination of human behaviour, specially accentuating the latent determinants of behaviour, may demonstrate itself as an extremely productive model of thought and explanatory contents also at direct criminalistic work. However, the available quantity of knowledge increases the capability(possibility) of understanding, explanation, prevision and planning of concrete and useful strategies of investigation of certain criminal acts. Psychology thus offers a kind of »explanatory support«, usually never neglected by the »masters« of criminalistic profession, though some psychological concepts and professional terms are unknown to them. This is the reason why the psychologist's duty is also to mediate his/her knowledge in an adequate way, without unnecessary »psychologizing«, since this is the only way he/she can became a productive member of the team. The practitioners (criminalists = criminal investigators) usually believe, that »it is not important, how something is called, it is only important that it works (helps, points the way to solution)«. The psychological profile of a perpetrator, obtained on the basis of the reconstruction of the development, dynamics, traits and particularities, is a description of concrete, most probable characteristics of a certain person. However, such concrete outline of personality may be formed only on the basis of excellent knowledge of psychodynamic concepts and items.

From the latter it results that any human activity, determined in its development with inherent rules and processes of learning (life experiences reshaped by the society), derives from necessities and is aimed to fulfil these necessities. However, behaviour is only finally determined by necessities, which classifies the necessities among numerous determinants of behaviour (including also social rules). Thus the activity is in a way a reaction to various possible impulses. The higher structured mental phenomena ( conscious functions) have directional and braking function in relation to lower levels of psychical organisation (latent motivation or subconsciousness). Thus human behaviour as a whole is motivated and is running under determined rules, which include the ways in which the mind and sentiment influence the dynamics of motives in such a way that they follow the principle of energy saving instead of the principle of pleasure. Behaviour must always be understood integrally and as a whole - from the mind and sentiment to the motor activities - and especially determined in many ways, one part of behaviour determinants being latent (subconscious).

Any evaluation and/or explanation of certain behaviour (act) must, of course, be carried out integrally from the personality as a whole and must take in consideration all of its components. Present behaviour can be understood only if it is genetically researched, since similar forms of behaviour may have different psychological meaning. Any interpretation of behaviour can be rounded up only if it includes the reasons, which caused such behaviour. The interpretation of causes is impossible without taking into consideration the history of the development of basic area motives ( intentional, possessive, self-affirmative, erotic and sexual) and of the tendencies that show themselves through behaviour; the history of the development of mental abilities (e.g.: thinking) and relations with the situations in which the discussed behaviour appears and repeats itself.

Psychodynamic and ego-psychological concepts have undoubtedly important implications for psychological profiling, since it is possible to understand a lot, e.g.: from the attitude towards things (at the site of a concrete crime), from the way of execution (e.g. murder) and from the traces found on the victim (on the basis of which a forensic expert may presume what happened to the victim before and /or after the act), also about the phase a concrete perpetrator reached in his/hers (personality) development. Such findings represent an adequate basis for the elimination of certain characteristics, conditions and/or activities of the perpetrator as well as for presuming some of his other characteristics. Though strongly generalised, it is unquestionably possible to describe any perpetrator as a person not adapted to valid formal and informal regulations (norms, values) of a »normal« social and cultural system. The psychology sees in the cited fact the detriment of psycho-social functioning. One of the clearest criteria is the capability to adapt, which implicates the consideration of the principle of reality (not pleasure) and may be described as a structure of mutual relations with the environment, where man's own structures of adaptability provoke adjustments (changes) within himself and in the environment. The relation between the two is always recurrent. Certain markedly sadistic and perverse serial killers apparently lived very »orderly« and »private« lives, however in their case it was only an appearance, a social front, a superficial judgement of inattentive and non- engaged neighbours and/or acquaintances, none of which was directed toward the »private« side of life (in distinction from the already mentioned »public« side).

With the introduction of psychological profiling we have to overcome, as quickly as possible, the existent »amateurish«, unsystematic and primarily informal solving of the questions of this type. Discovery of perpetrators of criminal offences of general crime requires a quick revival and introduction of all those forms of work that could increase the professionalism and efficiency of criminal investigation service. A multidisciplinary approach is undoubtedly promising in this sense while the value and role of psychological sciences are completely verified and confirmed by numerous foreign and some of our, home experiences.

Psychological factors (dynamics, personal characteristics and behavioural patterns) of perpetrators of the most serious criminal deeds are unfortunately the phenomena on which there is very little systematically collected and arranged knowledge in Slovenia. This knowledge could of course be acquired from the analysis of successfully solved past cases and through the discussions with perpetrators, already condemned for their crimes (we plan to carry out both tasks); however, the best solution is undoubtedly to get involved in the investigation of actual, unsolved criminal offences case by case and to study and gather the data through a longer period of time. The latter is also an urgent condition for the formation of an appropriate data base, which will prospectively allow also a more valid predictability, based on the characteristics of perpetrators from our cultural area.

We believe to attain an adequate awareness and obtain necessary experience through consideration and use of both, nomothetic and idiographic approach, through direct observation and quality interviews, through direct engagement, case and document studies, as well as through adequate analytical statistics, all of which could open a path to psychological profiling as a professional support and method of work that could hardly be missing.


The investigators of the most serious forms of crimes, like homicides, rapes, some categories of crime against property, etc., are not oriented towards the discovery of socio- psychodynamic latent sources and factors of such crimes, but strive to discover concrete perpetrators as soon as possible. The criminalists may of course speed up the identification of a concrete perpetrator also with the help of etiologically oriented studies and knowledge on human functioning offered by psychology. Profiling could therefore be understood as a creative synthesis of knowledge and experiences of both professions, as a method by which the most important personal characteristics and behavioural patterns of perpetrators may be defined.

The process of the preparation of a psychological profile could rightly be compared with the process of psycho-diagnostics and the planning of treatment in a clinical-psychological situation, which is one of the more valid reasons for the introduction of psychodynamic oriented experts in criminalistic practice and analytics. The setting up of the version of perpetrator's personal and behavioural characteristics is a typical problem situation in which the information gathered has to be thoroughly evaluated at first and then the essential hypothesis set up (as basic elements of a psychological profile).

This is followed by the so-called testing of the hypothesis and the acquisition of the recurrent information, which either confirm or require modification or enable it. The cited procedure may shorten to a great extent the direct criminalistic work, since it offers a more complex awareness of the dynamics, connected with the treated criminal act and with the most probable perpetrator. The latter represents a source of welcome suggestions and recommendations for further work, which accordingly directs the attention of the criminalists on the field and increases their sensitiveness for details, which are often of focal importance for the case itself. Even the best quality and exhaustive psychological profile does not offer perpetrator's identity, however, even the presentation of the type, characteristics and particularities of a person that most probably committed a crime, represents an exceptional contribution to the efficiency of criminal investigation. Thus it is possible to learn a lot, for example in rapes, about the rapist's behaviour through a thorough and professionally, correctly carried out interview with the victim, which often gives, together with the data gathered at the site of the crime, enough ground to prepare the profile of the perpetrator.

Psychological profiling is an analytical process resulting in the description of personal characteristics as differentiating and behavioural units, which are, because of their relative durability and recognition within personal activity and structure, an adequate basis for the description of the most probable perpetrator of the proceeded criminal offence. The preparation of a psychological profile urgently requires some qualitative data from the crime site, which demands high expertness of criminal investigative work. The profile is thus based on an exhaustive analysis of a concrete criminal deed and this is the reason, why we stress so much the importance of expertly done survey. If the necessary information is not procured by criminalists, the psychological profiling could be more or less speculative and too much coloured with the possibilities of a psycho-dynamic interpretation, immanent to the level and width of the interpreter's (psychologist's) general (professional) knowledge, independently from a special (concrete) situation and criminal offence. Apart form this the preparation of a profile (in its narrower sense) is one of the possibilities, offered to an expert of psychology for creative incorporation and expert support to criminalists that are directly involved in the investigation of a certain criminal deed.

A psychologist may creatively co-operate with the planning of investigation strategy, this kind of support is specially important in the informative interviews and in the preparation for the polygraph testing. Psychological knowledge and experiences could be of great importance through a longer period of time when analysing a larger number of criminal deeds, since they represent a satisfactory basis for the definition of some determinants and attributes of criminals and of their crimes. It is not exaggerated to state that psychological profiling (in a broader and in its narrower sense) is an extremely useful »tool« in criminalistic work conceived on team.


Because of close and vital interlacing of both professions we prepared a special scheme for gathering and organisation of information for the first phase of the introduction of this method for all criminal investigators (i.e.: criminalists) working in the area of felonies and sexual crimes in the Republic of Slovenia. It is the synthesis of foreign knowledge, experiences of the best Slovenian criminalists from the area of serious felonies and demands of psychological profession (in the sense of necessary information input).

For the starting point of preparation of the cited scheme we used the thesis that the basis and the necessary prerequisite for psychological profiling of a perpetrator are a quality survey of the site of crime and an appropriate quantity of information collected. We presented the profiling to criminalists as a process that starts with the survey and continues through progressive phases. The gathering of information must be extensive - in case of murder it must include also as much data as possible about the victim, since it is often very difficult to define the type of suspect without it.

The basic premise of the described process of creative synthesis of data from the site of the crime, of psychological principles and knowledge, of experiences and understanding of criminal deeds is that intra-psychical structure (way of thinking, feeling, etc.) directs and defines human behaviour. This is the basis for the whole process of generating of personality profile of the wanted perpetrator. It runs from the gathering of data and their sorting through the reconstruction of the event to the construction of the profile and the conclusion of the investigation.

We need a number of groups of data or materials for the preparation of the profile. These are:

  1. photographs;
  2. information on the neighbourhood;
  3. forensic report (autopsy minutes);
  4. information on the movements and activities of the victim before death;
  5. complete report of survey;
  6. data about the victim.



The photographs must be big enough; specially the extent and the depth of wounds must be seen clearly. Besides the photographs of the crime site and of the victim(s) the photographic material must include also the position of the body, photographed from various angles. Apart from the photographs of the victim, the photographs from the victim's life history could also be useful, specially those which show the victim together with its family members (e.g.: with children). These could later on be used during the interviewing of the suspect.

If the crime site is an apartment, it is necessary to include the photographs of all rooms, including the place where the murder happened and the sketch of the whole apartment/house (of all floors). If it is possible it might be reasonable to add to the photographs of the surroundings also some aerial photographs, which clearly show the position of the body (if it is an outside location) or the position of the building in which the body was found. The aerial photographs alleviate the notion and the feeling of space and environment. Since it is often hard to get them we may use some quality made sketches.


The place where the body is found is not necessarily identical with the site of the murder, however the data on the racial, ethnic an social structure of the residents (in houses, blocks, streets, neighbourhoods) are an important group of information which has to be used psychologically for the preparation of the profile of the perpetrator. The data on regional origin (from Primorska, Styria, Gorenjska, Dolenjska, etc.) or the percentage and nationality of possible immigrants is also relevant for Slovenian circumstances.


The minutes on the autopsy may be illustrated with the photographs of all the injuries found on the body (details, integrity), however, we must clearly define the cuts, puncture wounds (number), shooting wounds, contusions and bruises. The way of damaging the victim is not accidental. The toxicological report must include the data on the presence of drugs and/or alcohol in victim's blood, very important are the data about the sperm found (where - specially the presence of the sperm in the anus), the results of the analysis of the pulled out hair and/or parts of hair or fur, the analysis of the smear of oral cavity may also have an important informational value. Possible post-mortem wounds must be properly presented as well.

Other observations of the dissector (his feelings, doubts, warnings) may be extremely valuable for the process of psychological profiling. We particularly think of those feelings that are usually not included in autopsy minutes and in expert opinions, but often show themselves as founded or right respectively and it is therefore necessary that the criminalist directly communicates with the dissector and that he follows the autopsy very attentively.


The data about the victim can say a lot about the perpetrator, which means that the gathering of such information must be very accurate. The report on the movements of the victim before death include data acquired at the working place, in the apartment, however, it is necessary that the place (and time) where the victim was last seen is specially clearly and exhaustively investigated and the connection with the site of the crime (murder) clarified.

Although the gathering of the information on the last known movements and possible social contacts of the victim may be painstaking and difficult, it is important to find out who was the last person the victim was seen with, it is also very important to identify the persons who were in the vicinity of the victim at that time (e.g. guests in a public house). Experience has demonstrated that the sites where the victim was last seen may represent the connection between the perpetrator and the victim. Local and temporal (circumstantial), but not familiar or other contacts or connections may be possible.


The report must include the data on time, site and weapons or tools used, etc. This is logically followed by the reconstruction of the event (versions), however, comprehensive explanations of the versions are necessary and not only enumeration by items. Criminalists often avoid the stating of versions and assumptions for which they do not have enough clues, which often puts them in a blind alley in cases of more complicated murders. In order to surpass these hindrances it might be useful to organise creative discussions and analyses in the so-called »brainstorming« manner.

Such report must be supplemented by official minutes (recordings, etc.) of exhaustive interviews with witnesses. The reliability and the validity of the data thus acquired increase if the interviews are recorded or written immediately after the end by the criminalists. Notes taken later can often be impoverished because of oblivion, (re)organisation and categorisation of information, often also because of the selection and evaluation, which may blur the meaning of original reports of witnesses.


These data regard the age, gender, race, ethnic and regional appurtenance; however, the physical appearance - description (including clothes, worn on the day of the murder), the marital status, the adaptability and conformation in partnership relations, the intelligence, the qualifications acquired and the data on education must be properly presented as well. These are mostly anamnethical data, which are based on the estimations of various valuers, however, because of this diversification they offer the possibility to form adequately a complex presentation of the life history of the victim.

On the basis of interviews with the relatives (family, friends, acquaintances, collaborators, classmates, etc.) the criminalists may properly illuminate the way of life (possible recent changes), personal characteristics and particularities, behaviour - typical behavioural patterns and/or particularities. The enumerated items may be supported by various written materials - letters, diaries, poems, messages and others, found on the victim or with its relatives, which were either written or received by the victim.

The report must define the permanent residence of the victim (previous, actual, temporary - with regard to the site of the act), sexual adaptability and conformation, profession, employment (previous one/ones, actual) and respect - professional, personal. Medical documentation has to be acquired (about physical and mental health/diseases), which may sometimes include the data on eventual fears, personal habits and bad habits and/or abuses of drugs or alcohol. In any case it is necessary to gather as much information as possible, specially about the latter, if possible from various sources in order to mitigate the subjectivity of evaluations and opinions.

The same recommendations are valid also for the evaluation of social skills, hobbies, friends and enemies of the victim. It is often possible to learn a lot of useful and precious data, even if apparently unimportant, from the interviews with people who knew the victim relatively well, therefore criminalists must meticulously record such interviews without simultaneous classification and selection of the information.

It is also of utter importance to obtain detailed data on the possible records of the victim in the operative registers of the Ministry of the Interior as well as the information about the circle of people with whom the victim had contacts (specially if it was a so-called operatively interesting person), and to complement all these with the information about possible contacts/conflicts/dealings with justice.


The presented groups of materials or data are the informational input, which represents sufficient basis for the profiling in a narrower sense. The information about possible concrete suspects is counterproductive for the process of psychological profiling since it may not self- consciously influence the attention and mental production in such a way that the generation of profile is adapted to a concrete suspect.

The collected data must be organised and tied into groups. We then define the searched for perpetrator by type and method of murder, we try to identify primary motives, the risking of the victim and of the act itself and the factors of time and location.

During the reconstruction of the event we synthesise the findings of the previous two levels and define what happened and how everybody behaved. Special attention is paid to the organisation, the selection of the victim, possible perpetrator's strategies of control and/or following of the victim and sequentially also the dynamics at the site of the crime (development of the crime and the motivation of the perpetrator).

This is followed by the preparation of the profile in its narrower sense. Personality profile of the possible perpetrator is based on the connection of the specifics of the concrete murder and the particularities of behavioural organisation of the suspected murderer. It must match the ascertainments of the reconstruction, including all the data collected and with the categorisation (of the crime, perpetrator, etc.). Simultaneous validation undoubtedly increases its value, however, it is necessary to recheck the information input in case of incongruities. The processes of psychological profiling and clinical-psychological treatment are related also in this case.

The fifth phase of the profiling coincides with the end of investigation, when the criminalists use recommended methods of work and profile of the most probable perpetrator and discover the suspect. His/her confession and protective custody are the best confirmation of the value and usefulness of the presented method.

However, it is possible that new information appears (e.g. another murder) or maybe the identification of suspects cannot be carried out or they may not be the right ones, which all requires a new evaluation of the information input, followed again by the categorisation, reconstruction and modification of the previous or the preparation of a new psychological profile.


Once the suspect confesses the crime, it is necessary to evaluate critically and to check the accordance between his confession and the ascertainments of all the phases of profiling. A very exhaustive interview with the perpetrator would cover this, but we have not attained it yet in our practice. However, only in this way, we may talk with certainty about the validation of profiling as a complimentary method, and we can proceed the acquired data also from a nomothetic point of view.

Table of Contents | Investigating the Application of Self-Adhesive Wall-Paper in Lifting Fingerprints

The HTML conversion of this chapter was supported by the
National Institute of Justice/
National Criminal Justice Reference Service
Washington, D.C.