Case Studies

Jack the Ripper

In England, 1888, it was no longer safe to be walking the streets of London’s Whitechapel. A killer, given the nickname of ‘Jack the Ripper’, was stalking and murdering prostitutes in the area – five to begin with, between late August and early November, 1888, but would eventually kill a total number of seven women. ‘Jack the Ripper’ would murder the women, before partially dissecting them and leaving their bodies to be found by passing people. This case was the first case that psychological profiling was used in an attempt to catch a serial killer. A police surgeon by the name of George B. Phillips first noticed that each of the murdered victims had their organs removed with precision that could only be achieved by someone with training in the medical or butchery industry. Despite following these observations and the fact that the police received several taunting notes signed ‘Jack the Ripper’, the killer was never caught. Some notable suspects that later investigations led to included Walter Sickert, an Impressionist painter who released paintings of murdered prostitutes 20 years later, Robert Stephenson, the army surgeon/occultist/magician and another man by the name of Thomas Cutbush. But to this day, the identity of Jack remains a mystery.


The Azaria Chamberlain Case

On the 17th August 1980, the Chamberlain family was camping at Uluru in Australia’s Northern Territory, when at around eight o’clock at night, they heard a cry from the tent where their ten week old baby girl and four year old son were sleeping. Rushing to the tent, the mother of the child, Lindy saw a dingo near the tent’s entrance and upon entering, realised with horror that her baby daughter Azaria, was missing and all that remained was a pool of blood on the floor. The police arrived and a search was organized but no traces of the baby were found.

The Chamberlains were interviewed the next morning and only some of the bloodstained items were removed from the tent, with many being left behind. The family was interviewed again later on that same day, by a different officer who thought the Chamberlains’ recounts of the previous night were suspicious. A week passed and no new evidence was found, that is, until a tourist found Azaria’s vest and jumpsuit. But despite this new piece of evidence, the crime scene was not sealed off and a full examination of the clothing was never conducted. This lack of proper crime scene and evidence analysis led the police to believe that Lindy Chamberlain was lying about her story. The lack of dingo bite marks and saliva on Azaria’s jumpsuit and the fact that the baby’s shoes were still tied inside the jumpsuit while the vest was inside out, heightened the police’s suspicion even further. In 1981, it was however, concluded that Azaria was indeed taken by a dingo, allowing Lindy and Michael Chamberlain to at last get over the accusations after the tragic loss of their child and move on with everyday life.

This was however, not to be the case, because after a later analysis of the baby’s clothing, it was found that there was a bloody handprint in the shape of a women’s hand, reopening the case in 1982. Analysis of the Chamberlains’ car also revealed a pair of scissors, baby’s blood and some experts claimed that the rip marks on the baby’s clothing were actually scissor stab marks. And so it was with this new evidence that another court case was held on the 2nd February, 1982. The case concluded for what was thought to be the last time, when Lindy was convicted with murder of her daughter and sentenced to life in prison. After serving six years in prison, there was a turn in the case when baby Azaria’s jacket was unbelievably, found partly buried at Uluru. Just five days later, Lindy was immediately released from prison, but to this day, nobody knows the exact truth and we’ll probably never know.


The Love Bug

One of the most destructive computer viruses ever created was known as ‘The Love Bug’ and appeared in email inboxes with the subject line – ‘I Love You’ just several years back. Created by a Philippino man by the name of Onel de Guzman, ‘The Love Bug’ attached itself to every contact in the computer’s address books and therefore was sent all over the world in a very short period of time, spreading through a chain reaction. Investigators were eventually able to trace the virus back to its original creator through dissecting the virus and discovering its code word, ‘Barok’. At the time, Guzman was attending AMACC, a computer college in the Philippines and it was one of the professors that recognised the code word as being the same one used in a program Guzman had created and submitted as a term assignment. When police searched his apartment, they discovered disks that proved he had helped create the virus. At the time, May 2000, there was no law in the Philippines against computer hacking, but by June, a new law had been introduced, though by that stage, it was too late to apply it to the ‘Love Bug’ case. The creator of the most destructive virus in history got away with his crime completely unpunished.


Shirley McKie Story

In February 1997, a British policewoman, Shirley McKie, was accused of perjury after testifying at a murder trial, stating that she hadn’t been in the murder victim’s house, where her fingerprints were later supposedly found. Shirley’s house was searched and she was taken back to the police station where she herself was strip-searched and detained because of a controversial fingerprint that was found at the victim’s house. The Scottish Criminal Records Office, responsible for the detection of Shirley’s thumbprint at the crime scene, had 4 experts who certified the authenticity of the fingerprints that they certified, definitely belonged to Shirley.

However, Shirley persisted her innocence with the matter and was acquitted during her trial, saved from a potential 8 years imprisonment after two American fingerprinting experts endorsed that the fingerprint did not belong to Shirley. After much media activity, legal action and controversy, Michael Russell, a member of Scottish parliament, successfully requested different fingerprinting experts from around the world to verify the ownership of this fingerprint and have had to date, 171 certifications from 18 different countries that the fingerprint did not belong to Shirley.forensic ps

The main concern with the entire issue was not only its affect on Shirley’s career, but also because it concerns the accuracy of the Scottish Criminal Record Office’s earlier assertions. A civil trial, expected to be 5 weeks long, is yet to be held on the 7th February 2006, almost ten years after the beginnings of the perjury case. The death of Marion Ross, the murder for which Shirley originally testified against, remains however, yet a mystery.


OJ Simpson

On the night of the 12th of June 1994, Orenthal James Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole and her friend, Ronald Goldman, were discovered murdered at Nicole’s Beverly Hills abode by her next door neighbour. The police were notified and arrived immediately at the horrific scene to find Nicole’s severed body almost decapitated and her friend’s body, evidently fallen victim to a hysterical stabbing attack. Upon further investigation of the scene, a bloodstained left-hand glove was discovered and her two sons were still inside the house, asleep in spite of the night’s events.

Homicide experts were called in and other officers made their way to Simpson’s house, a five minute drive away, where they then discovered that he had taken a night flight to Chicago. The police noticed blood all over Simpson’s car, which was parked outside the house. They also saw a trail of blood drops leading from Simpson’s car to the front door of the house, where they discovered another bloodstained glove identical to the one found near Nicole’s body. Simpson was contacted by police at his hotel in Chicago and although he sounded distraught about his ex-wife’s death, he didn’t sound curious to find out what happened. He caught the next plane home and the police interviewed him on the same day. He had a bandaged hand which he claimed was cut some time ago and the wound had reopened when he accidentally cut it on some glass. His hand was photographed, blood samples taken and fingerprints recorded, then after all of this, he was free to go. The search of his house was videotaped and by the afternoon of the same day, all of the evidence needed was removed, recorded and taken to a laboratory along with evidence taken from Simpson himself.

Simpson was put on trial, one of the most highly publicised trials in history, and all of the evidence seemed to point to him being responsible for the murder. He had no alibi, DNA analysis showed his blood was present on a sock found in Nicole’s room, both gloves were stained with blood from both his victims and the trail of blood leading from the car to his house seemed to heighten all suspicions. The case, however, was turned around with Simpson’s expert lawyers claiming that a certain police officer present at the initial scene, was racist against black people and that the officer had plenty of time to ‘set’ the scene up while Simpson was in Chicago. The recorded tape of the investigation of Simpson’s house also revealed a large number of mistakes such as unsterile swabbing methods and unnoticed vital clues. Because of these claims from Simpson’s lawyers, the jury was convinced that Simpson was innocent and after a nine-month trial, Simpson was cleared of murder charges and that was that.

To read more case studies and learn more about this fascinating subject, take a look at our Forensic Psychology Diploma.

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