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Last Updated: Friday, 20 February, 2004, 13:57 GMT
Police to interview mass killers
Police believe long-term inmates may want to talk
Police want to interview every serial killer in Britain in an attempt to work out patterns of murders.

Scotland Yard are also analysing 12 other categories of murder, including stranger attacks, "honour" killings, and those motivated by homophobia.

Police want to know how the killers initially avoided detection, in the hope of making early arrests in future.

Where possible, the detectives who were originally in charge of their cases will conduct the interviews.

They will be accompanied by a behavioural psychologist and a crime analyst.

They tell you what they want you to know and to some of them - particularly, I found, with Sutcliffe - it was a game
Former police chief
Keith Hellawell

It is not clear what criteria police will use to decide who falls into the serial-killer category because the Home Office keeps no definite numbers.

Scotland Yard will need Home Office permission to enter prisons and conduct interviews.

The interviews were planned following the Washington sniper attacks in 2002, in which 10 people were murdered in the United States.

One of Britain's best known mass murderers, Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, who killed a least 13 women, had been interviewed by police before he was eventually caught.

Dennis Nilsen claimed to have killed 16 young men but was only arrested after the discovery of human flesh by a drains engineer investigating complaints of an unpleasant smell.

Railway Rapists

Other candidates for interview include the Railway Rapists, John Duffy and David Mulcahy, responsible for three murders and a string of brutal rapes, and Colin Ireland, who pleaded guilty to murdering five men in 1993.

The interviews with serial killers are part of a wider initiative that will also see work on 13 categories, including domestic killers and those who murder prostitutes.

The Metropolitan Police is conducting the research on behalf of all forces in England and Wales.

They know many killers will refuse to co-operate but believe some mass murderers will talk to them - especially if they have been in prison for a long time.

If the project is successful, it may eventually be extended to all killers.

Former police chief Keith Hellawell, who interviewed Sutcliffe, said interviews with killers could be useful but said there must be caution.

Previous convictions

"They tell you what they want you to know and to some of them - particularly, I found, with Sutcliffe - it was a game."

Mr Hellawell questioned the "credibility" of suggestions that the initiative could stop serial killers earlier.

"Once in a decade or twice in a decade we have one of these people who are serial killers out of 60 million," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"It is virtually like looking for a needle in a haystack.

"Many of them have no previous convictions and it is only when they murder once that you have some basis on which to operate."

Keith Hellawell, former West Yorkshire policeman
"They tell you what they want you to know"

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