A review of the functions and motives for criminal poisoning and application to historical and contemporary case files

Eryna Tarant, Emily Glorney

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review

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Aim: The psychological and motivational characteristics of people who engage with criminal poisoning has attracted limited attention in psychological literature. We sought to synthesise academic knowledge about this population, to compare this knowledge to convicted criminal poisoners and, in turn, assess whether current knowledge is relevant to risk reduction and/or applied to practice.
Method: A systematic review was conducted of criminal poisoning and attributes of poisoners using medical and psychology electronic databases from 1850- 2014, forming the academic literature data set. A cohort dataset of convicted criminal poisoning cases was generated through online and literature searches. Using content analysis, the two data sets were systematically documented to indicate details of individual criminal poisoners throughout history, noting shifts in criminal behaviours and victim selection.
Results: The academic literature and cohort case files allude to a prototype poisoner. This individual has an interest or employment within the healthcare/science profession, in which personality dispositions from life events (e.g. attachments) increase vulnerability to criminal behaviours, in which the main objective of poisoning is secondary gain or to reclaim power over their victim. Other themes revealed perpetrators to have a suspected or diagnosed mental illness that influences emotional regulation and interpersonal relationships.
Conclusion: The list of problematic behaviours generated from the convicted poisoner cohort and the literature could be utilised to alert to suspicious behaviours which could aid a framework for an early warning system, in order to ensure safety and raise the awareness of the prevalence of incidents of criminal poisoning.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2015
EventBritish Psychological Society Division of Forensic Psychology Annual Conference - Manchester, United Kingdom
Duration: 1 Jul 20153 Jul 2015


ConferenceBritish Psychological Society Division of Forensic Psychology Annual Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

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