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The Science Of True Crime © Andy Potts

The Science of True Crime

Published: 12th December, 2018 at 04:00
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This BBC Focus Special Edition reveals the cutting-edge techniques being used to catch criminals.

Most of us have a morbid fascination with crime. We may not like ourselves for it, but we can’t help clicking on a news story about a serial killer or watching just a bit of a gory documentary as we flick through the channels. Why? What’s the allure?


It’s the spectacle – just like we ‘rubber neck’ a traffic accident on the motorway, a serial killer’s actions may horrify us but we struggle to look away, because we get a hit of adrenaline. Plus, we love to be scared – provided it’s in a protected environment. From the safety of your sofa you can get the heart pumping watching some horrific crime drama. And a series lets you join in the fun of solving the crime as the episodes unfold.

We’re even drawn to tantalising characters we should be repulsed by, such as psychotic killers. Who didn’t have a bit of a crush on the unhinged, sassy assassin Villanelle in the recent hugely popular BBC drama Killing Eve?

A good script writer will cleverly make us half love/half loathe a villain. That’s because they create an authentic character. In reality, most of us are a mixture of light and shade – very few people are pure evil.

This special issue reveals how real-life serial killers become murdering monsters, why psychopaths don’t necessarily carry out violent crimes, and how crime scene investigation really works (it’s not quite like on TV). It also investigates how genetics is being used to solve cold cases, and how maths and AI can combat hackers and terrorists. Plus, discover the cutting-edge techniques that could one day be used to fight crime. Get ready, the robocops are coming…

The Science of True Crime


  • Understand how forensic science works
  • How psychological profiling changed the FBI
  • The DNA detectives solving unsolved crimes
  • How brain injuries can create criminals
  • Take a test to see if you are a psychopath
  • How maths can help predict terrorist attacks
  • Robocops: the future of crime fighting

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Daniel BennettEditor, BBC Science Focus

Daniel Bennett is the Editor of BBC Science Focus. He is an award-winning journalist who’s been reporting on science and technology for over a decade, writing about the science of serials killers, sandwiches, supernovae and almost everything in between.


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