Security camera images recorded in Saskatchewan of Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, are displayed as RCMP Sgt. Janelle Shoihet speaks during a news conference in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday July 23, 2019. RCMP say two British Columbia teenagers who were first thought to be missing are now considered suspects in the deaths of three people in northern B.C. The bodies of Australian Lucas Fowler, his girlfriend Chynna Deese, of Charlotte, N.C., and an unidentified man were found a few kilometres from the teens’ burned-out vehicle. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Behavioural analysis can help answer the ‘why’ in B.C. murders: expert

Once Mounties have completed a review of the case over the next few weeks, families will be updated

A criminal profiler says investigators should find clues about why two men might have killed three people in northern B.C. and whether there was a leader and a follower.

Jim Van Allen, a former manager of the Ontario Provincial Police criminal profiling unit who has studied 835 homicides, said evidence can determine what happened in most cases. But it can be harder to determine motive, and that’s where behavioural analysts come in.

“The evidence is going to take them so far. It’s going to tell them who did what to whom, at what time and how. But it’s probably not going to answer the big question on everybody’s mind: ‘Why?’” he said.

“That’s one of those behavioural issues that has to be interpreted to some degree from people’s conduct, their behaviour during the crime, what was done to the victims” and other factors.

The RCMP has said its behavioural analysis unit is assisting investigators in the case of Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod, who were found dead from self-inflicted gunshot wounds in the northern Manitoba wilderness last week.

The fugitives were suspects in the July killings of Leonard Dyck, a University of British Columbia botany lecturer, and Australian Lucas Fowler and his American girlfriend Chynna Deese.

ALSO READ: RCMP confirm bodies found in Manitoba were B.C. fugitives

Once Mounties have completed a review of the case over the next few weeks, they’ve said they will provide families with an update, then release it publicly.

Van Allen said analysts in the case are likely reviewing crime scene evidence, interviewing friends and family of the suspects and looking over other material, including online posts by the men before their deaths.

It’s not an exact science but behavioural analysis has been used to create profiles of unknown suspects, to develop strategies for interviewing witnesses and to determine the truthfulness of statements in trials, he said.

“A behavioural interpretation will never have the certainty of a fingerprint comparison or ballistics comparison. That’s the nature of human behaviour.”

Van Allen, who now lives in B.C. and works for Investigative Solutions Network, has no knowledge about the McLeod and Schmegelsky case beyond what’s been made public. But in general, he said, police can learn many details about behaviour from a crime scene.

Particularly brutal killings suggest explosive anger and offer direction to investigators in cases with no suspects.

“If you see an angry crime, then we’re looking for an angry offender,” Van Allen said. “Who has been mistreated in the last few weeks? Who’s been evicted from their home? Terminated from their job?”

Crime scenes can also show that more than one killer is involved, he said.

READ MORE: Northern B.C. homicide victim’s sister accuses fugitive’s dad of failing to take responsibility

“I’ve looked at crime scenes where you see two distinct styles of conduct,” he said. “You’ll see one (victim) is treated more brutally or unempathetically than the other. You might have a minor act of consideration for one victim. And those are two different thinking perspectives — they come from two different personalities.”

If a killer’s online history reveals a search for similar crimes, that can indicate that it was planned, he added.

Analysts will pay attention to whether a killer and victim had any relationship before an attack. If someone kills multiple people with whom he or she had no prior connection, especially if there’s evidence of intended suffering, it suggests a “thrill killing spree,” Van Allen said.

Thrill killings are rare and are especially difficult to process because the offender operates with a completely different set of moral rules, he said.

“In these crimes, the offenders get a high level of satisfaction out of just committing the murder.”

The RCMP said on its website that criminal profiling can’t replace a thorough investigation and is limited by the accuracy and details of the information on which it’s based.

It “does not use crystal balls or psychic experiences; it is a logical, systematic approach for analyzing behaviour,” it said.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vanderhoof Children’s Theatre back with Frozen Jr.

The theatre group is performing eight public shows starting Jan. 29

Vanderhoof business owners appealing to BC Assessment on substantial property tax increases

Several business owners in Vanderhoof are making an appeal to BC Assessment,… Continue reading

Coastal GasLink work camp in Vanderhoof gets approved by the ALC

The work camp behind the Vanderhoof airport was first rejected by the commission in October last year

Vanderhoof post office closed until further notice

There will be no mail going in or out of the Vanderhoof… Continue reading

Nak’azdli and UNBC form partnership to preserve inter-generational stories

“Stories can empower. Stories can bring people together. Stories can be instructive,”… Continue reading

Officials reaching out to those in contact with Canada’s first coronavirus patient

The illness has sickened at least 1,975 people and killed 56 in China

Canada’s basketball community mourns Kobe Bryant after helicopter crash

Bryant was an 18-time NBA all-star who won five championships

‘Devastated’: Fans, celebrities remember Kobe Bryant after his death

Bryant played all of his 20-year career with the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers

Investigation launched after six dead puppies dumped in Richmond hotel parking lot

RAPS reminds people they can always give up puppies they can’t take care of

Canadian Lunar New Year celebrations dampened by coronavirus worries

But Health Minister Patty Hajdu said today that the risk of infection is low

B.C. VIEWS: New coronavirus outbreak an important reminder

Walking the line between cautious and alarmist

Kobe Bryant, daughter killed in California helicopter crash

Bryant entered the NBA draft straight out of high school in 1996

Risk of coronavirus low in B.C. as first case emerges in Toronto: officials

There have been no confirmed cases of the virus in B.C.

Most Read