Sex killers not anti-social loners, B.C. study suggests

One of the largest studies of sexual killers ever undertaken in Canada has turned up some surprising findings about how socially normal they may actually appear.

Average sexual killer in Canada is male, single, white, 28, with a thin or average build

Coquitlam pig farmer Robert Pickton claimed he killed nearly 50 women before he was convicted for the second-degree murder of six prostitutes from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. (CBC)

One of the largest studies of sexual killers ever undertaken in Canada has turned up some surprising findings about how socially normal they may actually appear.

Contrary to previous research, B.C. criminologist Eric Beauregard says his study's larger sample size shows sexually motivated killers aren't generally loners.

"Many of these guys were looking to have social activities with people and they were good at interacting with people," said Beauregard, who teaches at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C.

Beauregard says a significant number of sexual killers developed the social skills necessary to get close to their victims.  

"So it's important to consider the fact that some of these guys are actually good with people and instead of using a blitz approach to get their victims, they can actually use a ruse or a con," he said.

The study, which was conducted with Melissa Martineau of the RCMP, looked at 350 solved and unsolved cases of sexual homicide dating back 62 years from across Canada, with the aim of helping police investigators investigating similar crimes.

No prior sexual convictions

Another surprising finding is that 80 per cent of the killers  had no prior sexual convictions, but on average they had 1.7 convictions for violent offences and 7.3 convictions for property offences.

"I think this is important to know because if you are focusing the investigation on registered sexual offenders you may waste a lot of time, a lot of effort, on an avenue that will prove unsuccessful," he said

Beauregard found the average sexual killer in Canada was male, single, white, 28, with a thin or average build

The study found the victims had an average age of 27, 90 per cent were female, 62 per cent were white and 33 per cent were aboriginal. More than a third abused alcohol, a quarter abused drugs, a third were known to party or socialize, and 17 per cent were known to work in prostitution.

More than 80 per cent of the victims appeared to be selected at random rather than specifically targeted.

Prior to the attacks, 20 per cent of the victims were engaged in domestic activities, 17 per cent were jogging or walking,  11 per cent were partying, 10 per cent were hitchhiking, 10 per cent were socializing at a bar and eight per cent were working as prostitutes.

And in more than 40 per cent of the cases, the attackers used a con or a ruse to approach their victims, while only 20 per cent either surprised them or overpowered them.

Beauregard said he hoped the study could prove useful for police investigation and profiling of sexual killings.