Thu, 05 Apr 2012 16:28:00 BST
Singer Meredith is also an investigative psychology researcher who aims to improve the accuracy of offender profiling
BY night, Meredith Gafford (pictured) is a singer with a scorching voice whose band Punch Drunk Soul is a knockout hit with audiences. But by day she is an investigative psychologist who pores over the details of murder cases, aiming to compile a body of research that will help detectives and courts in the fight against violent crime.
The American-born PhD researcher has other dimensions to her packed life as well – she teaches psychology to undergraduate and masters students at the University of Huddersfield, where she has been based since 2009.
Punch Drunk Soul is a Huddersfield-based duo of Meredith as vocalist and Matt Fisher, who plays guitar and piano. The duo perform some cover versions, but plenty of original material too (sample some of it at http://www.punchdrunksoul.com/).
As a musician and songwriter, Meredith draws on long experience gained with bands in U.S. centres such as Denver and San Francisco. But although music has been a major passion since childhood, she studied psychology at university in her native Colorado, moving on to San Francisco for a highly-marked master’s dissertation in forensic psychology.
She wanted to take this a stage further and move into the burgeoning field of investigative psychology. It meant she needed to relocate to the UK, where Professor David Canter – based at the University of Huddersfield since 2009 – is acknowledged as the principal pioneer of the discipline.
Meredith’s own PhD research project is now well under way. She has obtained the files of more than 70 closed UK homicide cases from 1983 to 1991. By analysing them in detail she aims to develop new insights that will lead to ever more accurate profiling of offenders – drawing on cases of the past to help solve and understand new crimes.
“I am looking at offender characteristics, victim characteristics and crime scene characteristics,” says Meredith.
The distinctive aspect of her research is the emphasis she places on the life history and the characteristics of offenders – examining their lifestyles, their upbringing and whether or not they were abused as a child and working out how much these elements played a part in the kinds of crime they were ready to commit.
She places stress on the importance and potential of detailed research.
“If a police force commissioned access to closed case files, we could model the different types of homicide applicable to their region. We could then examine their current unsolved cases to gauge what kind of offender we are looking for, aligning factors such as crime scene characteristics and victim choice to what we’ve learned about offender characteristics.”
“Profiling for so long has been based on hunch, but what we are trying to do in investigative psychology is move away from that, basing our inferences on cumulative and comprehensive research,” adds Meredith.Back to news index - All Stories