Cleo Smith search: Expert says abductor ‘not likely to have planned snatch’

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John FlintThe West Australian
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Missing girl Cleo Smith.
Camera IconMissing girl Cleo Smith. Credit: Facebook/Facebook

To catch a child abductor you have to understand the rare beast that is a child abductor, says a former senior detective who specialises in this type of abhorrent crime.

UK-based criminologist Dr Graham Hill said child abductions were mostly situational and opportunistic, as opposed to meticulously planned.

“Abductors react on the spur of the moment,” he said. “To stop child abduction, police need to understand child abductions, first and foremost. And understand how abductors work and why they work in the way they do.

“I’ve interviewed lots of men in prisons all over the world that have abducted and murdered children. My PhD is in men that abduct, sexually abuse and murder children.

“Very few child abductors plan their offences and once they’ve got a child, they very rarely keep them. Because to keep a child, you’ve got to keep them fed, you’ve got to keep them quiet and all of those things are really difficult to do.

“Child abduction is a really rare event. And there’s only a certain number of offenders that are going to go down that road. You can be a criminal. You can be a sex offender, but you’re not an abductor. They’re a rare animal. It takes a certain kind of person to commit such a crime.”

Dr Hill pointed to an article he wrote about the profile of abductors. In it, he wrote: “Contrary to public perception, non-familial child abductors are often model members of society. At the time of their offence, they are usually either married or in a steady relationship and many have children of their own.

“They generally have a job and many actively contribute to their communities and society as a whole.”

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