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Title: The strategic behaviour of kidnappers who ransom
Author: Phillips, Everard Mark Anthony
ISNI:       0000 0004 2734 3468
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis examines the various tactics employed by kidnappers to coerce a ransom demand during the differing stages of the offence of kidnapping. Often violent, these strategies are assumed to manipulate experiences of fear and endangerment in order to coerce the family of the victim into capitulating to the ransom demand. However, as yet, little is actually known of these methods, hence no real attempt has been made to develop a conceptual model of how offenders conduct a kidnapping, and the related strategic decision-making processes involved. Perhaps most significant, we have no idea of the factors that may influence whether the victim/s of a kidnapping will be released or killed. A central aim of this thesis, therefore, was to investigate how the strategies used by kidnappers unfold to form variations in the crime commission procedures for kidnapping, and to suggest a tentative model to account for them. The general approach categorised the actions in terms of the temporal sequence or stages of kidnapping. Given the emphasis on the literature on the possible rational and/or ritualistic nature of such behaviours, Rational Choice Theory and Script Theory were used to provide a possible theoretical framework for understanding such behaviours. The social organisation of the groups concerned was also investigated, and Cultural theory, was invoked to provide a possible theoretical basis for such social organisation. To explore these issues, 181 kidnapping for ransom cases were taken from 32 counties. . These were content analysed to produce 104 variables considered representative of the actions of kidnappers during the capture, incarceration/treatment, negotiation, and outcome/exit stages of a kidnapping event. If the hostage was murdered, the manner in which the offenders interacted with the victim, and the method employed in disposing of the body were also recorded. Facet theory was employed to conceptualise the data, hence, the non-metric multidimensional scaling procedure of Smallest Space Analysis was used to develop an empirical understanding of how various constituent variables formed the tactics used during the differing stages of kidnapping for ransom. The results suggested that during the capture stage, kidnappers tended to calculate their strategy to limit their risk of exposure; as a result, the victim was very often ambushed in a secluded location. During the incarceration or treatment stage, kidnappers often varied the tactics they used on the hostage, and the associated degree of physical and psychological abuse they showed towards their victim, in a fluid manner in accordance with their immediate requirements and their psychological characteristics. Hence, the degree of specialisation in particular tactics varied not only between kidnapping events but also within the same events. Similar variations were found in the negotiation tactics of kidnappers. Although some specialised in a comparatively limited range of negotiation tactics, the majority appeared to employ rationally calculated negotiation strategies that varied in response to the efforts of others to retrieve the victim. However, when exiting the event, offenders typically released their hostage, in accordance with a bargaining script for the event, or murdered their hostage in an instrumental and sometimes expressive fashion. Notwithstanding these variations, three broad styles of kidnapping for ransom were identified, each characterised by certain tactics with similar behavioural themes. These collectives, or 'macro-strategies', were labelled according to the particular kinds of behaviours involved; i.e. they were termed adaptive, ritualistic, and hostile macro-strategies. These three styles varied in respect to the tactics they used during the various stages of the event, the amount of rational calculation and ritualistic behaviour involved in their actions, and the degree of hostility shown towards the hostage. Thus, kidnappers who employed adaptive macro-strategies tended to be calculated in their approach and used a wide variety of tactics. However, those employing ritualistic macro-strategies, also tended to be calculating, but were more ritualistic, engaging in a narrower range of tactics. Finally, kidnappers who used hostile macro-strategies also employed a narrow range of tactics, but were considered the least calculating of the three groups. Importantly, specialisation in a narrow range of tactics was characterised by inflicting pain and suffering on the hostage. The strategies were also associated with different event outcomes. Thus, kidnappers who employed ritualistic macro-strategies and hostile macro-strategies were more likely to kill their hostage after the ransom had been paid than those who employed adaptive macro-strategies. The macro-strategies were also used differently according to the organisation of the group. Both organised and common criminal groups were most likely to employ adaptive macro-strategies, though the latter were also more likely to employ hostile macro-strategies than their counterparts. Radical groups, however, typically behaved in a more ritualistic manner during the offence. The general implications of the findings for understanding the strategies employed by kidnappers are discussed. It is concluded that aspects of Rational Choice Theory, Script Theory and Cultural Theory may be useful in providing an explanatory framework for these results, and a model is developed that incorporates the characteristics of the offenders and their actions to predict the likely outcome of a kidnapping for ransom.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available