Wendy Wu ’22
From podcasts to documentaries, the world has an odd fascination with violent crime. Even decades after they occur, grisly murders are picked apart by the media and public. Another group with particular interest in murders are forensic psychologists. Their research has delved into the psyche of murderers and the factors that lead up to them committing crime. This has helped in developing criminal profiles and narrowing down suspects. Mohammud Kamaluddin, a senior lecturer of social sciences and humanities at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, offers another potential clue in profiling murder suspects: the act of concealing the victim. He hypothesizes that psychological factors influence murder concealment acts and thus, these acts can also be used for criminal profiling.
The Prison Department of Malaysia provided 71 male murderers from 11 prisons within Peninsular Malaysia for the study. Fifteen participants committed murder concealment acts. Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected. The quantitative approach gathered socio-demographic data and used four Malay validated psychometric instruments to assess personality traits, self-control, aggression, and cognitive distortion. The qualitative approach consisted of face-to-face interviews of nine participants who had disposed of their victim’s body. Through these interviews, researchers hoped to explore the motivations behind murder concealment.
There were only two murder concealment acts performed by participants of the study: dumping and post-mortem burning. Using independent sample t-tests, researchers found these participants had significantly lower mean anger scores than participants who didn’t conceal their crime. The research team explains that murderers who committed murder in uncontrolled anger and frustration were more likely to have acted impulsively. Murderers with lower levels of anger were more likely to have a plan to hide the body. At the same time, participants who dumped the body had the highest median aggressive-hostile personality score which should prompt further research.
Thematic analysis of the interviews revealed two themes behind the motivation to conceal the murder victims: fear of discovery and punishment, and blaming others. Almost all participants who hid the body claimed their main motivation was fear of getting caught. These participants would also claim to have been persuaded, even threatened, by their friends or spouses to conceal the crime. In addition to the quantitative results, gaining more insight into why some murderers conceal their victims can contribute to criminal investigations.
 M.R. Kamaluddin, et. al., The psychology of murder concealment acts. International journal of environmental research and public health18, (2021). doi:10.3390/ijerph18063113.
 Image retrieved from: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/malaysia-flag-fingerprint-country-653090/.