A criminologist professor has warned hundreds of police officers of the rising concerns over homeless people being victims of murder.

David Wilson, who currently works at Birmingham City University, was speaking at Thames Valley Police’s annual research conference on Thursday, February 11, with the professor also addressing how deaths of the homeless can be too quickly assumed as a result of underlying mental or physical health issues, rather than a serious crime.

Professor Wilson said: “A serial killer needs to be able to gain access to people that they can kill - people who are vulnerable in some way and, crucially, won’t be missed if they disappear, or won’t have questions asked about if they die.

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“The homeless - long a target group in the USA of serial killers - are one such group, and the increase in the numbers of homeless people dying in England and Wales has to be of concern.”

During his speech, Professor Wilson reflected upon his research into the groups of people targeted by serial killers – the most common being women over 60 and sex workers.

He also found that the only group of males regularly targeted are gay men, and that how the profiling of serial killers has caught the imagination of the public, the importance of exploring the cultures that produce more or less serial killers, as well as the power of the serial killer label in defining such offenders.

He continued: “We can all do something to reduce the incidence of serial murder in our communities by not ‘going into their minds’ to work out why they do it, but by challenging homophobia, having a grown up debate about the numbers of young women - and some young men - who sell sexual services, and by reconsidering the place of the elderly in our culture - an issue highlighted by Covid-19.

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Professor Wilson also delved into the potential serial killing case of Ben Field, a PhD student who worked in an old people’s home in Buckingham - the focus of Wilson’s new book, ‘A Plot to Kill’.

He added: “Field murdered his tutor and lover at Buckingham University called Peter Farquhar, and it was later discovered that he had a list of 100 other - mostly elderly people - that he may have been about to target.

“The echoes with Harold Shipman are chilling.”