Poisoning expertise and outcomes in malicious contamination incidents

Publication Date06 August 2018
Date06 August 2018
AuthorSarah Kilbane
SubjectHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology,Criminal psychology,Sociology,Sociology of crime & law,Deviant behaviour,Public policy & environmental management,Policing,Criminal justice
Poisoning expertise and outcomes in
malicious contamination incidents
Sarah Kilbane
Purpose It is often assumed that poisoners and product tamperers are likely to share an interest in or
knowledge of poisonous substances. The purpose of this paper is to determine whether perpetrators with
existing poison knowledge will choose different contaminating agents than non-experts, as well as whether
there is a link between poison expertise and outcomes in malicious contamination cases. Based on their
expertise, it is expected that those perpetrators with some form of existing poison knowledge would select
more concerning and difficult to obtain agents, and that attacks committed by experts would result in more
harm than attacks by non-experts.
Design/methodology/approach A content analysis was conducted on qualitative descriptions of
malicious contamination events, with relevant behavioural variables identified as being present or absent for
each individual case. Differences between experts and non-experts in agent choice and incident outcome
were then explored using descriptive statistics, contingency tables and Mann-Whitney U tests.
Findings Agent choice was found to differ between experts and non-experts, with different agents chosen
depending on whether the event was a threat or a genuine contamination incident. However, attacks by
poison experts were found to be no more deadly than attacks perpetrated by non-experts.
Originality/value This researchprovides the first known analysiscomparing agent choiceand outcomes in
maliciouscontaminationincidents asa factor of perpetratorknowledge. Investigative applicationsare discussed.
Keywords Expertise, CBRN, Threat, Malicious contamination, Poisoning, Product tampering
Paper type Research paper
Malicious contamination is a blanket term which can be used to describe any act of intentionally
adulteratinga consumer product, with eitherthe intent to harm or the knowledge thatan individual
could be harmed as a resultof the contamination. The consumerproduct selected could be found
anywherein the supply chain, from the point of manufacturing or distributionas in the case of many
product tampering incidents, to being found in the home after purchase, as in the case of the
typical poisoning incident. However, it is difficult to distinguish between product tampering and
poisoning incidents in many cases, as the definitions of each in the literature are oftenvague and
share considerableoverlap (Wilson and Kilbane,2017). There has been sparse researchto date in
the area of malicious contamination, although several studieshave been conducted separately on
homicidal poisoning (e.g. Adelson, 1987; Westveer et al., 2004; Shepherd and Ferslew, 2009;
Zaitsu, 2010) and product tampering (e.g. Logan, 1993; Cremin, 2001). As these studies have
either been theoretical in nature, focussing on the victims of such crimes, or looking primarily at
demographic information, little is known about the perpetrators of such crimes or their offending
behaviour. This study thus seeks to fill an important gap in the literature and provide a better
understandingof who may commit an act of malicious contamination, and whetherthe outcomes
in these incidents are shaped by specialist knowledge of poisonous substances.
Poison expertise
Due to the fact that there have been few past studies examining the perpetrators of malicious
contamination inc idents, little is known a bout poisoners specif ically. This is compound ed by
Received 9 February 2018
Revised 27 March 2018
Accepted 10 April 2018
Sarah Kilbane is based at the
University of Greenwich,
London, UK.
DOI 10.1108/JCP-02-2018-0008 VOL. 8 NO. 3 2018, pp. 187-198, © Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 2009-3829
PAG E 18 7

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