David Canter became known internationally in 1986 for the offender profile he drew up which helped the police to catch the “Railway Rapist” and serial killer John Duffy. This was the first time such a contribution was made to a police investigation by a Professor of Psychology (anywhere). It was also the first time that “offender profiling” had been used by the United Kingdom police. This early profiling work was the subject of the documentary Helping Police Enquiries and featured in many others.
In the last few years David Canter has taken a more active role in helping to shape such documentaries, writing and presenting them. This has included a regular slot in a thirteen part magazine programme Crime International, shown on Sky and around the world, and the six part series for Channel 5, Mapping Murder (also broadcast around the world, including on BBC America), which he co-produced, wrote and presented. He was the “anchor” commentator for the recent Channel 5 programme Murder Hotel and an earlier three-part programme on Fred West, and both he and his work featured heavily in an episode called Unmasking the Truth on Australian Nine Network newsmagazine 60 Minutes.
A number of television documentaries have also been built around his earlier work, including his work on the psychological implications of places, human actions in fires and other emergencies, way finding in buildings, homelessness in London.
- In Print
Although he is often raided for quotes by the print media, right across the board from The Sun to the Independent on Sunday, wherever possible he prefers to write for them himself most typically for The Times (for an overview and links, click here. Please note the Times is now behind a paywall). He has written for all the broadsheets, on crimes and criminals in the public eye, as well as his earlier work on behaviour in emergencies. His book Criminal Shadows was serialised in The Sun.
He has been “profiled” in New Scientist, The Sunday Times, and been the celebrity guest on Radio 4’s Eureka (click here for a PDF of the transcript). David has an active (his wife would say obsessional) interest in composing contemporary music, which led to his being the celebrity guest on Radio 3’s Private Passions in 2002.
David started appearing on television as a commentator and discussant as early as 1967 as a regular contributor to a late night discussion programme “No Easy Answer” on BBC Scotland, when he was 23 years old. Since then he has been a talking head on two or three documentaries a year, as well as being interviewed on just about every TV and radio news programme, from The Big Breakfast, through This Morning and on to Today and Mid-Week with Libby Purvis, and endless local radio programmes. He had a regular slot on BBC Radio Merseyside where he discussed matters in the news from a psychological point of view.
However experienced in dealing with the media, David is not prepared to operate as a “rent-a-quote, media shrink”. By the same token, he does not consider it is appropriate to comment on ongoing investigations within the United Kingdom unless invited to by the Senior Investigating Officer.