It’s just business. That’s the mentality needed to become a successful hitman.

In a paper entitled ‘Becoming a Hitman’ Professor of Criminology David Wilson and Mohammed Ramand, a PhD researchers at the Centre for Applied Criminology, investigated the qualities necessary to become a successful contract-killer.

Their research suggests one commonality – the ability to dehumanise victim.

In a news release from Birmingham University it was explained that: “Hired killers who consider themselves strategists or businessman ‘just doing a job’, as one hit man described it, can convince themselves they are dealing with a target rather than a person.”

The current research was based on almost forgotten investigations by Ken Levi in 1981. Mr Levi was conducting research into deviancy management within prisons and was fascinated by the ways in which the professional killers he encountered were able to neutralise their feelings. They literally adopted and discarded psychological perspectives at will.

“We are keen to see how potential hitmen develop a psychological ‘re-framing’ of their victim, so as to be able to achieve their objectives; and how this re-framing might thereafter be maintained,” says the Wilson-Ramand paper.

“This research is of interest as there has been comparatively little academic research about hitmen, or the phenomenon of contract killing.”

The paper looks at successful and unsuccessful attempts to ref=rame victims by contract killers. Among the examples are:

Jimmy Moody: A notorious killer for London gangs in the 1960s. He was a ruthless and unrepentant murderer who later became a hitman for the IRA.

“Moody reframed his vitims as targets, seeing getting the job done as a normal business activity. These sorts of killers are akin to ‘criminal undertakers’, who have given themselves ‘special liberties’ to get things done in the name of business,” Mr Rahman said.

Te Rangimaria Ngarimu is an example of someone who was able to reframe the victim, but was unable to sustain that view. New Zealand born Ms Ngarimu had a degree in mathematics and chemisty when she accepted the contract to kill Graham Woodhatch as he attended the Royal Free Hospital in London in May of 1922. She received only 1500 of the 7000 pounds she was promised for the hit before fleeing the country.

Ms Ngarimu later returned to Britain to confess to the murder of Mr Woodhatch.

Orville Wright: A man who thought he had what it took, but didn’t. Wright agreed to a 7000 pound fee (AUD $15,000) to kill Theresa Pitkin. However, when he broke into her flat he lost his nerve, struck up a conversation with his would-be victim, and was unable to pull the trigger.

Wright was sentenced to two years in prison for his botched attempt.

Research into re-framing extends far beyond contract-killers, however. Re-framing and dehumanising are a necessary attributes for those who need to sack their staff, or those who are willing to risk safety for profit. More understanding of this area will shed light on a lot of business perspectives.

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