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'I saw the man who killed Anna Lindh!': A case study of witnesses' offender descriptions

Journal article
Authors Pär-Anders Granhag
Karl Ask
Lisa Öhman
Anna Rebelius
Erik Mac Giolla
Published in Psychology, Crime and Law
Volume 19
Issue 10
Pages 921-931
ISSN 1068-316X
Publication year 2013
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 921-931
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.1080/1068316X.2012.71...
Subject categories Psychology

Abstract

An archival study was conducted using offender descriptions reported to the police by witnesses (N=29) of the murder of Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh in 2003. All descriptions had been collected within a month after the attack, and each witness had been interviewed between one and five times. Description accuracy was established using photographs of the perpetrator, captured by CCTV cameras minutes before the attack. Contrasting previous archival studies, offender descriptions were quite unreliable (42% of reported attributes were incorrect), and this pattern held for both basic features (e.g., height, age) and more detailed attributes (e.g., clothes). The completeness and accuracy of descriptions increased after (vs. before) images of the perpetrator had been published in the media, but only with regard to the perpetrators’ clothes. We acknowledge the potential effects of co-witness influence and post-event information.

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