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A tribute

Dr. Elliott Leyton consulted with FBI, Scotland Yard on high profile murders

Campus and Community

By Chad Pelley

Dr. Elliott Leyton was a world-renowned expert on serial killers and mass murderers, dubbed by the London Times as the “Godfather of criminal psychology.”

Dr. Elliott Leyton advised the RNC, FBI, London’s Scotland Yard and others on serial killers.
Photo: Chris Hammond

The professor emeritus of anthropology at Memorial, passed away on Feb. 14. He was 82.

‘Required reading’

Dr. Leyton was regularly called upon to help investigators worldwide get inside criminal minds.

He advised the the RNC, the RCMP, Interpol, the FBI’s academy in Quantico and London’s Scotland Yard.

Detective Constable Rupert Heritage, who ran a police unit in England that specializes in developing psychological profiles of criminals, told MacLean’s, “It’s strange that Elliott manages to do all this great work even though he’s sitting out there on the far end of nowhere.”

That far end of nowhere was at Memorial University, where he taught (among other courses) the immensely popular War and Aggression.

Dr. Leyton is best known for his book Hunting Humans: The Rise of the Modern Multiple Murderer, which CBS News dubbed as “required reading for every homicide detective in America.” Other titles included Sole Survivor: Children Who Murder Their Families.

Filled a gap

It was a book about serial killer Ted Bundy, that he noticed his wife reading, that piqued his interest in murderers.

But when he headed into his university library to read more about them, he found nothing.

A book cover in red and black with the words "Hunting Humans by Elliott Leyton" are in white.
Dr. Leyton’s book was heralded as “required reading for every homicide detective.”
Photo: Carroll & Graf Publishers

He decided to fill that gap. Four years later, he published Hunting Humans.

His findings and theories surprised people. Dr. Leyton concluded that mass murderers and serial killers are not “freaks of nature” as society had long presumed, and he offered new ways of understanding them.

It was groundbreaking reading for investigators trying to catch a killer: motive, and being able to predict their behaviour, was the key to apprehending them before they struck again.

Dr. Leyton was born in Leader, Saskatchewan, and grew up in British Columbia.

He joined Memorial’s then-Department of Sociology and Anthropology in 1967.

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