What It Takes to Be a Good Assassin

Lesson 1: Don't humanize your target
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 21, 2015 7:31 AM CDT
What It Takes to Be a Good Assassin
Stock photo of a non-assassin.   (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

How do assassins kill strangers without a second thought or an ounce of guilt? A successful one convinces himself or herself that the victim is a target rather than a human, and that the killing is just another day's work, criminologists say in a new study. After reviewing cases of novice hired killers—including 15-year-old Santre Sanchez Gayle, who killed a target for $310—a team at Birmingham City University found a killer could avoid negative feelings about a murder if he believed the task was all business, RedOrbit reports. Whereas Gayle killed her victim as she opened a door, then slipped away in a taxi, another would-be killer, Orville Wright, broke into a target's apartment and began conversing with the woman he intended to kill. Afterward, he couldn't go through with the crime, researchers say.

"When contract killers aren't as successful in switching off their emotions, their jobs tend not to go to plan," researcher Mohammed Rahman says in a press release. That wasn't a problem for Jimmy Moody, a gang henchman operating in the UK in the 1960s. Known for torturing his victims before shooting them once behind the ear, Moody eventually became the Irish Republican Army's "perfect secret weapon" because he "reframed his victims as targets, seeing getting the job done as a normal business activity," Rahman says. He and other successful killers "are akin to 'criminal undertakers,' who have given themselves 'special liberty' to get things done in the name of business." So what's the secret to seeing the target over the person? The answer is usually money, researchers say. The best hitmen "want to minimize risk and effort in the pursuit of maximizing profit." (A NASCAR driver claims his ex is a hired gun.)

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