In an attempt to understand the characteristics of assassins a number of researchers have attempted to establish assassin typologies. However there is a considerable amount of controversy around these efforts. James Clarke established 4 typologies in his 1982 text, American Assassins, the Darker Side of Politics:
- Type I - These assassins view their acts as a sacrifice of themselves for a political ideal. These are politically motivated crimes, and while these assassins may attempt to escape after their acts their beliefs, passion and zeal means that capture and death are an acceptable risk.
- Type II - These assassins have an overwhelming and aggressive need for acceptance, recognition and status. These crimes are motivated by their own, personal problems. The assassination may generate the recognition they feel they have been missing in their lives.
- Type III - These assassins are ‘Psychopaths’. They do not exhibit rage or hatred at a particular person; rather, they focus on targets that represent the culture or group as a whole. It is not a politically motivated crime but instead they are contemptuous of normal social convention.
- Type IV - These assassins suffer from mental disorders characterised by hallucinations and delusions of persecution and/or grandeur. Their contact with reality is so minimal that they are unable to understand the gravity of their actions.
(Picture above: Lee Harvey Oswald, charged with the assassination of John F. Kennedy, being led by policemen.)