BIRMINGHAM, England, May 20 (UPI) -- Hired assassins must be cold and calculated. It's science -- or at least a scientific survey. Criminology researchers in England found successful hitmen, or contract killers, can convince themselves that they are hunting a moving target, not a human being.
The study, conducted by researchers at Birmingham City University, showed that hitmen must suppress their emotions to successfully execute a hit, or kill. Most novice assassins, the researchers found, adopt a 'just-a-job' mentality when approaching their assignment. They consider themselves businessmen.
In their study -- published this week in The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice -- researchers highlight a number of hired hits, both successful and not.
The 2001 murder of Gulistan Subasi by North London teenager Santre Sanchez Gayle is offered as a prime example of detachment. After shooting Subasi as she opened the door, the 15-year-old -- paid a little more than $300 for his executed kill -- quickly but calmly left the scene in a taxi, allowing no time for humanization. His detachment was later rewarded with a conviction and at least 20 years in prison.
Offered in contrast, is the story of would-be assassin Orville Wright. His assignment to take out Theresa Pitkin in 1996 ended in failure when, after breaking into her apartment, he found his "moving target" engaged in conversation. Wright couldn't bring himself to follow through.
The study offers Jimmy Moody as the gold standard in hitman detachment. Moody -- a henchman for a notorious South London crime gang in the 1960s and later a hired assassin for the Irish Republican Army -- was nonpareil in his ability to separate his work from daily life.
"Moody and the other people in our study show us that when contract killers aren't as successful in switching off their emotions, their jobs tend not to go to plan," study co-author Mohammed Rahman said in a press release.
"Moody reframed his victims as targets, seeing getting the job done as a normal business activity," Rahman said. "These sorts of killers are akin to 'criminal undertakers', who have given themselves 'special liberty' to get things done in the name of business."
Rahman, along with co-author and criminology professor David Wilson, argue that allowing financial incentives to trump empathy is key to a successful assassination.
"The motivation for most people who become hitmen is economic, so the reframing shows their resourcefulness as individuals who want to minimize risk and effort in the pursuit of maximizing profit."