Professor Wilson talked about his research on contract killing and the British hitman. Hitmen are often the subject of Hollywood films, but little is understood about the role of professional, contracted, killers in Britain. Professor Wilson has previously examined the actions of British serial killers, but worked with his colleagues to unearth 27 cases of contract killing in Britain between 1974 and 2013. There were 35 men and one woman involved in the murders; the number of killers outweighed victims because several accomplices were involved. One man, John Childs, carried out six murders in the 1970s; his targets included a 10-year-old boy who was killed because he witnessed the shooting of his father.
On the basis of his research, Professor Wilson was able to develop a typology of contract killers including: Novices; Dilettantes; Journeymen; or Masters. The study shows most hits involve shootings. Many of the murders, particularly those committed by Novices and Dilettantes, relate to relatively trivial issues, such as domestic or business disputes. Journeymen and Masters tended to be much more thoroughly involved in organised criminal networks. Research revealed that many hitmen bungle the job or get cold feet.
Professor Wilson's research counters certain myths about contract killers, for instance, the idea that killings are carried out in dark isolated spots by organised gangs. In fact, contract killings tend to be much more mundane with hitmen murdering their victims openly in a street near the victim's home while they are going about daily errands.
Research also revealed that the average fee paid to the hitmen was £15,180. The highest sum was £100,000 and the lowest just £200. The ages of the hitmen ranged from 15 to 63, with the youngest hitman receiving £200 to undertake a murder.
Wilson’s research was based on interviews with informants, offenders and ex-offenders, as well as court transcripts and newspaper reports. Professor Wilson’s full, published article provides more detailed information on this subject.