In my fantasy series, The Queen’s Blade, the assassin Blade takes up the trade only because he has to eat. He doesn’t enjoy the work, but doesn’t particularly dislike it either. To him, it’s just a job, and one he’s able to do due to his horrific past.
What motivates real life assassins? What goes through the mind of someone who is able to plan and commit the murder of what is often a complete stranger? Not many assassins are lunatics who are obsessed with the target….
Here are the facts, courtesy of a Secret Service study in which 83 assassins and would-be assassins (over a period of 50 years) were interviewed and analysed.
* Assassins or would-be assassins rarely act on impulse – attempts are usually well planned.
* Less than 50% of assassins have or show signs of mental illness.
* 43% have a history of being delusional.
* A third of assassins value the assassination act more than the target’s identity.
* 0% send death threats. (Some studies, however, show that 4% sent death threats.)
* There doesn’t seem to be a set psychological profile that all assassins fit into. However, there is usually an obvious behavioural pattern.
* 86% are men.
* 77% are white.
* Known assassins’ ages range from 16 to 73.
* Around 50% are single.
* About a third have children.
* Almost 50% had attended college.
* 25% had a full-time job at the time of the assassination or attempt.
* Four fifths have never been arrested for a violent offence.
* 44% have histories of chronic depression.
* 54% have a history of harassment.
* 41% have threatened suicide at some point.
* Almost all the assassins analysed had experienced a recent traumatic event, such as the loss of good health, a job, a spouse or other loved one.
* Most assassins said the reason for their assassination attempt was to gain fame.
* A handful said they wanted political change.
* Only a few had co-conspirators.
* Some wanted to gain attention for a cause.
* Some wanted to get revenge for a perceived wrong.
* Some wanted to end their suffering by being killed during the assassination attempt.
* Some claimed they wanted a ‘special relationship’ with their target.
* A handful said that voices told them to assassinate the target.
So it seems that, like my fictional assassin, Blade, most real life assassins also embark upon assassinations due to trauma in their lives. Traumatic events often change people, and most assassins were once (and still are) ordinary people like you and I who were simply pushed too far – or who perceived themselves to be pushed too far.