A Huddersfield academic has tackled one of society’s great taboos as part of his contribution to a new book.
Criminologist Dr Jason Roach, who lectures at the University of Huddersfield, delved into the fear and embarrassment surrounding necrophilia – defined as sexual activity with dead bodies – when invited to provide a British perspective on the phenomenon.
And he found himself daring to tread where lawmakers do not, discovering that no case of necrophilia has ever come before UK courts.
A link between Dr Roach and Dr Eric Hickey, a leading US expert on the psychology of crime based at California State University, Fresno, led to an invitation to contribute to the book Necrophilia: A Global Interdisciplinary Approach. With dark humour Dr Roach entitled his chapter ‘No Necrophilia Please, We’re British.’
In it he ponders a paradox that while necrophilia as a crime would appear to be almost non-existent in Britain, a very high proportion of people understand the meaning of the term. This cannot be attributed to the media, according to Dr Roach, because the subject is rarely reported.
The subject was resurrected in the eyes of the public following revelations that serial paedophile Jimmy Savile had bragged about sexually interfering with patients’ corpses whilst working as a voluntary porter at Leeds General Infirmary.
And in the early 1950s the country was repulsed when it was revealed strangler John Christie, who was born in Halifax, may have raped his female victims as they were dying or already dead. Christie is the subject of the BBC TV drama Rillington Place, which ends this week (TUESDAY).
When Dr Roach began his research he found there was an almost complete absence of case studies in Britain.
One hypothesis he explores is that “the attitude of the British criminal justice system towards necrophilia echoes that of the British public, ie one of embarrassment, whereby those caught are either not charged with a criminal offence or, perhaps for the sake of the deceased’s family, are charged with a less degrading offence such as grave robbing. Both routes will produce less attention-grabbing stories.”
Dr Roach analyses the attitudes of the police and the law in Britain towards necrophilia, providing a concise history of the legal status of the offence.
And he concludes that for many in Britain Jimmy Savile “is the primary reason why they know what necrophilia is in the first place.”