Chapter Two – Attackers and Attack Rituals: Lessons Learned — The Definitive Self-Protection Handbook

Dead or Alive by Geoff Thompson

Copyright © Geoff Thompson 2004
The right of Geoff Thompson to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with section 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
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'Know the other and know yourself;
One hundred challenges without danger;
Know the other and know not yourself;
One triumph for one defeat;
Know not the other and know not yourself '
Every challenge is certain peril.'

Sun Tzu

If you know why, where and how an attack is likely to happen it stands to reason that this knowledge will help you to avoid such situations, or prepare for them.

In bygone days, nearly all attacks on people were relegated to the hours of darkness and the deepest crevices of seclusion, i.e. down a dark alley at night. So, hypothetically, if you avoided dark secluded places you were pretty damned safe. Not so in today's liberated society where the antagonists have crawled out of the crevices, come off the night shift, and anybody, any time, any place is fair game. Why? There could be a myriad reasons, but these are not really important in the realms of this text because politics may confuse rather than enlighten the situation. What does matter and what you do need to know is how they happen and how to avoid them.

There are, of course, lots of different types of attackers and attacks. Some choose to rob, some choose to rape, whilst others instigate gratuitous violence for no other profit than malice.

Some assailants are cold-blooded in that they meticulously plan their attacks before they set about executing them; many are opportunists who will only commit an offence if a safe situation arises in their everyday lives. All are uniform in one thing. They have little or no regard for human life. Men, women and children are being attacked absolutely indiscriminately often even in highly populated areas where the frightened and seemingly unsympathetic general public hide under the veil of, 'It's nothing to do with me', or 'I don't want to get involved'. So if you do find yourself in a dangerous attack scenario, don't rely on any help from passersby. More often than not that is exactly what they will do – pass you by.

Last year a friend of mine was leaving a city-centre pub after enjoying a night out with his wife. As they made their way through a busy end-of-evening crowd, they noticed a young lady being attacked outside a busy chip shop by what turned out to be her estranged boyfriend! My friend, not a man trained in any fighting system, tried to help the girl but was viciously attacked by her assailant who pulled out a knife and severed his bicep from the bone and also slashed and stabbed him in several other areas of the body. My friend was left with some terrible injuries. The girl that was initially being attacked turned on my friend's wife and attacked her also. The police were not sympathetic and my friend was dragged through the courts for nearly a year trying to prove that his attempted defence of the woman was not in fact an unprovoked racial attack, as the knifeman and his girlfriend swore in court. The police knew that my friend was in the right but, for whatever reason, did not come to his aid. The knifeman was a known villain with lots of previous. This is only one of the reasons why the general public do not assist in broad daylight attacks, they do not want to stand in court like a common criminal facing a law that, in this day and age, has to be seen as the second enemy.

Incidents between men and women are also seen by passers-by as domestic: 'oh, don't get involved, it's probably just a domestic.' The next day you read in the paper that some young woman was raped in broad daylight and no one came to her aid.

I was faced with a similar dilemma very recently. Picture the scene:

I was walking through the city centre of Coventry on a very busy, sunny afternoon. A heavily tattooed, big violent beast of a man with a face like a caveman's ugly club and knuckles that dragged ape-like along the floor was pushing a middleaged woman from pillar to post. The woman was crying and her daughter, 14 years old, was sobbing and asking passers by for help – no one seemed to hear her.

You're walking by, she asks you, begs you for help! What are you going to do? In the safety of your house, reading this book, it would be very easy to say, 'Yeah, I'd help her'. But this guy is going to punch the head in of any man or woman that interferes, he's going to hurt you, stamp your head into the pavement – what are you going to do, do you still want to get involved? It's difficult, isn't it?

It did look domestic to me (it was actually, the monster being her estranged boyfriend) and I could understand why people walked by: they had no training in how to deal with a violent man like this. He had already floored one young man who tried to stop him, and it was easier to walk away than it was to stand and get involved. The few men who did venture forward were dragged away by their wives and girlfriends, who were saying, 'It's nothing to do with us, just leave it.'

The first thing you need to know when facing a situation like this is that, in all likelihood, you are going to be attacked by the man the very first time you try and intervene. He is building to a crescendo of anger and will let it 'spill' on anyone that enters his world, if for no other reason than to prove his virility to a woman who has thrown it in to question and is telling him, through her tears, 'Pick on some one your own size, you're not man enough to, are you?' To disprove this damning accusation and reinstate his manhood he will hit the first person that gives him cause to. This is also partly displaced aggression.

So first things first, he is very likely to hit you if you get too close, which is OK if that's your game. If it's not and that clenched fist contains a sharp implement you may pay with your life, so if you go in then go in prepared or not at all. If the opportunity arises you should first call the police and make them aware of the situation. They may take a while to get there which is not going to save her the beating she is about to get, so you still have to do something until they arrive.

If you are worried that it may be purely domestic and that the woman might not want help (in this case there was no question of that, she desperately wanted help from someone, anyone) and that she may turn on you if you interfere, then ask her. Stand at a safe range and ask her if she wants your help, if she tells you to 'fuck off and mind your own business!' then you can be on your merry way with your conscience clear. If she does want help she will tell you so. Your offer of help will also help you determine the state of mind of the man involved. If he threatens you at this stage then take the threat seriously and approach with caution.

What I did when I got involved in this little fracas in Coventry city centre was to start off at a slight distance and try to talk the man down. This allowed me to monitor how aggressive he was (if at any point the man had gotten physical with the woman I'd have run straight in and stopped him). He wasn't having any of it and told me to keep out of it 'or else'. At this point I knew that it was going to get physical.

I closed the gap and continued to try and talk him out of attacking her, all the time maintaining a fence (detailed later) so that he could not attack me unawares. I hoped this would at least distract him from hitting her until the police came and took over – but they never came. After five minutes of trying everything I knew to talk him down I realised that I was fighting a losing battle. I hadn't wanted to get physical because I didn't feel I had that right. I didn't know, and still don't, why they were arguing and didn't want to take sides. All I did know was that I wasn't prepared to let him hit her whilst I was there, so in the end I told the woman and her young daughter to go home and that I would deal with him. I hoped that this might have warned him off but every time they tried to walk away he stood in front of them and grabbed the woman across the face and told her that he was going to batter her. I realised that he wasn't going to let them go so the next time he lunged for her I whacked him in the head with a little punch that knocked him flying backwards.

The lady and her daughter, taking the initiative, ran in the opposite direction and, I believe, broke the record for the minute mile. Now the fight was mine and I told the fellow in front of me so. But for some reason he was no longer keen on fighting and wanted to shake my hand and buy me a drink. I didn't want to touch, let alone shake, his hand, and neither did I care to share a drink with him. I told him this and he took it well. I wandered off and had a coffee with Sharon.

Generally the attacker of today is a cowardly person who either fights from the podium of alcohol/drugs or attacks from behind, possibly with the crutch of a weapon or accomplice/s, or both.

Excepting possibly the rapist, who often works on the basis that he believes himself physically superior to his victim, most attackers work with the aid of one or more accomplice. They are looking for victims, those that are in code white and/or detached from the herd. Alone or with a team, these people, due to their proverbial yellow streaks, will not cross your path if you practise target hardening. If they do and you fight back ferociously with well-aimed and precise attacks, they will often abort, though I have to reiterate: a physical response is the inferior politic. If you do decide to employ physical means, make sure you know your way around the fighting arena or you may just add anger to the attacker's artillery by daring to strike him. If you strike, you need to know that it will inflict damage enough for you to effect an escape.


Most attacks are preceded by stalking and dialogue entrapments. Most attackers use dialogue as their leading technique, but I find that many instructors of self-defence are so concerned about the physical tricks that they forget those vital seconds leading up to assault. It is those people that handle the pre-fight most effectively that tend to win when a situation becomes live. In fact, if you are switched on to the attacker's ritual, you will not usually even be selected as a victim.

This is absolutely the most important factor in real situations and yet it is one area nearly always overlooked by other defence gurus.

One aspect of the ritual is the aforementioned four 'D's. This involves body language as well as the spoken word. Such dialogue is often called the interview. I'll explain more about this in the relevant paragraph.

If you can spot the ritual, you can stop the crime.


The language of the street also needs deciphering. Much of the attacker's dialogue is used by him, innately, as a trigger for violence and to engage a potential victim's brain before assault. Positive interpretation of this speak will unveil signs of imminent attack – literally giving you a countdown.

The ritual alters according to the category of attack, as does the dialogue. The genre of attack can vary from gratuitous assault to serial rape/murder.

I have to make the point before I go on that none of what you are reading here is or will be of any relevance if the victim is switched off. Deceptive dialogue and cunning entrapments are hardly necessary if the victim is walking across a field at night or down a dark alley in a sparsely populated area. When this is the case – it very often is – most assaults will be physical and violent almost immediately. The ritual is only used in a bid to trick an intended victim or heighten their vulnerability. If the victim has already done the priming for them by placing themselves in a victim state, then they'll be attacked without any warning. To notice rituals and entrapments you have to be switched on and have your eyes wide open: otherwise, suffer the fate of those before you.

If the intent is robbery or rape the dialogue is often disarming or incidental: 'Have you got a light, please?' or 'can you give me directions to Smith Street please, I'm a little lost?' The attacker is looking to switch the victim off before attack. In the case of the gratuitous assault where the intent is attack for attack's sake, the dialogue is more likely to be aggressive, 'What are you looking at?'

In either case the dialogue is employed to gain and distract attention before attack.

Generally speaking, the greater the crime, the greater the deception. At the bottom end of the scale the gratuitous attacker will engage his intended victim with aggressive dialogue ('I'm gonna batter you, you bastard!'). At the top of the scale the rapist/murderer will prime his victim with anything from a gentlemanly request for directions, to sending his intended victims champagne, flowers and a dinner invitation. This happened in the case of killer John Cannan, who usually did this to women he had spotted in the street and followed or just met: they were the ultimate primers for rape and murder. The more cunning attackers drop into the thespian role with Oscar-winning perfection.


This mindless form of violence, increasingly common, often starts with as little as eye contact. In a volatile situation, eye contact is construed as a subliminal challenge to fight. Many of the fights I witnessed in my time as a nightclub doorman began with the 'eye contact challenge'.

You don't have to do anything wrong to be the victim of this kind of attacker, you just have to be there.

And please don't make the mistake of so many before you by looking for the logic in the attack. There will be no logic and to look for it will only add confusion and indecision, and in those seconds of indecision you will have been robbed and beaten – there is no logic.

Most assaults of this nature, if it helps you to know, are in my opinion due to displaced aggression. If you, whoever you are, trigger that aggression, you will become the object of it. Whatever is pissing these people off in their sad lives, whoever is trampling on their roses, pissing on their parade, you will become the object of that pent-up aggression because you spilled their beer, cut them up in the car, looked at their girlfriend or simply because you were there. That attack is very often brutal, sometimes fatal.

Being in code yellow will allow you to detect and subsequently avoid these philistines and these incidents in the primary stages.

In the bar or the street you can often spot the gratuitous attacker. He'll have a bad attitude, probably propping up the bar or stalking the dance floor, his elbows pushed out from his sides as though carrying buckets of water. He'll have the customary curled upper lip and will probably be very rude to anyone that moves within a few feet of him. If he's walking down the street he'll do so with an overconfident, arrogant bounce. If he's with others he'll probably be very loud, garrulous and erratic in his movements. He may also be mean and moody with a very aggressive gait. Again, as in the nightclub, he'll be stalking, looking for eye contact. If you are in code yellow, you can spot these signs from a mile off.

There are two kinds of eye contact that may escalate into violence.

Often, when you make eye contact with someone and it becomes increasingly obvious that you do not know each other, the ego clicks in and goes to work. The initial accidental eye contact becomes a fully-fledged staring contest. The eyes, being a sensitive organ, cannot hold a stare for too long with out the occurrence of soreness, watering or blinking. Not wanting to blink first, this possibly being construed as a 'back down', the one with the sorest eyes throws a verbal challenge ('You fucking looking at me?') to hide the fact that he needs to blink. If the verbal challenge is returned ('Yeah, I am looking at you. What you gonna do about it?') then the fight, after a few formalities, is probably on.


This is the man who is looking for a fight, the first person to hold eye contact with him will become his victim.

These are his ritualistic steps:


You may catch the eye of someone across a crowded room or a street. The look lingers.


'Who are you looking at? Want a fucking picture?'


A physical approach follows.


'I said, do you want a fucking picture?' The reiteration, with added vehemence.


'Do you wanna 'go', then?'


Often the assailant may attack at actual challenge. If he doesn't, and as a precursor to violence, he will often drop into single syllables that act as subliminal action triggers to his attack. Words like 'yeah', 'and' or 'so' are often employed just before attack. The single syllable is a sure sign that the interview is nearing an end and the introduction of the physical is imminent.

Running concurrently will be signs of adrenal reaction:

Arm splaying

The attacker's arms will splay in a fit of exclamation. This is, to him, a way of making him appear physically bigger before attack.

Finger beckoning

The attacker will often beckon his victim on with his fingers.

Head nodding

The assailant may sporadically nod his head.

Neck Pecking

He will peck his neck like a cockerel, usually in conjunction with his single syllable challenge. This protects the throat.

Eye bulge

Due to the tunnel vision that accompanies adrenaline surges, the attacker's eyes may appear wide and staring.

Dropped eyebrows

The eyebrows drop before attack to protect the eyes.

Stancing up

He will often turn sideways on and take up a fighting stance. This hides the major organs from attack.

Distance close-down

With every passing second of the altercation, the attacker will advance closer to his victim, his movements and tone becoming more erratic and aggressive the closer he gets to actual attack.

It is worth mentioning that the foregoing is the complete ritual. Occasionally, depending upon the victim's response, the attacker may jump steps, for instance from the question to the actual challenge, so an early exit is always advisable.

My Advice

Whilst it may bash your ego a little, my advice is sound if you do not want to engage in a physical encounter. Most people do not want to fight and yet still find themselves engaging in arguments that will certainly lead to violence and that could have been left. A man walking down the street alone will think nothing of ignoring a group of barracking men across the road; put the same man in the same situation and add a female companion and the same young man will be ready to argue and fight the world to defend his manhood, even though his lady is begging him not to get involved. These insults mean nothing and should be ignored. Lads, the ladies are not impressed when you walk into a fight that you could have walked out of. I have been involved in many hundreds of fights and can categorically state that it is the stronger man that can walk away. So please, walk away. The time to fight is when you are given no other choice. If I have a fight I want it to be for a better reason than 'the guy was staring at me'. If I end up in court on a manslaughter charge I don't want the judge to be saying to me, 'you killed this man because he spilled your beer, Mr Thompson?'

Violence is a serious game; don't walk into it with any romantic ideas of how it is going to be. It is always ugly and always frightening. I have never stood in front of a man that I wanted to fight, never had perfect conditions, never thought 'yeah, I'm ready for this.' Every fight for me has been more like, 'I don't want to be here, I don't need this, is this going to be the one that gets me killed or jailed?'

Having said all that and meant it, if it is going to kick off and you are sure and there is no other way, don't hesitate. Be first, never allow anyone the opportunity to attack you first. If you can't walk away and you have the honest belief that you are going to be attacked, attack first and then get away. The police may not give you this advice, even though it is well within the law, because they feel that to sanction it is to invite it in. They won't tell you this either because they don't want some murder suspect turning up on the front cover of the national newspapers saying 'I only did what PC Dick told me to.'

The police are often frightened of the consequences of being honest, perhaps believing that the general populace do not have the intelligence to handle being able, lawfully, to attack first. One PC, he shall remain nameless (actually I have had several reports of this happening at police-run courses for nightclub doormen), told one of my friends on a doorman training course that he could not legally attack first. Instead he should wait to be attacked and then counter attack – with reasonable force of course – if he wanted to stay within the law. Now forgive me if I overreact here, but that is not just bad advice, it's a downright lie. The law allows pre-emption as long as it fits with the circumstances; that is that you have an honest belief that you are about to be attacked so you attack first. I will deal with this in more detail in a later chapter.

In the case of the cursory glancer I advise that you do not hold eye contact and if you are sure that it is just a cursory glance and not a challenging stare (it will usually be very obvious) just smile, perhaps say hello and then break the eye contact, this will probably leave him thinking 'I must know him, where do I know him from?' The ritual is then broken at the very first stage. If he does ask you what you are looking at, just apologise and say that you thought he looked familiar, and if he asks you if you want trouble say no. This will usually end the confrontation because he will feel as though he has won and wander off. This will be hard if you are a male with an ego to feed but a lot easier if you are a confident person that does not need to hurt people to prove masculinity. Ladies very rarely have a problem with submissiveness because it is not usually in their nature to be the protector unless they have been brought up with a weak male role model. If this is the case a woman may have developed male characteristics to balance the loss in her habitat, one of those being the ego. If you are still approached put up a 'fence' (to be detailed) and prepare for a physical encounter.


Firstly, if you sense a rowdy individual, walk tall and hold yourself confidently, and even if you do not feel dauntless, act it. After all, 'when ignorance is mutual, confidence is king.' Confident people are very rarely chosen as victims for attack. Whenever possible avoid eye contact where you sense aggression, but do not bow your head, this can be seen as a sign of weakness and may draw the attacker in for the kill. The challenger's ritual can be crushed before it starts by simply avoiding eye contact. If you are switched on you will have noticed him from a mile off and avoidance will not be a problem. This may take some discipline; it is often hard not to stare, you often feel almost drawn to something that you should not look at. If you do not make eye contact then you have avoided a situation.

If eye contact has already occurred, break the engagement immediately and separate yourself from the aggressor by as great a distance as possible, as soon as possible. If this proves fruitless and aggressive verbal follows, do not retaliate, just walk away, as a verbal counter could act as a catalyst. If you do not or cannot decamp at this stage and are approached, prepare for fight or flight. Only fight if there is no other option open to you.

Retaliation to the verbal challenge, however justified, will be seen by your aggressor as an acceptance to fight. From my experience, if you do not make a hasty exit at actual challenge, especially if you do verbally counter, more threats and a possible attack will result. A non counter and immediate exit on the part of the victim usually results in the challenger aborting, perceiving the response, or lack of it, to be an embryonic victory. Therefore if a verbal challenge is thrown do not counter.

If you can't get away and are approached then you must prepare yourself for fight or flight.

If you are in a pub and you sense trouble it is my advice to leave the pub and find another that is less threatening.

An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

At and before eye contact you should have been in code yellow. This will have given you awareness, not only of the potential situation, but also of the 'ritual'.

Like a cancer, confrontation should be caught and thus treated as early as possible; the longer you leave it, the graver it will become.

Treat a small malignancy rather than a full-grown tumour.

If a verbal challenge is thrown, you should rise with the threat to code orange where a potency assessment may be made. If an approach follows, you will/should automatically rise to code red, this being 'fight or flight'. The approach may be across the bar of a public house, the street or, in a traffic incident, it may be someone getting out of their car and approaching your vehicle.

At this stage you should have already utilised your 'flight' option and be a hundred yards down the road. Where 'flight' may not be plausible you may take advantage of the aforementioned four 'D's; if it works for your attacker then it can work for you. As the famous Japanese strategist Miyomoto Musashi said in his Book of Five Rings, 'What is true for one is true for a thousand and what is true for a thousand is true for ten thousand.' In other words, if it works against you it can also work for you.


First response:


Second response:


Third response:

The first verbal challenge when followed by an approach will usually be reiterated. This is when your four 'D's will come in to play. When the attacker reiterates his verbal challenge you will enter dialogue, telling him firmly that you don't want trouble and to keep away from you. This may be repeated several times before moving to –

Fourth response:

Physical confrontation.

If he is still aggressive and forward moving, it is likely that he intends to become physical – both are precursors to attack. If at this point escape is still not a viable option utilise the fourth response. Use deception and distraction: 'Look mate, I don't want any trouble, can't we talk about this?' By telling him that you don't want trouble you will disarm and thus deceive him. By asking him, 'Can't we talk about this?' you are intimating that you wish to elongate the conversation, because a question demands an answer. By engaging his brain as a possible precursor to pre-empting him (attack or escape), your question will also act as an action trigger to your own pre-emption. The deception used can be any of your design, as can your action trigger. Anything you can do or say to distract/deceive the attacker is good, even if it is abstract. You may ask the attacker, 'Is your mum's name Elsie?' The fact that this is peripheral to your circumstances only adds to the effect; you not only procure brain engagement, you add to their total bemusement. This engagement/bemusement will buy you one free shot.

Your fourth D is destruction. Your first choice should always be to run and your last choice to destroy, using a pre-emptive attack that should be fired immediately after asking the engaging question (whatever that may be).

Fifth response:

Non-confrontational verbal. If the attacker retaliates to your attack with greater violence, try to re-engage him in conversation, bringing him down from his rage.

Sixth response:

Escalated physical attack. If his attack still ensues use anything and everything to incapacitate the attacker for long enough to effect escape.


Pic 1

If you decide that a physical response is your choice action, as soon as you are approached take up a small forty-five degree stance (Pic.1) by moving your right (or left) leg inconspicuously behind you and splaying your arms (fence), as though in exclamation. This is done simultaneously with your replying dialogue. As you will see in the illustrations, the fence allows you to control the distance between you and the attacker, disabling any attempts he may make at grabbing/striking you. Though it may be on a subconscious level your fence will act as a barrier between you and him. Try not to touch the assailant with your hands unless you are forced to, as the touch may fuel the fire and possibly result in your wrists being grabbed.

If he keeps forcing forward, you are in danger and an attack is certainly imminent, so make your decision with haste. Indecision begets defeat. For the duration of dialogue it is imperative to maintain distance control until you are ready to run or strike. When you strike make it a telling blow to a vulnerable area (see relative chapter), explode into the opponent with every fibre of your being, then run!! Many defence gurus advocate a second strike, a finisher. If there is a choice in the matter, don't do it. The few seconds you buy with your first strike could easily be lost if you linger for even a second. With some of the people I interviewed, and certainly in many of the incidents I have witnessed, this attempted and unnecessary coup de grâce resulted in the victim being grabbed, and subsequently defeated.

This is from my case histories:

'I punched my attacker in the face and he yelled in pain. When I tried to hit him again, like I'd been taught, he grabbed hold of me and pulled me to the floor and head-butted me, breaking my nose. I should have just run when I had the chance.'

There is also the danger of your attacker's accomplices (if he has any) coming to his aid if you do not take advantage and beat a hasty retreat. So unless a second strike is absolutely necessary, the rule of thumb is 'hit and run'.

For appropriate attacking techniques and fence work, please refer to the relevant chapters on the physical response.

If the attacker has a weapon, and does not respond to the victim's verbal dissuasion, it is always wise to employ added verbal distractions before engaging in a physical response.

The disarming approach: the professional attacker

The professional attacks for profit and covets compliance. He does not want to fight. To make his job easier he employs guile as opposed to force, this coming via deception. As with all predators, he seeks people in a victim state, or code white. He is, most often, very different from the archetypal, celluloid attacker that we have been programmed to expect, as you will see from the case histories.

I think this is best described by Christopher Berry-Dee (Chris has interviewed many of the world's most notorious serial rapists and killers and has kindly allowed me to use relevant extracts from those insightful tapes) and Robin Odell in their true crime book Ladykiller:

'Such predators are difficult to detect because their behaviour is masked with protective cunning. They merge into society and appear to all intents and purposes normal and well adjusted. Yet they are loners, restlessly roaming from place to place in search of opportunities to fulfil their lusts.'

This is the case with the most disarming of predators. They rarely look like potential attackers. The archetypal stocking-faced robber with a cosh and a swag bag is far removed from the real world villain who is more likely to be dressed in a smart suit and tie. John Cannan was such a killer. These are his own words:

'I bought my ladies roses and champagne. I always wore a suit and drove my black BMW.

Christ, why should a successful man like me – I look like Sascha Distelle – kill anyone?'

Cannan is now serving life in prison for the murder of Shirley Banks, and numerous other rapes.

Then there was Michael Benniman Sams, a brutal killer, yet the most unlikely man in the world to commit such heinous crimes as he only had one leg. In his own words:

'Who'd have thought a one-legged man could hurt anyone – not even Teena would have … she's my wife. Julie [Julie Dart, brutally murdered by Sams] thought I was harmless, took pity on me … then I smashed her head in with a hammer.'

Sams is also serving life in prison for the murder of Julie Dart, and the kidnapping of Stephanie Slater, plus other kidnapping and extortion offences.

The opportunities these professionals seek are those formerly described. Often the attacker may not even be looking for a victim, but if an opportunity falls into their lap, they will act.

Again, intentions vary. The muggers interviewed in the chapter on case histories intended to rob, the rapists intended to rape, often killing their victims as an afterthought or by mistake, the killers intended to kill. The more serious the crime and experienced the criminal, the more deceptive the priming; the attacker adopting a cunning veil to beguile his intended victims.

I shall deal with them individually, still bearing in mind that all use deception, as a leading technique, in varying degrees.

I know that I may have already said this but it bears repeating: if the victim is in code white, deception often becomes an unnecessary tool, the 'blind-side attack' prevailing. In this instance the first the victim knows of the incursion is the physical attack itself – by then it is often too late.

As with most attacks the mugger follows a ritual and understanding this is the pre-requisite to avoidance.

The Mugger

'There was this geezer and his missus, outside a telephone box. Their car had the bonnet up, the woman went in to the 'phone box. We walked up to the 'phone box and pretended to queue for the phone. The geezer looked like he had money, good clothes, smart car. I gave J [his accomplice] the signal by winking at him; I then asked the geezer the time and we both pulled out our knives. When he looked up we told him to hand over his wallet.'

As far as I can work out there are four different kinds of mugger:

1) The snatch and run mugger, who literally rips your handbag/briefcase from your shoulder/hand and runs away at speed, or even drives away on a bike.

2) The blind-side mugger who suddenly appears out of an entry without any apparent warning.

3) The defiant mugger who attacks without ritual or fear of the law or consequences, usually because you have walked into his patch or have inadvertently crossed his path and he wants what you have got (whatever that might be).

4) The professional mugger who plans his attacks and uses deception as a way in.

Environmental awareness is the best way to avoid the first three, but a thorough understanding of attack ritual is the only real way of avoiding the fourth.

These are the ritualistic steps of the latter. If you can spot the ritual in the early stages you can avoid attack – you are not a victim.


'Choosing a victim isn't hard. People are just asking to be robbed. I came out of Pizza Hut the other night, about 10.30 p.m., there was this girl walking down the side of the duel carriageway on her own. She must have only been, what, 17, at the very most. She might as well have had a sign across her chest saying "Attack me!" Then they moan when someone does attack them. And the lads are as bad. They haven't got a fucking clue. We used to thumb a lift from town, after the nightclub. Some fucking idiot would pick us up, three of us, then wonder what he'd done wrong when we mugged him for all he's got. I reckon 'alf the fuckers aren't all there. I mean, don't they read the papers? Don't they know how we [muggers] work?'


The ideal victim is in code white, mentally and/or environmentally, those daydreaming or detached from the herd. Selection often occurs in sparsely populated locations; the mugger wanting as little fuss as possible in the execution of his attack. He favours the quiet park/street/entry etc. This does not mean that people are safe in highly populated areas like shopping malls, busy streets etc. Very often the mugger stalks such places for victims, after selection following them to a safe attack zone like the car park of a mall. It is thought that Stephanie Slater, murdered by Cannan, was stalked in just such a way. Cannan spotted her in the store of a shopping mall and followed her to the car park, which was his trade mark, pouncing as she got into her car.


'Once we've chosen a victim we follow them, cross the road, walk past them maybe two or three times. We wait for them to walk in to a side street or park, anywhere quiet. Some of them must be thick not to notice what's going on.'


A stalking of the chosen victim, for priming, and awareness assessment, will occur. If necessary the victim will be followed in the hope that he/she will heighten their vulnerability mentally or environmentally by walking into a park, down a quiet street etc. If the victim is followed from a shopping mall the attacker often waits for him/her to put the shopping in the boot of the car or even strikes as he/she enters the car. It is at such times that even normally vigilant people drop their guard, and though it may only be for a second, that is all the attacker needs.

When you have your hands full of shopping and are perhaps trying to get the kids into the car you may not notice that you are being followed. Often the attacker covers the whole of a car park without being noticed and his attack is then so swift that even other people in the car park do not notice what has happened. When you are off-loading the shopping and getting into the car, be very aware; as soon as you are in the car bang the locks on immediately.


'We walk up to them and ask the time – this distracts them. If they look like they know what we're gonna do, or if they look a bit tough or answer with a rough voice then we just walk off.'


The exploratory approach will often be coupled with disarming dialogue, (the four 'D's) used to prime the victim for attack. It is also used as a secondary awareness assessment – the attacker wants to see if you are switched on and wants to make sure he is safe before he attacks.

If at this point, or at any point after victim stalking, the victim appears switched off, the mugger may initiate his attack/threatened attack without further priming.

Unless the attacker is a real pro he will show signs of adrenal reaction in the exploratory approach that you will sense, so listen to your instincts.



If the mugger feels that the chosen victim is switched on to the attempt and his secondary assessment is negative, he will often abort and find a more vulnerable victim.


'….this distracts them [asking the time] while we pull out our knives. When they look up we say, "Give us your fucking money!" They usually look blank. Both of us shout at them, "Get your fucking wallet out", and put the knives closer to their face.'


If the mugger feels that the chosen victim is switched off, he may initiate the attack/threatened attack whilst the victim is engaged in answering his disarming question (this may be anything from asking directions to asking the time). Often the disarming question will switch off those that are switched on. An experienced attacker will use deception to take down any defensive fences that his intended victims may have put up.


'This was taking too long [the attack], I thought to myself. I said, "I'm going to give you to the count of three [to hand over his wallet], or else", and pushed the knife closer to his throat. He handed over his wallet and ran off. If he'd refused to give us the wallet by three, we'd have just run away.'


I found this very interesting as many of the muggers that I interviewed used the threatened attack (as opposed to the actual attack) to prime their victims because, they said, if they got caught and they had used violence in the course of the attack, the sentence they got would be longer. They frightened their victims into supplication, rather than beat them into supplication.

The mugger will often threaten the victim with attack to frighten them into supplication, frequently underlining the threat with a weapon or an accomplice, or both.

The threats will be aggressive and menacing; this effecting adrenal dump in the victim, quickly escalating to the freeze syndrome (the reasoning process mistakes adrenalin for fear, often freezing victims into immobility). The threats are repeated with escalating aggression causing the victim to experience multiple adrenal release, grossly heightening the supposed feeling of fear and adding to the freeze. The threats, of course, are married with demands for money/credit cards etc.


Often the mugger threatens to hurt the victim if they are not compliant, or not to hurt the victim in exchange for compliance. The promise cannot be relied on.


'Sometimes, if they're a bit brave, I'll give them a dig, then they're mine. I've 'ad blokes who really look like they're gonna go for it, you give them a bit of pain and the fight falls out of them. They become just like babies.'


Some muggers may use a physical attack, creating compliance via disablement; others initiate an attack to disable the victim, before robbing them.

Sometimes the attack will be minimal, used only to add to freeze, other times the attack will be frenzied and severe. Any chance of a physical defence, other than actually attacking back with the same degree of ferocity (or greater) of ferocity, is unlikely to be effective. The concepts of blocking an assailant's blows or using hypothetical release techniques are not sound; if the situation has got this far only the very strong will survive.


Running concurrently with attack ritual will be signs of adrenal reaction (the attacker will be scared too). This attack body language, if spotted, can help you to recognise potential menace. It has to be said, though, that many of the very experienced attackers may have learned to hide adrenal reaction, and only an expert eye will see imminent attack.

1) Erratic eye movement

The attacker, or his accomplice, concerned about being caught mid act, will constantly be checking for police/general public involvement; whilst he is speaking to you his eyes will be darting in other directions. If the attacker keeps looking past and around you as he speaks, this is not a good sign.

concealed knife

2) Adrenal reaction

Unless the attacker is seasoned he will be showing signs of adrenalin. His face will appear pale and his eyes wide from adrenalin induced tunnel vision; he will be stern and unsmiling and he may also fidget in an attempt to hide adrenal shake (the body will shiver as though cold) and his voice may have a nervous quiver.

3) Hand concealment

concealed knife

If the attacker is carrying a weapon, the bearing hand may be hidden, either in his pocket or behind his back. If one or both of his hands is concealed, beware. Some attackers do not hide their hands; rather they turn the palm or palms away from the chosen victim on approach, or keep the offending hand close to their leg to conceal the weapon.

Other attackers will keep their hands on full display, extracting a weapon from its hiding place as they approach, or immediately after asking an engaging question.

My friend was killed in just such a way. His attacker approached with his right palm turned into his right thigh so that his knife was hidden. He got very close to my friend and asked a question to distract him, then plunged the hidden knife into his heart. That single stab wound killed him.

concealed knife

So look out for concealment. If you can't see the attacker's hand or hands, or if the palm is turned in or even if the attacker has his hand in his pocket, you have to ask yourself why. It is very likely because he is concealing a weapon. Cannan used to carry an old carrier bag in which he kept a number of killing implements. When he asked his intended victim a question, again as a distraction, he would reach into his bag and take out his weapon. If the approach is by more than one person they will all usually display the same physical traits.

attacker asking the time


If more than one assailant is involved it is usual for one of the attackers to deploy the victim with distracting dialogue, whilst the other(s) move to your offside. Whilst the victim is distracted by the questioner, his accomplice(s) attack.

This was one of the most common attacks in the nightclub when I worked as a doorman and is a common, though, unbelievably, innate, ploy of gang robbery or rapes: the pincer movement. That is why so many people seem to get glassed or stabbed in the side of the face or neck because they are not attacked by the person in front that they are arguing with. They are attacked by the guy at the side that they do not see because of their adrenal induced tunnel vision (no one seems to teach these people to do this; they just do it instinctively).

The Rapist/Killer

Some of the extracts in this chapter are a little shocking and so I apologise if I cause any offence. I think that it is very important that you, whoever you are, understand how these terrible people operate and how little they care for human life and emotion. If you think that these people are not out there then think again: at the time of writing this book the West Midlands police have openly admitted that they believe there are five serial killers on the loose who are responsible for dozens of brutal killings. They have just started a manhunt involving some 200 police officers to catch these people. It is also widely believed that there are over 200 serial killers at large in the world today.

So read the following information as it is all true, none of it is made up, and use the knowledge to protect yourself from indiscriminate attack. If you want to know what a rapist looks for in a victim and how he is going to react to certain stimuli, ask a rapist, especially one that is locked up for the rest of his days and is no longer a threat. He'll tell you and revel in it, and whilst you might hate him, he'll give you, us, the information that we need to protect ourselves from others of that ilk. Chris Berry-Dee sums it up nicely in this extract from Ladykiller:

'Ladies. Consider the scenario: you are about to leave a crowd of friends after a summer's day picnic, when you notice a good looking man, attempting to load a pile of groceries in to his car. He is struggling in his work because he has obviously broken one arm – it's in a sling. And imagine, as you pass him, that he asks you could you help him out – just for a second.'

If you decide to become the good Samaritan, also consider this. Theodore Robert Bundy killed at least 34 young women, using entrapment skills such as this. As soon as his intended victim was in his space, Bundy turned in to a murderous entity with a switch that is abnormal by any human standards. He beat them unconscious, then took them away to rape and kill at his leisure.

The serial killer and sexual sadist, Michael Bruce Ross, was a former college graduate at Cornell. During the eighties this Connecticut murderer, who worked as an insurance salesman, raped upwards of 25 young women – killing at least 8. When finally arrested, Detective Mike Malchik, veteran of 50 successful homicide investigations, said of Ross, 'He was the most unlikely killer I have ever met.'

Whilst it is slightly peripheral to the main aim of this book, I think it important to illustrate that there are different kinds of rapists; understanding this can only help in your endeavours to detect and thus avoid attack.

Not every rapist is of the stalking variety, some use seduction to initiate rape, others are weak willed men who cannot control their sexual arousal when a girl says no.


This type of attacker generally has no self-worth and low self-esteem. He rapes to compensate for the fact that he believes no women in her right mind would agree to have sexual intercourse with him. He fantasises that his victim will fall in love with him, and wants her to become sexually aroused during the rape, often even trying to make a date with her after his crime.


For this type of attacker, sexual behaviour is expressed as an impulsive predatory act. His attack is determined more by situation and context than by fantasy, as in the case of the compensatory rapist. He can be best described as a man constantly on the prowl, looking until a safe situation presents itself.


For this type of attacker sexual behaviour is an expression of anger and rage. His victims represent, in a displaced fashion, a hated individual in their everyday life who they do not/cannot, for whatever reason, stand up to. All their anger is vented on their victim.


Sexual behaviour to the sadistic rapist is an expression of sexual-aggressive (sadistic) fantasy. To him there appears no differentiation between sexual and aggressive feelings. As sexual arousal increases, aggressive feelings increase also, and vice versa. His assault often begins as a seduction, his anger emerging as he becomes sexually aroused, the seduction then becoming a violent rape.


Often a perfectly reasonable person until turned down in his sexual advances, his uncontrollable lusts turn to rape when his victim says 'No!' Often, post-rape, the attacker still does not feel that he has actually raped and believes that his victim's resistance was a part of foreplay.

Realistically, the genre of rapist should be of no real concern as we are dealing here with avoidance as opposed to a physical defence. One avoids them all in the same way, by not being there.

It is true to say that different types of rapist will react differently to varying forms of victim response, whether it be verbal, or physical. The displaced rapist may respond positively to verbal dissuasion as this allows him to see the victim as a real person and not the cause of his anger and rage. But the sadistic rapist, exploitative rapist, the date rapist and the compensatory rapist probably will not. Being able to differentiate between one genre of rapist and another, before and during an attack, is highly unlikely; you should therefore treat the previous descriptions as informational knowledge. When it comes to defence, don't be in the situation; if you are and a physical response is imperative, employ the following defence strategies for best effect.

Often the rapist/killer operates through mass deception and practised guile, and is usually the last person in the world you'd suspect; he may be someone that you know, though perhaps only in passing.

'If I were walking along a dark alleyway at night, and heard footsteps behind me, and if I turned round and saw Michael Ross … I would have been relieved. Michael is just like the guy next door.'

These are the words of a streetwise, hard-nosed American journalist, Karen Clark. She was describing Michael Ross, after an interview with him on Death Row, Osborn Correctional Institute, Somers, Connecticut. Ross, is responsible for upwards of 25 rapes and sexual assaults, aligned with 8 horrific homicides. He is the ultimate killing machine – and sexual sadist. Ross is a wolf in sheep's clothing.

His biggest deception was the way he looked, as opposed to the way he entrapped. Many of the world's most vicious attackers are like this, and no one is above suspicion. A serial killer in west America, a man that killed many young women brutally, and without mercy, turned out to be a local self-defence instructor.

Michael Ross, when asked what women could do to avoid attack said:

'If I were to give women any advice, I'd say, don't trust anyone, period – because you ain't got a clue what's in their heads…'

Whilst I am not trying to suggest that all attacks or attackers are as extreme as this, I would like to put across the following points. Attackers rarely look how we would expect them to, rather they may look like someone's elderly father or younger brother and to all intents and purposes, harmless. Also they will very often use mass deception (the four 'D's) before initiating their attack.

Again, if you are in code white, mentally and/or environmentally, you are/will be an easy target, so the aforementioned deception would be an unnecessary tool. The first you are likely to know of the assault would be the attack itself. Understanding of rituals are useless, if you are not aware. It's like teaching a child the Green Cross Code (a method used for children to cross the road safely); it will not stop that child from being knocked over by a car if the child does not use the information. If you are coded up (in code yellow) you will spot the signs as the attacker goes through his priming ritual and this will allow you to be preemptive in your avoidance, escape or attack.

The ritual of the elite attacker is masked by professional cunning, though to the perceptive the ritual will still be noticeable and avoidance will be possible. Make yourself a hard target and you will not be noted for victim selection. Vigilance is the key here, as with all attack scenarios; early detection and prevention is far better than what is often the unlikely cure of a physical response.

'The best defence is vigilance.'

This is what Arthur J. Shawcross (the Monster of the Rivers) said about his victims at interview, 19th September 1994. This account has been substantiated by Captain Lynde M. Johnston – Head of Homicide, Rochester Police Department, New York, and Detective Lenny Borriello, the arresting officer. Shawcross is serving 250 years at the Sullivan Correctional Institute, Fallsburg.

'I've killed 13 women; raped dozens more. I've probably killed 54 in my time … Sometimes they talk to me and I'd let them live … others? Well, they were dead the moment I saw them I'd beat up on them, rape them. Yeah, I've eaten human flesh … tastes like pork … I prefer the genitalia, period. But you ask Clara, she's marrying me next year. She trusts me. Remorse? No way, period. They all asked for it, suckers, the whole lot. Well, I look like their fathers, don't I?'

That was one of Shawcross' best primers for attack; he looked like an old guy that wouldn't hurt a fly, like your father. This is a big part of deception and deception is used as a way in, a window.

The rapists' ritualistic steps are a facsimile of those of the mugger, though with added cunning, and though I don't like to repeat myself this stuff needs repeating.


'She was playing up to the role, the big beautiful smile and getting into the car, which was kind of tragic, but she had advertised to get blown away.'

Christopher Berry-Dee's interview with serial killer Arthur Shawcross, 1994

The victim is selected similarly to all attack victims, though the rapist may be looking for a specific type of person – blond, brunette, buxom, slight etc. This is a contributing factor that the victim has no control over, so it does not come in to the reckoning. What is important is the fact that the attacker makes his selection from those that are in a victim state, code white, mentally and/or environmentally. If you are in code yellow you will notice the build up of events and be in a position to take preventive measures.

There are also occasions when the victim may be in code yellow mentally but in code white environmentally; that is, she may be switched on to attack ritual, but be in a dangerous and vulnerable place. Other times the victim may be switched on in every sense and the attacker uses guile and deception to switch her off.

Again, these are the words of Michael Ross, taken during a televised interview with Christopher Berry-Dee, 24th September 1994.

'I had fantasies as a youth, then went on to following women home. I got my sexual kicks from that at first. Then I raped – at least a dozen times … then I killed. Why? Because she knew me from college. They were easy to chat to. They all liked me because I looked so harmless. Most women are stupid – they trust good looking guys like me. I'd say they deserved all they got. I carried one woman's shopping home, then, when we got into her yard, I lifted her baby out of the stroller and smashed its head into a tree. Then I raped and strangled the mother. She lived and that isn't any fault of mine, that was a pure act of God.'


'A sex attacker who struck in a Southampton park earlier this week may be a dangerous 'stalker' with a vendetta against students.

The mature student, who did not want to be named, described how the smartly dressed man had tried to engage her in conversation before the attack. "He said hello so familiarly that I felt I must know him," she said. "But then he started chatting me up, asking me what I was doing that night, so I just ignored him." At this point the man's behaviour changed and he attacked her.'
The Daily Echo, 1994

The victim is often stalked for awareness assessment and possibly followed in the hope that her vulnerability will be heightened.


'He walked past the car. About two or three minutes later she saw the man again walking towards the Sava Centre roundabout. She went back to her book and looked up again when she was aware of someone approaching the car.

'Her driver's side window was open. The man spoke to her. "Excuse me," he said. "Can you tell me where Balfour Drive is … it's supposed to be around here somewhere … have you got an A-Z in the car?"'

If the victim is completely unaware, the first approach will be the attack/threatened attack itself, though more often than not further priming will take place in the guise of the four 'D's. Disarming/incidental dialogue is employed for the duel purposes of secondary awareness assessment and brain engagement. Assessment


The attacker will make a negative assessment if, on approach, he feels the victim is suspicious of his intentions. In this instant he will either abort, or attempt, via deceptive dialogue, to switch off the victim.

If, however, the victim is environmentally vulnerable – for instance, walking across a field at night with no hope of raising an alarm – the attack may still ensue without further priming or without any priming at all.


If, on approach, the attacker feels his chosen victim is switched off, he may initiate attack/threatened attack whilst the victim is distracted.


'I didn't really do anything at first. All my breath had gone out of me when I landed and I could feel this great weight on my back. His hand had left my mouth and I could feel him fumbling with my skirt, but I didn't have the breath to scream. He was on my back and telling me to keep still or he would kill me.'
Unleash the Lioness by Robin Houseman

If the attacker deems the immediate locale safe, he may carry out an assault there and then, often using the threat of attack to frighten the victim into compliance. Uncompliance may result in a controlled attack to underline the threat and then an aggression escalated reiteration of the threat. This is usually enough to frighten most people into complete supplication. Both the threat and the controlled attack cause adrenal dump, or what we call the wow factor, in the victim, whose reasoning process mistakes the feeling of adrenalin for sheer terror. The threat is often used by the attacker as a false promise: 'If you do what I say you won't get hurt!' These promises without exception are, of course, rarely kept. This is especially the case with the rapist and abductor.


'February 1993, Oxford. Following a row with her boyfriend, a twenty seven year old pharmacist was attacked when she walked home alone.

'A man grabbed her as she was walking past some railings. Although she managed to get hold of his hair, he had his hands around her throat. The women told the court that she thought she was going to be found dead the next morning, so she conceded to his demands to save her own life.

'He then dragged her in to an alleyway and tied her hands before raping her.'

Unleash the Lioness

This is where the majority of self-defence books begin, with the attack itself and advocating the use of defence strategies that are as impractical as they are unlikely. This is not so much because of the physical concept of blocking an attack, though even the highly skilled would baulk at such a task, but more because the initial attack is very rarely seen by the victim as it is masked by practised and deceptive cunning.

The actual attack is used by the assailant to disable his victim, forcing compliance through injury/unconsciousness or, as already stated, to cause terror compliance by effecting adrenal dump.


'I asked one girl directions from my car. She stuck her head in to the electric window. It was a busy street at night. I dragged her 150 yards then smashed her unconscious. Then I took her away and raped and killed her. Slut.'
Arthur J. Shawcross (The Monster of the Rivers) during interview, 19th September 1994

Some rapists initiate attack as their intended victims get into, or out of, vehicles, using the same to effect abduction. In the majority of cases they utilise total surprise or a false promise to ensure compliance. The victim is then taken away from the herd where the attacker enacts the crime.

Often the attacker will use his own or a hired vehicle to trawl for victims, abducting after using the age-old ploy of stopping and asking for directions and then bundling the victim into his car when they least expect it. Many women warn their children of this ploy, and yet paradoxically fall foul of it themselves.

This is how Cannan effected the abduction of Shirley Banks:

'Shirley Banks, a slim vivacious blond, probably turned many men's heads that evening. We know she turned one for sure. That of John Cannan. Although we cannot be certain of his movements, but following his previous pattern of behaviour, he had probably been wandering through the store, driven by an overwhelming desire to seek out a female victim. Then his blue eyes would have settled on Shirley while she innocently browsed through the clothesrails in search of a dress. In an effort to remain inconspicuous in the ladies' department he would seemingly have interested himself with a possible gift for a girlfriend. However his eyes were furtively following Shirley's every move. Now he was stalking his prey, and waiting patiently for the chance to pounce. As she walked to her car he was but a few steps behind her.

'If we follow the pattern of his attempt to abduct Julia Holman, he probably approached his victim with menace, as she entered her car, and got into her car beside her.'

John Cannan was later convicted of the abduction and murder of Shirley Banks. She was last seen alive in a busy shopping mall.

Body Language

The rapist, or certainly the experienced attacker, will show very little outward display of bad intention. The predators, in what is an increasingly violent society, all too often wear sheep's clothing.


Very often even the experienced attacker will be unable to mask his fear of being caught mid act so will be constantly checking for police/general public involvement. As he verbally primes his intended victim he may look through, past or around them, checking the safety of his environment.


The attacker may show signs of adrenalin reaction that will give him away. His face may appear pale, his eyes staring with the effect of tunnel vision, he may be wearing a false smile that will set your alarm bells ringing. A possible fidget to hide 'adrenal shake' and a nervous quiver in his voice are also telltale signs. This is a man about to attack and rape, so you'll possibly sense an uncomfortable aura. Trust your instincts.


If you cannot see both the attacker's hands, or palms, there is a good chance that he is hiding a weapon. It is unnatural to walk, or stand, with the palms of the hands hidden, so if you can't see the palms there may be a weapon concealed. Others, like John Cannan, will carry a shopping bag or some kind of carrier, in which a weapon may be hidden.

If there is more than one assailant they may all display the same physical traits.


When more than one assailant is involved, one attacker will deploy the victim with disarming banter, whilst the other/s will attack from the victim's blind-side, attacking during brain engagement.

Listen to your instincts. Many people, in retrospect, say they sensed menace long before they were attacked, but did not act upon it, putting their perception down to paranoia. The following true story is a good example of acting on instinct.

concealed weapon

Asks the time… draws knife out of carry bag

'On Thursday 29 October 1978, three weeks to the day since Shirley went missing [Shirley Banks, abducted and killed by John Cannan], a man entered a boutique known as Gingers in Leamington Spa. It was about 3.55 p.m. and the owner, 40 year old Carmel Cleary, was arranging clothes on the rails, whilst her manageress, Jane Child, sat at the desk at the front of the shop. They were the only people in the premises which was situated at 20a Regent Street. The man who was wearing black trousers and a grey zip up bomber jacket had a silver grey crash helmet on his head with the visor raised. His jacket was bulging as if there was something bulky in it and a pair of blue grey gloves poked out of the top left-hand pocket.

'The man stood beside one of the clothes rails and said, "I'm looking for some gift ideas." Carmel Cleary walked over to where he was standing and produced some jumpers. He said, "She's a size 38." Carmel drew his attention to one of the garments and explained, "This is a medium, this will fit her."

'"I could tell," she said later, "that he was not interested in the jumpers." The man said he wanted something brighter and walked over to the display rails near the desk. "She's only 24," he said and paused to look at some of the items displayed.

'Sensing that the man did not appear genuine in his enquires, Carmel Cleary moved over to the desk and casually spoke to Jane Child. She asked her to phone Room Service, a nearby shop, on the pretext of settling an account. This was a ploy to bring somebody else in to the shop.

'Suddenly the man was standing next to the two women. He held an orange-handled knife with a serrated blade in his left hand with which he threatened Mrs Cleary. Holding the weapon to her stomach and speaking to Jane Child he said, "Turn out the lights, lock the door and if you scream, I'll knife her." Mrs Cleary picked up the shop keys from the desk and Jane Child walked to the corner of the boutique where the light switches were located. The intruder said, "What are you doing?" and, still brandishing the knife, walked over to her.

'At this point, using great presence of mind, Carmel Cleary dashed across to the front of the shop and ran out in to the street screaming, "Help! Help! There's a man in the shop with a knife." Her desperate screams attracted the immediate attention of Andrew Riley, a builder, who had just entered Regent Street from Portland Street. He ran towards her asking, "What's up?" The shop owner gasped out, "He's got a knife." As they spoke, the man rushed out of Gingers, turned left and ran down in to Portland Street.

'Some minutes later the police apprehended John Cannan, later convicted of the killing of Shirley Banks and suspected of many other abductions and murders. Neither woman in the shop was physically injured.'

The Defence

This covers most genres of attack, assault, mugging, rape etc. and is my advice and mine alone. I can only give you the options and leave you to make your own choice. What I will say though is, whenever possible, stick to the sequence of avoidance, escape and dissuasion before considering a physical response. The latter has to be trained for; it is not enough to just throw a punch and hope for the best. A partially effective blow may do nothing more than piss your attacker off and cause him to be more violent. So train for physical if you think you want to use it. It's no use having a gun in the cupboard if you don't know how to load the bullets. Most of the people that I see around the country just would not be able to deal with a physical response, no disrespect intended but they would be completely ineffective – so get some training under you belt. Many people feel that they are not capable of training for physical combat; to be honest if you have learned to drive a car you can learn to throw a punch.

Your idea of good defence may be to give the attacker what he wants. That choice is yours as some people can live with the aftermath of assault better than others, so no one has the right to tell you what you should and should not do. However, the more dangerous the attack, rape, murder etc. the harder the decision to acquiesce becomes. No one is going to lose too much sleep over a stolen handbag but very few people want to give up their lives without a fight, and even if they are prepared to do that, they are very unlikely to allow an attacker carte blanche on their family.

I can only give you the options and my opinion; you have to decide on your own course of action. The publishers of this book and I can take no responsibility for that choice.

'Julia went with three colleagues to the Colonial Bar at the Watershed in central Bristol. She stayed chatting to her friends until 6.50 p.m. when she decided to leave.

'Julia had left her car that morning at Canon's Marsh car park, a short distance from the Watershed. She walked alongside the harbour for a short distance and then used an alleyway to reach Canons Road.

'Using the gap in the fence she entered the open-air car park and strolled towards her blue Ford Fiesta. She took the keys out of her handbag as she approached it, then unlocked the door, slid in to the driver's seat and pulled the door shut.

'As she put her keys in to the ignition, her driver's door was wrenched open and she found herself looking at a man who was a total stranger. He produced what she took to be a handgun with a barrel about six inches long. Bending his head into the car and thrusting the gun against her side, he said, "If you do what I say you won't get hurt". He pushed her as though he wanted her to move across in to the front passenger seat while continuing to point the gun at her.

'With great presence of mind, Julia Holman swung her legs around to the right and kicked out at him, at the same time pushing him off balance with her hands. She also shouted at him and gave out a loud scream. As the man straightened up she slammed the car door shut, started the engine and rapidly drove out of the car park. She noticed, in her rearview mirror, that he casually walked off in the direction of the city.'

The day after Julia's attempted abduction, Thursday 8th October, Shirley Banks disappeared form the centre of Bristol. John Cannan was subsequently convicted of her murder.

The following advice about defence is from a Home Office report in The Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 5th March 1991.

'Victims should always resist their attackers with all the force they can muster, says a home office report published yesterday in the psychology of sex offenders. The study found that in half the cases where the attacker used gratuitous or 'excessive' violence the victim had offered little or no resistance.'

As with all attack scenarios prevention is the best defence. If it comes down to a physical response, unless you are highly trained or very instinctive, your chances of success are not good as everything is against you.

Again the key is to be vigilant, practising awareness by being coded up, utilizing the concept of target hardening. Catch the criminal in his preparatory stages and break his ritual, simply by being aware of bad intention. You will usually spot menace if you are in code yellow and thus the consequential stalking and approach.

If you are approached keep a safe range between you and your potential attacker, even if the approach appears genuine, and never take your eyes off him. Beware of deception. If the attacker, or suspected attacker, walks away, fine. If not and a threat follows, or you feel that you are about to be threatened, use your lead hand (fence -to be detailed later) to stop him getting any closer to you and draw as much attention to your dilemma as possible. If an attack ensues, shout 'fire!', as opposed to 'rape!' or 'robbery!' Many people will not come to your aid if you are being attacked but will come running when someone shouts fire.

First response: Escape

As with all attack scenarios, your first response should be that of escape.

Second response: Verbal confrontation

If escape is not possible your second response should be a firm verbal confrontation. Tell the attacker to leave you alone. Make a fuss, draw attention to your dilemma. This may need reiterating several times. Shout or scream to attract attention from passers by.

If the attacker remains and no weapon is present, move on to the third response, physical confrontation.

If there is a weapon present, first use verbal dissuasion, engaging the attacker in conversation and setting the scene for escape. If this is fruitless and the offender makes aggressive threats, gestures or physical violence, then move onto the third response.

Third response: Physical confrontation

Make a pre-emptive attack and escape.

Fourth response: Non confrontive verbal

If the aggression abates, but escape is still not an option, the victim should engage the attacker in conversation and set the scene for possible escape.

If the attacker counters third response with greater violence, resume conversation and try to talk the attacker down from his rage.

Fifth Response: Escalated physical confrontation

If the aggression still does not abate and the attack continues the victim should use anything and everything to incapacitate the attacker to avoid further serious assault. The victim should try to use cunning and deception to veil their attack.


If the attacker is brandishing a weapon it is always wise to use added verbal dissuasion before engaging in a physical response. If the victim decides that a preemptive strike is needed, add cunning to veil the attack.

If you can't summon up the courage to be aggressive then feign submissiveness and, under its veil, when the attacker seems at his most vulnerable, make a preemptive attack. Make sure that the attack is a critical one to the opponent's vulnerable areas – jaw, eyes, throat etc. Hit and run.

Where distance control is not an option and the situation may have escalated to actual attack, fight back with all your might, again screaming and shouting, to draw attention to your dilemma, and attack, using every part of your body as a weapon. If you are holding keys, or anything incidental that may second as a weapon, use that also.

Many rapists will use the false promise to effect victim compliance, especially in abduction cases. It's important that you do not fall for this ploy. Every woman that was ever raped was hurt, if not physically, mentally.

Again, expect fear, control it with the knowledge that it is adrenalin and it is there to help. If the situation has become so dire that the victim has to resort to a physical response, it will require her to convert fear into rage and a sense of helplessness into a battle for survival.

The following is another true story, typical of many: an exemplification of rituals and deception, taken from the book Ladykiller:

'Donna and Gerry had recently returned from a holiday in Egypt where they had picked up a gastric infection. As a result they were both tired and an argument ensued over Gerry's decision to retire to bed a little earlier than usual.

'Donna slipped in to bed but could not settle down. The argument smouldered on. Eventually, 30 year old Donna decided to get up. She dressed in a yellow jumper and blue skirt, then went out of the house to calm down. It was a cool night and Donna reflected that she and Gerry had been married for four years and, although their relationship was a good one, they occasionally had tiffs for which their antidote was that one of them went out to "cool off ". On this particular occasion, Donna took a book with her and went for a drive in the family's Vauxhall Cavalier. She drove down Langley Hill along the A4 and turned in to Chantry Green off the Sava Centre roundabout. Parking under a street lamp, she turned off the engine and listened to the radio whilst reading her book. She recalled hearing the midnight news on Radio 2 and afterwards heard approaching footsteps.

'Looking in the rear view mirror, Donna noticed a man walking along the footpath on the opposite side of the road. He walked past the car. About two or three minutes later she saw the man again walking towards the Sava centre roundabout. She went back to her book and looked up again when she was aware of some one approaching the car.

'Her driver's side window was open. The man spoke to her. "Excuse me," he said. "Can you tell me where Balfour Drive is?"

'Donna replied, "I'm sorry, I'm afraid I don't …"

'"It's supposed to be around here somewhere. I've been walking around here for quite a while." They conversed briefly about Balfour Drive with the man looking up and down the road.

'"Have you got an A-Z in the car?" he asked. Donna glanced over her shoulder in to the back of the Cavalier and, as she did so, was aware that he was reaching for the door handle. He opened the door and said, "Don't make a fucking move, or noise, see this knife, if you don't do as you're told, you'll get it in your gut." He was holding a knife with a blade four inches long.

'Donna was terrified, but she had worked in a building society where the staff were advised always to give in to any demand rather than risk violence. She said, "What do you want?" thinking that the man was after money or jewellery.

'"I just want sex," he replied. "Get in the back of the car. Get down on the fucking floor." The man climbed in to the driver's seat of the car and drove them off to an industrial park where he parked the car in partial darkness next to a rubbish skip. This set the scene for a terrifying rape.

'The perpetrator was "handsome and charming" John Cannan.'

This entrapment was used again and again by Cannan, a classical demonstration of the aforementioned 'ritual of violence'. In this case the victim was self-selected: she placed herself, albeit inadvertently, in a victim state by breaking every rule in the book about 'target hardening'. Cannan stalked her by walking past the car a couple of times, in his initial approach he utilised the four 'D's: Dialogue ('can you tell me where Balfour Drive is?'), Deception ('It's supposed to be around here somewhere. I've been walking around for quite a while'; Cannan deceives her into believing that he is genuinely lost), Distraction ('Have you got an A-Z in the car?') and ultimately Destruction (brutal rape). Cannan also used the false promise ('see this knife, if you don't do as you're told, you'll get it in your gut') to force compliance.

It is also demonstrative of code white, mentally and environmentally, and of victim naivety. Cannan was renowned for his trawling of victims. In this case we are not sure if he was trawling, and happened upon Donna, or if it was an opportunist attack that fell right into his lap. Either way his victim was in code white, thus making his job easier.

Many attacks happen after lovers' tiffs; the lady (or the man) storming off, leaving the lady on her own, either out of the house or, when socialising, to make her own way home from the pub/club. This can be a highly vulnerable time for women and should be avoided at all costs. Or for women out with a girlfriend, if she goes off with a man leaving you to make your own way home, be very careful. Ask the pub/club staff if they might call you a taxi, explain your dilemma. Don't end up walking the streets looking for a cab, or worse still, walking home or taking a lift from a stranger.


Surveys throughout the world have also shown that attack and rape victims who fought back did not sustain any greater injury than those who succumbed. It is also a well known medical fact that rape victims who fight back against their attackers recover from the mental torture that often follows far more quickly than those that do not. The duration of most attacks is short; the longer the attack lasts the more danger the attacker finds himself in. This is another good reason why I believe fight-back, on the part of the victim, is essential. It complicates matters for the attacker who can ill afford the time delay that victim reticence would cause. The more ferocious your fight back, the more likely he is to abort the assault. The archetypal attacker thrives upon the capitulating victim who is moulded into supplication by sheer terror. Fight back will also draw attention from passers-by, another dangerous complication for the attacker that will again force him to abort.


Code yellow allows the victim to spot the telltale signs that the mugger emits in his selection stage.

Close observation will highlight the assailant's suspicious actions: he will stand out like a sore thumb. His eyes will follow the victim closely and dart away if the look is returned, he will be falsely casual, as though trying to look occupied, with no occupying matter. The fact that he has noticed his intended victim's vigilance will, at this stage, usually be enough to cause early abortion of the intended attack, awareness making the victim a hard target. The victim should let the attacker know by his/her actions that he has been noted. If the victim mingles with other people, goes in to a shop, makes a hasty retreat etc., the attacker will move on, going back into selection mode and look for another victim, preferably someone that is not so aware.


Due to the sheer terror evoked by an attack scenario, many people are frozen into immobility and compliance by abject terror, caused by adrenal dump. This forces them to submit for fear of the attacker killing them. The victim might say 'Don't hurt me and I'll do anything that you want.' This may be as a last resort, when all else has failed, to stop the attack. This capitulation is often interpreted by the attacker as participation and can exasperate the intensity of the attack.

This, taken from the book Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives, is what the Behavioural Sciences Unit of the FBI had to say about acquiescence:

'In general the decision to submit or acquiesce to an attacker is a difficult one, determined as much by the violence of the assault as by the victim's emotional state and specific fears (such as death or rape). Some women will be able to cope much better than others with the knowledge that they submitted.

'Acquiescence can invoke, in some victims, post assault rage and/or guilt, while other victims may be able to accept and feel comfortable with whatever actions they felt were necessary to survive the assault with a minimum of physical and emotional injury. If, after other strategies have failed, acquiescence is deemed to be the optimum response to protect life and reduce physical injury in a given situation, it is important that the victim be comfortable with such a choice and be aware that post assault guilt feelings will probably arise.'


Date rape, a relatively new expression imported from America, has already received much coverage in the popular press in this and other countries. It is a very sensitive subject.

What might start out as a special date, or even a platonic offer of a nightcap could end in date rape. So, in addition to the foregoing, and for basic avoidance and survival, be very fussy and sceptical about who you take lifts with or invite into your home. Until you know the person who wants to take you out a little better, stick to places that you know well, better still try to go out in a foursome.

Habits of youth. The first sexual encounter for many men is likely to have been with a girl that needed coaxing into having sex – his first attempts being refused until, after much persistence, 'no', finally becomes, 'oh, go on then'. Token resistance can also be a small part of foreplay. So it is important not to lead a man on without knowing how far you want to go. If you go part way and then stop, the man may see it as a part of the lover's ritualistic foreplay, he may also think that you, like the girls in his youth, just need a little more coaxing.

Alcohol can also play a major part in date rape. Many women drop their guard under its influence and become more amorous than usual, maybe even flirty. With men, alcohol swells the ego and bravado often comes to the forefront. Aggression may also be triggered, even in someone that may usually be timid.

Things are said and done under the influence of alcohol that, in a sober state, would be completely out of character. Be extra careful when having a drink, and think very carefully before inviting someone home for a nightcap, that may turn in to a nightmare.

If you invite someone in for a coffee, be sure to stipulate that coffee is all that is on offer. For many men the offer of coffee is the greatest aphrodisiac in the world, whilst for the young lady it is often, genuinely, just a kind offer of a nightcap and perhaps a chat. If you invite a man for coffee, or accept an invitation from him, you may be at risk. If you offer or accept, be firm so that the offer cannot be misconstrued. Even then, be on your guard – some men listen with their ears closed.

If you do not want sex, it may be better not to make or accept the invitation until you know the person a lot better. Whilst I understand that this may sound ridiculously paranoid, it is the only fail-safe preventive method. If you really like the man, make a date to meet him again. If he likes and respects you he will accept this without demur.

If you are not sure whether or not you want sex say no and wait until you are absolutely certain. Confusion on the part of the lady could lead to a serious misunderstanding later.

Whilst it is the lady's prerogative to change her mind, at any stage, it would be naive to lead him on if you have no intention of having sex. It will also make it easier for the man to make you feel guilty for saying no if he can claim that you led him on earlier.

Sex is no longer a taboo subject. If you are enjoying a man's company, but have no intention of making sex a part of the evening, don't hesitate to tell him so right from the start. Tell him that you like his company and would like to talk, but nothing else. This is working on the premise that you know what you want; sex is often a spontaneous end to a lovely evening. The demand for sex, when unwanted, is a very ugly end to a lovely evening.

You may well go home with a man, intending to have sex with him, and change your mind if he turns out to be less than you desired. If you say no, it must mean no. It must be said emphatically and without hesitation. If a man thinks there is even the slightest chance that you will change your mind he will persist, the more aroused he gets, the more insistent his demands will become.

If he is a regular boyfriend and he threatens to go home in a sulk when you turn him down, let him go and don't make up on the doorstep; again, he may read this as a reprieve and start all over again. Let him come back the next day, or call you on the phone to make amends.

If a man will not leave your home, after several requests, find an excuse to leave the room or even the house and phone a friend to come to your aid, even the police if you feel adequately threatened. If the phone is in the same room, make an excuse to leave the room and then go to a neighbour and use their phone.

If the situation has become grave, but not violent, and the man is laying a guilt trip on you, perhaps intimating that he may become violent if he does not get his own way, and you are not in a position to use a phone, continue to make it clear that you do not want him to continue and maintain a safe distance between you and him. In some cases it may even be worth developing a few bad habits: picking your nose, talking about your piles or periods, coughing and spitting into a handkerchief. This may well put a lot of men off wanting sex.

If all else fails and the man continues to force himself on you and you are struggling to control the situation, tell him firmly and clearly, 'If you don't stop now, this will be RAPE! STOP! OR THIS WILL BE RAPE!'

Many date rapists claim, post rape, that they didn't think their act was rape, using the old 'No doesn't always mean "no"' excuse. If you tell him that what he is about to do IS going to be rape, he can be in no doubt. The word RAPE will also be very sobering, neutering arousal and possibly stopping a potential rape.

If all else fails, every and any physical response you may have learned will come in to play. All the techniques described so far of deception and cunning should be employed. A man with his genitals exposed is very vulnerable. But it will take courage in bucketfuls to act.

'April 1992, Catford, South London.

'A man with previous convictions pushed his way in to a care assistant's home, he took her money and then demanded sex. He tore open her clothes and then sexually assaulted her. When he licked her face she bit his tongue. His screaming alerted the assistant's twenty-eight year old son, who called the police. The attacker was sentenced to nine years. He told police "I chose her because she is a woman. They are soft and can't struggle." In this case he couldn't have been more wrong.'
Unleash the Lioness

Any attempt at rape, whether thwarted or not, should be reported to the police. Many rapists are free and walking the streets today because their victims were either too scared or too embarrassed to report the attack, often even too scared or ashamed to tell their own families of the atrocity. This reticence is understandable, but every time a victim fails to report a rape or attempted rape there is a possibility that somebody else will get attacked or raped as a direct or indirect consequence because the attacker is still at large. If you are the victim of attack, telling some one will also help share the burden and hurry your recovery. A problem shared is a problem halved.


The following expected response graph has been devised from information as taken from my interviews, actual experience and case histories.

Expected Response Graph

expected response graph

Article written by Geoff Thompson

Geoff Thompson claims that his biological birthdate is 1960, though his hair-line goes right back to the First World War.

He has worked as a floor sweeper, chemical worker, pizza maker, road digger, hod carrier, martial-arts instructor, bricklayer, picture seller, delivery driver and nightclub bouncer before giving up 'proper work' in 1992 to write full time.

He is now a bestselling author, BAFTA-nominated screenwriter, magazine columnist, playwright and novelist.

He lives in Coventry with his wife Sharon, and holds a 6th dan in Japanese karate, 1st dan in Judo and was voted the number one self-defence author in the world by Black Belt Magazine USA.