C-LINK Jessica Woodhams is a co-founder of C-LINK, which stands for Crime Linkage International NetworK. She wants to develop it into a global crime-fighting network in which academics work together with police to make their work faster and more effective. Analysts would no longer be subject to an unmanageable number of cases when searching for connections. The project is still waiting for the final piece of financial support. But C-LINK, Jessica Woodhams and her colleagues at the Centre for Crime are ready. within easy reach, beside it an armchair — when the thoughts can and must fly freely. The absent vanity of the person and the marked practicality of the room conceal the fact that an eminent authority on crime fighting is talking about her work here. Woodhams has studied hundreds of cases in her career to date. She wrote the first book on “crime linkage”. She is an internationally sought- after expert in her field. She has given lectures everywhere from Russia to Colombia. She has collaborated with police forces from many countries, including England, Canada and Belgium through to South Africa and the Netherlands. And even though Woodhams cannot speak publicly about the cases she has analyzed or her private life, it is a known fact that she was the sole expert witness for the Crown in the appeal case of Thomas Ross Young, sentenced for the murder of Frances Barker in the 1970s, and her evidence was pivotal in the Scottish Court’s decision that crime linkage analysis was inadmissible. At the time, Jessica Woodhams was only 35 years old. Today, she contributes a large part of the Centre for Crime’s collective experience. The congregation of the widest variety of scientists there, each with their own methods and special knowledge, is unique. Because a human geographer who concerns herself with the nature of prisons raises different questions in conversation than a psychologist. Because a lawyer has a completely different view on things than an economic analyst. “We’re going to get started,” Woodhams is certain. The Centre for Crime makes Birmingham a capital in the fight against crime. The mind that is so engaged in this fight, that has created so much in its service, is now getting some fresh air. Woodhams stands on one of the university buildings and looks out over the campus in England’s second largest city. From far up, connections can often be discovered more easily; the height helps to “ventilate the mind”, as she says. “It’s very important that we get out into the open, into nature, that we do a lot of sports and keep fit.” Twice a week she goes to the gym. She does yoga and rides a bike. That allows her to better endure the grime of humanity. “It’s not like my work makes my life rubbish.” She laughs again, as she often does. She loves her work. She chose it herself. Woodhams is wearing earbuds. High up on the roof her hair flies around her face. The image fits well with her favorite band, Rage Against the Machine, crossover metal with more invective than any prison cell. She’s fallen head over heels for loud, booming music. One thing she never does is to listen to songs she likes while analyzing cases. “The mental connection between images and music can’t be broken after that.” It’s getting dark. Woodhams is making her way home. She knows that anything can happen. That’s why, as always, she will maintain the greatest possible distance from the parked cars while walking on the sidewalk. By driveways, she will cross to the other side of the street. At home she will lock all the doors as well as all ground-floor windows. Outside of work she does not talk about it. She doesn’t want to “contaminate” her environment. She carries the memories by herself. “It changes your thinking, it changes your behavior.” But the one thing that remains unchanged by all the grime that is the focus of her work? Her infectious laugh.
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