Jack the Ripper has long been a source of fascination for senior forensic psychologist Ciara Wild, who has recently co-authored a book on the subject – though not from the usual angle. We find out more, and discover how her Psychology BSc and master's at London Met helped lead her to where she is today.
Tell us a little bit about yourself (where you’re from, where you grew up)
I grew up in Kent, not far from London, but I had always hoped to live and study in London. Being accepted onto a course at London Met was a fantastic opportunity for me to grow and learn as a person as well as in my studies.
What brought you to London Met?
I have always been interested in real crime, particularly Jack the Ripper, and the psychology lectures were all based in the University buildings around Whitechapel.* I was able to really immerse myself in the culture of the area, the history and the opportunities for work and study.
What did studying at London Met mean to you?
It meant that I had a good balance of mixing with different cultures and backgrounds, different lifestyles and values and experiences. It brought colour to the world and enabled me to grow as a person because of the availability of diversity around me. As a psychologist this is invaluable understanding as I work with such a diverse client group.
Tell us about your current role.
I am currently a senior forensic psychologist with the prison service and I work primarily with men in long-term and high-security prisons. My job is to conduct psychological risk assessments for the Parole Board, to deliver rehabilitation programmes and other therapeutic interventions to help the prisoners progress through their sentences. I support the safety of the establishments by supporting staff well-being as well as prisoner well-being and providing consultation on complex cases.
Talk to us about your book. How did it come about?
The book is called Myth, Monster, Murderer and Jack the Ripper was always an area that I was interested in. I love reading and my co-author is my mum, who is a writer, and has been scribbling things in notebooks since before I can remember. We were both interested in the subject and it felt like a nice project to do between us. In reality, it took five years of researching and writing, re-writing and editing. I don’t think we ever thought it would be published so this has come as quite a surprise and I think I am still in denial a little bit.
What started out as being a book about Jack the Ripper actually ended up as a story about the victims and the lives of women at the time. Just before we wrote the book, I had been on a voluntary placement in Whitechapel with women who were sex working and it struck me how, in all this time, not that much has changed in how society views and treats women who sex work and I felt that this needed exploring a bit more and some attention being given to the circumstances that led to women in society being vulnerable in general, but then also vulnerable to extreme violence.
What is your biggest passion in life and where did that passion come from?
I don’t know that I have one biggest passion and I think that’s really important, that we don’t have just one thing that defines us. Obviously psychology and forensic psychology specifically is a passion and I love my job, but I am passionate about rugby and played for a good while as a young person and then again as an adult and I also love reading and writing stories. I can definitely point to my mum’s influence for these.
What drives you?
Curiosity… honestly that is it. It’s being genuinely curious and interested in life and the world around me.
What’s the proudest moment in your life?
This is a really tough question. I want to say getting my job, my qualifications or my book but it’s not, it’s my little boy, he is my proudest moment so far.
Do you have any advice for anyone considering studying at London Met?
The only advice I have really is to embrace the experience and the location. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and support from staff and grab opportunities as they arise, you never know where they will take you.
*Editor's note: our psychology courses are now based in Hollloway – but you're welcome to visit our Aldgate campus if you want to follow in Ciara's footsteps and explore Whitechapel.
"The book is called Myth, Monster, Murderer and Jack the Ripper was always an area that I was interested in. I love reading and my co-author is my mum, who is a writer, and has been scribbling things in notebooks since before I can remember."