How to avoid being a crime victim – by the bestselling author who’s seen it all

Patricia Cornwell has criticised people who do not 'even want to hear anything going on'
Patricia Cornwell has criticised people who do not 'even want to hear anything going on' - Andrew Crowley for The Telegraph

Do not leave your windows open while you are sleeping or walk around with headphones on as “anything can happen”, crime writer Patricia Cornwell has warned.

The 67-year-old author said that after researching crime for decades, she always has her “radar going” as she criticised people who do not “even want to hear anything going on”.

The author of the bestselling Kay Scarpetta series revealed she is constantly looking for “potential dangers” since starting to write crime novels.

Speaking on The Shift podcast, Cornwell said: “I see things everywhere I go and I’m not somebody who walks around with earbuds – I watch, and I listen.

“Because you just never know. I try and pay attention but even so. It’s so easy for one minute, when you are really just not attending to something, and anything can happen.”

The American author said she was “grateful” when bad things did not happen, but she liked to be “really aware of [her] surroundings”.

“And frankly, everybody should be,” she added.

“We now live with people who don’t want to know it – they don’t even want to hear anything going on. Well, that’s really dangerous.

“You need to hear if something else is coming up behind you, or if a car’s running off the sidewalk, for example.”

Never sleep with an unlocked window

The Kay Scarpetta series, which features the eponymous chief medical examiner, began in 1990 with the crime fiction novel Postmortem.

In the novel, a serial killer breaks into women’s homes to strangle them and eventually breaks into Dr Scarpetta’s own house before being shot by her fellow investigator.

Cornwell said that one of the most common things that fans have told her at book signings over the years is: “I have never, never slept with my windows unlocked since I read Postmortem”.

She told the podcast: “And I said, ‘Good because you shouldn’t’. You shouldn’t. Why would you want to let somebody climb in.”

She added: “Everywhere I go I can point out something that’s going to hurt you or kill you, it’s awful.

“Seeing things and you go ‘Oh my God, that’s a terrible thing waiting to happen’. It could be anything that I see as potential. I do [leave the house], but I’ve always got my radar going,” she said.

Cornwell has sold more than 100 million books in 36 languages, and has penned 29 New York Times bestsellers. Before releasing her first book, Cornwell was an investigative journalist.

She has also dedicated a large part of her work to attempting to prove the theory that the Victorian painter Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper, through a self-funded project.

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