To enhance believability of virtual agents, this paper presents an agent-based modelling approach for decision making, which integrates rational reasoning based on means-end analysis with personal psychological and biological aspects. The agent model developed is a combination of a BDI-model and a utility-based decision model in the context of specific desires and beliefs. The approach is illustrated by addressing the behaviour of violent criminals, thereby creating a model for virtual criminals. Within a number of simulation experiments, the model has been tested in the context of a street robbery scenario. In addition, a user study has been performed, which confirms the fact that the model enhances believability of virtual agents. © 2009 The Author(s).