Understanding Dunblane and other Massacres: Forensic Studies of Homicide, Paedophilia, and Anorexia

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The book predominantly explores the psychic histories of patients who display their transgenerational conflicts/trauma through forensic acts. It establishes the need to consider the details of patient history in understanding the patient within both the therapeutic encounter and the treatment team milieu. There are many themes of contemporary interest including gang murders, sibling jealousy, fatal eating disorder, personality disorder, and the effects of exclusion and marginalisation within group and community dynamics and the global prevalence of mass murder. Peter Aylward describes the collapse into dyadic thinking and enactment that prevails when the third perspective, classically represented by the father within the Oedipal dynamic, is excluded or absent. Providing detailed case studies he shows how seemingly meaningless explosions of violence or perversion are attempts to master early experiences of trauma and/or exclusion, often passed down unconsciously through the generations. Using the theories of Matte Blanco and notions of the 'critical date' the chapters give unique insight into the timing and triggers of crimes, however apparently random. The final chapter, on the Dunblane Massacre, illuminates the thinking in previous chapters about the crucial importance of triangulating to militate against exclusion/marginalization whose humiliating feelings can be the bedrock of not only the paedophilic and anorexic but more strikingly the murderous impulse. The significant implications for the penal, health and particularly the education system are discussed with recommendations suggested. This is endorsed in the foreword by Lord Alderdice who writes that "it is in the interests of communities to act through informed understanding, and I very much hope that his [Aylward's] lead is followed".

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CHAPTER ONE: Palindrome spotting within the calendar of the mind: detecting the re-enactment of original trauma in the crime

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“The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth have been set on edge.”

—Jeremiah 31:29

This chapter describes an understanding of a patient unconsciously re-enacting, through homicide, an original trauma, at a critical time in her life, by suddenly “giving birth” to a crime that at once symmetrically matched the unexpected presentation of a sibling, by her mother. The offence, standing for the baby, albeit in a psychotic and delusional form, was the perpetrator’s way of playing back to her mother what had been played out to her at a much earlier time. This draws attention to the crucial importance of the lateral sibling relationships in families, in relation to subsequent acting-out scenarios of homicide, which the psychoanalytic world has been remiss in not sufficiently triangulating with the significance of the vertical relationships with parents.

I allude in my title, and hope to present, the notion that a crime can be understood as representing an earlier trauma and that the trauma is being played back in the same form at an emotional level at a particular time. This reinforces the characteristic of the timelessness of the unconscious by suggesting that there is a calendar of the mind that may dictate the pertinence of both the timing and type of offence. “Palindrome” comes from the Greek palindromos meaning “running back again”, and is a word to describe something that is the same backwards as forwards. The sentence “Able was I ere I saw Elba” is the same when read forwards as when read backwards, and is therefore a palindrome. The traumatic experience I will focus upon will be the arrival of a sibling which, because of its ubiquity and ordinariness, is not always seen with its full psychotic and forensic possibilities. Juliet Mitchell in her publication on sibling relations and hysteria—Mad Men and Medusas (2000)— suggests that when a child is faced with the arrival of a sibling there is a protest against this by trying to become the only baby or favourite offspring: “By which time he is utterly dependent and helpless. The dread of the death-like experience of trauma, which is the equivalent of an absence of subject or ego, is warded off by a mimetic identification with another person” (Mitchell, 2000 p. 41).

 

CHAPTER TWO: Perverse triangulation

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This chapter explores the thinking around the psychodynamics of power and its effects upon treatment. The subject area will be to look at the necessity of triangulating treatment (through the application of dynamic thinking) by specifically focusing upon the way in which this process is not being appropriately undertaken. An assessment on a serial sex offender is presented and the subsequent formulation is shown to have aspects of a generalising value that helps in looking at what such patients need institutionally in order to address conflict and to counter perverse defence formations. Moreover, consideration is given to the significance of institutional mirroring in the way that it meets such patients’ perverse defensive needs, rather than facilitating their true needs.

Mathematically, when one corner of a triangle collapses it reverts to becoming a straight line. As a result of such a collapse, this straight line would indicate a preceding perverse triangle.

Developmentally, perverse triangulation could be presented as occurring when the absence of recognition and inclusion of the father into the mother/child dyad takes place.

 

CHAPTER THREE: Murder: persecuted by jealousy

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“Full fathoms five thy father lies;
of his bones are coral made:
Those are pearls that were his eyes
Nothing of him doth fade,
But doth suffer a seachange
Into something rich and strange
Sea-Nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Ding-Dong
Hark! Now I hear them,—ding-dong, bell.”

—Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act 1, Scene 2

This chapter develops the thinking of Chapter Two on perverse triangulation. Its focus is on exploring the dynamics surrounding the offence of murder, in that murder I believe represents the “solution” to experiencing persecution (rendered impotent as a result of feeling harassed, tormented, and pursued) by a threesome experience, that is, in three-person jealousy, in the delusional belief that the resulting twosome will eliminate any further feelings of persecution. The persecution is an intrinsic part of an internal configuration so that any external act of murder only represents a momentary, perverse, and ultimately ineffective solution. It is my view that three-person jealousy is a critical feature in all murder in that it represents, externally, the internal experience of being killed off in a relationship that the perpetrator had with another by the arrival of the third. By extension, the persistent persecution at having to accommodate the third into a two-person relationship, particularly when the subject has not yet digested the dynamics involved in the two-person relationship, creates the environment for murderousness to be triggered when external circumstances mirror or approximate to such an internal configuration.

 

CHAPTER FOUR: Crossing the divide

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“One of the beguiling aspects is the way that the finest bloodline to someone—who, a few hours earlier, you never knew existed—is enough to endear them to you in a way that you would never be drawn to a stranger in so brief a time.”

—Joseph, 2004, p. 23

The distinction and separation between family members and others can be indicative of the inner divide separating dyadic and triadic thinking, or it might be said, paranoid-schizoid and depressive functioning (Klein, 1946).1 A clinical example is presented whereby an inner divide could not be crossed in the mind of a mother to help her deal with trauma. Consequently, her trauma infected her children, who in turn dramatically acted out their unconscious content by casting a mix across the social divide between families and strangers in committing a joint murder. This act repeated the original trauma in a mirroring form in which there was no healthy crossing of the divide from unconscious enactment to conscious reflection. From a trans-generational viewpoint, trauma can have far-reaching consequences, which suggests that while time can be a healer, it can also be involved in causing repeated and compulsive re-enactments.

 

CHAPTER FIVE: The revenge involved in diagnosing untreatability

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“In the case of Reid, referred to the House of Lords, their Lordships took the view that whilst medical research and therapeutic innovation continues, it is difficult to say with confidence that any patient is truly untreatable or might not eventually benefit from care and treatment under medical supervision.”

—David Morgan re Reid v Secretary of State for Scotland (1999) 1 all ER 481, per Lord Hutton T 515

In this chapter it is postulated that all criminality involves revenge and that revenge by being intrinsically talionic (an eye for an eye) is dyadic in nature and the results often represent the antithesis of creativity. By extension, when considering the roots of those deemed untreatable, their propensity for acting-out scenarios tends, in consequence, to obliterate valuable reflection, not only in themselves but all around. Extensive experience suggests that neglect of essential history taking of each individual is the ubiquitous casualty of the obliteration of reflection. An individual’s history illuminates his particular pattern of revenge. A comparison will be considered between a male patient, with a high psychopathy rating, where anality features both in his index offence and in his object relations, and a female patient who poses problems in institutional care such that there is a highly infective charge of violent projective identification and concordant depression that mirrors her inner world. In different ways they have challenged a variety of clinical and non-clinical settings. Both have engendered powerful feelings, leading to the collapse, in those around them, of the capacity to reflect on that part of their unconscious processes that could understand what they are about, and formulate prescriptions for treatment. This chapter cements the progressive importance attributed to triangu-lation in thinking.

 

CHAPTER SIX: Boy do I exist! The avoidance of annihilatory terror through paedophilic acts

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This chapter explores clinical material in the light of the patient’s history from an extended assessment and subsequent treatment, to highlight some of the dynamics involved in paedophilic activities. It is suggested that what the paedophile hopes to achieve in his offending is primarily the elimination of anxiety emanating from the dreaded emotional experience of exclusion, isolation, emptiness, and non-existence. The paedophilic solution is rooted in his hatred of reality and the natural order of events, and is related to the ubiquitous importance of secrecy (notorious in paedophilia) that ensures that the relationship the paedophile has with his own knowledge (fantasies, thoughts, and actions) is not shared with himself or allowed to become known by another. Moreover, this is inextricably linked to the denial of otherness (the father, in the developmental model) by achieving early Oedipal triumph, as a corollary to the fears associated with accommodating/embracing in to the mind the malevolent experience of paternity, either directly through violence/hostility or indirectly through rejection/negation. This results in the relationship with mother becoming enmeshed and a perverse identification developing in an attempt to be at one with her, given the absence of a mediating, benign, supportive, and loving father. Authority (stereotypically the father) becomescompulsively undermined, giving the victims of such offenders the experience of authority (represented by the offender at the time of the offence against the child) as dangerous and to be avoided, thereby mirroring the early experience of the perpetrator.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN: Digesting history as a lifesaver

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Dedication

“Learning from fatal experience.”

This chapter is dedicated to the memory of a patient whose death from anorexia nervosa has enabled life to be given to the understanding of its causes.

My gratitude is extended to both the clinical team led by

Professor Janet Treasure for their dedication and professionalism, and also the patient’s family whose availability and generosity in providing me with the relevant facts following their loss was invaluable and humbling.

“What’s past is prologue … “

—Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act 2, Scene 1)

This chapter seeks to clarify and establish a definitive position that has been progressively developed in the collection of chapters in this book, which is that without a meaningful engagement with the past, whether in relation to the individual, family, group/ institution, or state, the capacity to understand any terrors involved and thereby safely understand and contain them is irreparably disabled. Failure to engage with the past also creates the huge potential for those terrors to become manifest (displaced) in a different way, thereby perpetuating the original problem/conflict in another form. The clinical case of a patient who developed anorexia nervosa to solve her own early terrors will be discussed. Concomitantly, this patient cut out her own history from her mind, culminating with the perverse pyrrhic victory in bringing about her own death. Her terror stemmed from the annihilatory experience of feeling excluded and unable to compete with an idealised sibling, which became fatally re-enacted at ward level. Her resistance to meaningful engagement with her past, given that it was too painful, infected and affected the capacity of the treating team to include it. This resulted in her earlier terrors being projected into the treating team regarding the prospect of her death, while they endeavoured to keep her alive. It has already been suggested that it is vitally important to be a good detective in relation to history taking—that is, taking a meaningful account of a history in order to provide the maximum opportunity to contain the associated terrors.

 

CHAPTER EIGHT: In defence of the realm … of emotion

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Personae

This chapter explores the defences and identification processes used by a man during the homicide of a woman (a close friend) and her two young children, which enabled him to protect himself from an awareness of his feelings in relation to original family members, whom they represented. The patient was seen both during an extended assessment and subsequently for treatment following a specific request from his Responsible Clinician (RC), given that his defences continued to challenge not only the treating team but also the holding institution. He placed powerful demands on all clinicians to collude with his defences to the point where at times he was experienced as if he was a member of staff and not a patient. This was understood to represent an acute level of denial (from psychic pain) with a manic defence that ultimately protected him from his own vulnerability and early experience.

In 2009, after spending twenty years in a high-secure hospital, he was geographically relocated to another high-secure hospital following a national reorganisation. His new treating team sought a psychodynamic assessment on the complex aetiology behind his homicidal offending and to explore any dynamic factors linking his history to his ward/ hospital behaviour and his index offence. The assessment had been prompted following a mental health tribunal who were seeking further explanations to his index offence. I met with him for seven assessment sessions, and also felt it to be vitally important to meet with his nearest relative, his sister, so that I could accurately triangulate the history provided by the patient with another family member.

 

CHAPTER NINE: Understanding the Dunblane Massacre

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In memory of all victims of the Dunblane Massacre

“I do not believe in a fate that falls on men however they act; but I do believe in a fate that falls on them unless they act.”

—G. K. Chesterton (1922)

This chapter presents an understanding (it is believed for the first time) of the causes of the largest mass killing in Scotland’s recent history at Dunblane Primary School on 13 March 1996 where sixteen children and two adults (one of whom was the perpetrator) lost their lives. It portrays the powerful picture of a man destined to act out the unresolved conflicts of his family history at a critical time, given the absence of a meaningful intervention into the historically perverse and enmeshed dyadic relationship with his mother. This absence of another dimension (ordinarily the father) to mediate between the two ensured that through repetition compulsion he went on to relate to his environment as a re-enactment of his personal history, resulting in the massacre of innocence of infancy that was originally his own.

 

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