Category Archives: murder

Bright young things

Ideological selective memory

Picking up a copy of the International Herald Tribune, Dalrymple alights on an article reprinted from the New York Times on the Dirty War in Argentina. It declares that

the devastation inflicted on a generation is hard to overstate,

and asserts that a large proportion of those who disappeared were

bright and idealistic young people.

Dalrymple comments:

The phrase ‘bright and idealistic young people’ should be sufficient to alert any sensible person to the likelihood that an important aspect of the story is being omitted for ideological reasons (or rather, purposes).

He notes that in pursuit of their ideals, the mistakes that some of these bright young people made included

  • armed robbery
  • widespread kidnap
  • assassination
  • random murder

By the time the army carried out its coup in 1976, Dalrymple notes,

over 3,000 people had been killed in the political violence unleashed by the young idealists. The Dirty War, terrible and unforgivable as it was, did not arise by spontaneous generation.

The part played in the Dirty War by the bright young idealists

should not be forgotten (though it almost always is), for otherwise, the wrong lessons will be learned. Amnesia would be preferable to blatantly ideological selective memory.

New ways of understanding youth

Dalrymple writes that Hermine Hug-Hellmuth was

sycophantically respectful of and grateful to Sigmund Fraud, which meant that, being the kind of man that he was, she remained in his good books. This was not the case with Freud’s daughter, Anna, who could not forgive her for having been the first to apply psychoanalysis to children, which is how she, Anna, wanted to be known. Pettiness and spite have always been the hallmarks of psychoanalysis, despite its claims to wisdom.

She was leading an arid existence, involving herself

in an arcane sect that contributed nothing to human understanding. Rather, the reverse: it erected elaborate screens of absurd theory between people and their proper self-reflection or self-examination.

She had an illegitimate elder half-sister, Antoine, who in 1906 gave birth to an illegitimate son called Rudolf. In 1924, Rudolf murdered Hermine brutally, shortly after publication of her book, Neue Wege zum Verständnis der Jugend: Psychoanalytische Vorlesungen für Eltern, Lehrer, Erzieher, Schulärzte, Kindergärtnerinnen und Fürsorgerinnen. It is hard, says Dalrymple,

to suppress a smile at the irony of it.

The tragedy of penological deflation

In 2003, Dalrymple writes, the ‘rock’ exponent Bertrand Cantat

brutally did to death the actress Marie Trintignant, with whom he was having an affair. He beat her so severely that she died not long afterwards of her head injuries. He was under the influence of alcohol and cannabis at the time.

For this terrible crime, in which there were no mitigating circumstances, Cantat

spent four years in prison, a derisory punishment.

Dalrymple asks:

If you have to serve only four years for such a crime, what punishment can a lesser, but nonetheless serious, crime attract, assuming that the principle of proportionality of punishments has still to apply?

Lupine leanings

This wild carnivorous mammal is most unfairly maligned

Dalrymple writes that he is

more kindly disposed to wolves than to rats,

on account of wolves’

obvious relationship to dogs. I would quite like to see sweet little wolf cubs gambolling in my meadow.

Besides, he says,

the penalty for killing a wolf in France is a fine of up to €150,000 and a jail sentence of up to seven years. If you must kill, kill a man. It’s easier and cheaper.

Forces beyond the criminal’s control

Dalrymple’s 2017 work

In the prison where Dalrymple works, there are at the moment

three stabbers (two of them unto death) who used precisely the same expression when describing to me what happened. ‘The knife went in,’ they said when pressed to recover their allegedly lost memories of the deed.

Dalrymple comments:

The knife went in—unguided by human hand, apparently. That the long-hated victims were sought out, and the knives carried to the scene of the crimes, was as nothing compared with the willpower possessed by the inanimate knives themselves, which determined the unfortunate outcome.

A peculiar kind of feminist populism

screen-shot-2017-01-31-at-22-20-12You will not, writes Dalrymple,

be treated too severely if you kill your violent husband, even if you have made no other efforts to avoid his violence. If you put up with it for long enough, in fact, you can kill him.

Women,

apparently weak and feeble creatures, can’t be held to the same level of legal obligation as men. They are by nature victims and nothing but victims, indeed not fully responsible human beings.

The Magnanville killer

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 19.17.28

Abballa entered the home of a policeman and stabbed him to death, then slit the policeman’s wife’s throat in front of her three-year-old son

Larossi Abballa, a common petty criminal like many of his kind, had, writes Dalrymple, a weak intellect which

seized on the supposed glories of religious crime, the solution to his accumulated frustrations, resentments, and personal insignificance.

Abballa had spent two years in prison for jihadist activity,

having refused to answer the questions of his accusers because he considered them, from the great height of his moral authority, to be unbelievers and evildoers to whom no duty was owed other than to kill as many of them as possible.

While in prison he acted as an evangelist for jihad, but after his release he was, says Dalrymple,

lost to follow-up, as we doctors so elegantly put it.

Sydney sordor

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 08.04.28Dalrymple writes that the murder scenes in City of Shadows, an exhibition at Sydney’s Justice & Police Museum, are

sordid in the extreme: blood spattered on the sheets of an unmade bed in a low boarding house, that kind of thing. They speak of sordid desperation rather than of cunning, let alone of struggles with conscience. I am afraid that the murders in the trials of whose perpetrators I have given evidence have all been of this kind, as the overwhelming majority of murders are and always have been.

Dalrymple does not think

anyone looking at these pictures, however unrepresentative of their time, would feel much nostalgia for the years in which they were taken. The scale of the raw poverty was unlike anything today.

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Education of a medical student

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 18.49.35A few weeks ago, writes Dalrymple,

I had a medical student attached to me.

The first patient they saw together was

a young man brought to the hospital by the police with the blood of his girlfriend, whom he had just stabbed to death, still on his shoes. She had taunted him, he said, about his inferior performance as a lover compared with her last such, one of many, whom she had then telephoned to ask him to come and ‘sex her up’ because he — the murderer — was not up to it.

The patient, being a man

conditioned to believe by an over-sexualised culture that sexual performance was the only real measure of a human being, resorted to the kitchen knife and stabbed her not once, not twice, but thrice. Thereafter, he had called the police and taken the pills.

As the patient told his story, Dalrymple looked at his medical student,

an intelligent, sheltered young man (as young men ought to be). He learned more about human nature in that 10 minutes than in all the rest of his life put together. He aged, or perhaps I should say matured, visibly as he listened.

In the afternoon, they saw a man

who had strangled his girlfriend in her parents’ house, also in an access of jealousy.

Not for the medical student any longer

the shallow pieties of the sexual revolution.

Best free show in New York

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 10.59.44Dalrymple has the

happy idea of going to the criminal courts on Centre Street. They are the Metropolitan Opera of the criminal-justice system.

By chance

I arrived at a dramatic moment in a dramatic trial of a dramatic crime. A man called Elliot Morales, charged with murder in the second degree, who was representing himself, was about to make his final address to the jury.

Morales put on

a fine performance.

So too did

the assistant district attorney, a young woman who will go far. She presented the case against Morales with clarity and implacable emphasis.