Psycho killer: Qu’est-ce que c’est?
It was clear watching his videotaped confession yesterday that Russell Williams lacked any empathy for his victims or their families. All he seemed to care about was his cat and whether the forensic team would ruin the hardwood in his wife’s brand new house.
With military precision, he laid out in detail every minute, every action. He pointed investigators to the body of Jessica Lloyd, then gave them a detailed description of where they could find the evidence that would slam the door shut on his freedom for ever.
There was no emotion, save for a little shucking and jiving for the cameras at the beginning. He certainly had no insight into why he committed the crimes. He wondered himself.
Reading the coverage, watching the clips of Williams’ interview, it’s hard not to wonder what happened to the human part of this man. It’s also hard not to compare him to the wonderfully drawn character Dexter, a serial killing robot of a man who presents a fictionalized version of himself to the world because in reality he is an emotional blank slate.
As Hannibal Lector once explained: “I don’t have a perspective; I have a view.”
What does it take to make a serial killer like Russell Williams or Ted Bundy or Paul Bernardo?
According to an expert letter in today’s Citizen, serial killers don’t come from nurturing homes. They come from places of violence and broken-ness and abuse.
“Whether it is physical or emotional, the evidence indicates that the long-term damaging impact of such abuse on children is one of the strongest predictors of assaultive and violent behavior in adulthood,” writes Darryl Davies, a Carleton University criminology professor. “Rather than investing billions of dollars building more prisons it would be far more prudent to invest our money in our children and creation of stable and healthy homes.”
Williams hit one of the markers; he came from a broken home. He has admitted to being estranged from both his brother and his mother, and didn’t want to see his father in the courtroom. But unlike most serial killers, Williams was a man a privilege, boarding school raised, military trained. He wasn’t a rounder, as one of the homicide experts observed yesterday. He was a highly successful, long-married man who flew the Queen and the Prime Minister around the world.
Russ Williams might just have been a neglected child who was sent away to school, as many children of privilege are. Ask people who have gone to boarding school and many will tell you that they were lonely children being raised by priests or nuns or teachers without nurture. Sometimes, they are abused by these authority figures or by other children and survive only by going someplace else in their heads. They tuck themselves away to protect themselves.
Tyler Perry was on Oprah yesterday and tearfully described how he would go to his special place in his head, a nearby playground, when he was being beaten by his father or abused by a neighbor. It was the only way he could survive what he described as a “horrific childhood”.
Obviously, people survive abuse and go on to live stellar lives. Tyler Perry has; so has Oprah. And lots of people survive boarding school and go on to be CEOs. But there is no doubt, whether a person is weak or strong-minded, abuse changes who they are.
We may never know what kind of abuse Russ Williams experienced in his life, if any. But here’s hoping that professionals can mine the depths of his psyche while he is incarcerated to get some insight into what triggered a man of 47 to commit these crimes against innocent women. That would give what’s left of his life some value at least.