Dr Richard Taylor (2021) The Mind of a Murderer: What Makes a Killer?

Dr Richard Taylor is a forensic psychiatrist. You know the sort: Wire in the Blood, Cracker, Those That Kill (Scandie noir). No, not that kind. They’re psychologists that tell you what kind of cheese the killer favours, what kind of street he stays in and how he was making humanity pay for his mum not allowing him mint humbugs. Forensic psychiatrists need to complete medical training and become a doctor (six years) and do another three to four years in their chosen field. A psychiatrist deals with what we used to call psychiatric patients, but are now called patients with mental health problems. The one in four of us. The forensic part is dealing with pattern recognition. Adjudicating between those that have committed an offence such as murder and know it’s wrong and those that are off their head. In the mad, bad, or sad equation that our court system deals with they deal with all three, but the emphasis is on the first.

‘My day job involves joint work between forensic psychiatry and law enforcement, my focus now is on managing those who make threats, or who are thought to pose a threat in one way or another. We call it liaison and diversion, and although the main outcome is facilitating access to treatment, there is also an element of harm reduction and homicide prevention.’

I found out I was relatively normal by accident. In the Afterword, the author’s final sentence makes reference to an adaptation of the Rorschach test and asks: ‘Other than a skull or brain, what else can you see?’

I hadn’t given the cover image any thought (although I should have given that if, or when, I self-publish cover design fundamental to selling one of the three of the four copies of your work) but when I looked again at Taylor’s cover; I could only see a skull. Nothing else.  I’m boring and normal.

Could I kill someone? Absolutely. I make no bones about that. But as I get older that becomes more unlikely. Anybody that is a reader knows about the triple whammy of having a shitty childhood, falling into drug or alcohol abuse (often both), falling to hold down a job. Fling in a personality disorder or condition. Often grandiose ideas and a complete lack of understanding of other people and the sort of narcissism that gets you elected American President and a danger to humanity.

Over two million incarcerated in the United States criminal system and more than 100 000 on life sentences. The human cost is staggering, but even conservatives are questioning the economics of tax dollars wasted.

Dr Richard Taylor is scathing about our criminal justice system. A botched privatisation of the parole system. A chronic underfunding of mental health services. He gives the example of a former criminal leaving prison in Helsinki having a house and job lined up. Here it’s a payment of £47 and good luck with the rest of your life, pal.  

Nature of nurture for the potential murderer. Not surprisingly, Taylor opts for both nature and nurture, but with the emphasis on the latter. The real criminals are in government, shouting about crime and increasing punishments—which as us a reader know, doesn’t work and never has. Remember SureStart? Getting in early and getting involved with those that needed help. Remember the austerity government of Cameron (honest gov, I sent a few texts for a paltry pay out of £150 million)  and Osborne (banker paid £650 000 for working one day a week) and how we were all in it together, while slashing funds for SureStart and taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich. That’s nature. Human nature. It’s called greed and deception. It’s a fair cop, gov.  I can feel my blood boil, although as Taylor would point out, your blood doesn’t really boil. That’s clichéd as Tory scum.  

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