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.  

Darren McGarvey’s Scotland. West Dunbartonshire – Worst Place to Be a Woman, written and present by Darren McGarvey, directed by Stephen Bennet.



I live in Clydebank. That’s in West Dunbartonshire. The place where women in Scotland are most likely to be beaten up.  Poverty is not gender blind. Women, for example, are 60% more likely to be carers than men. Women (and men) living in poverty are far more likely than their more affluent neighbours, such as those living in areas such as Bearsden, in East Dunbartonshire, to die younger, to suffer from ill-health and mental-health issues, to be unemployed, homeless, to become an addict and be imprisoned. Poverty is a place marker. Pupils at Drumchapel High, as a rule, do not go to university. Children who attend Bearsden Academy, a mile away, a world away, in East Dunbartonshire, do.

The shill game of trickle-down economics and taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich is most keenly felt in West Dunbartonshire and experienced directly by women. Women have always carried the baby, and the burden of poverty. Darren McGarvey illustrates this with a figure in which public cuts to services have deprived the poorest of the poor women of £80 billion of public services they depended on, while cuts to men’s services total £10 billion.

We think in pictures and deal in emotions. Such figures are in a sense, meaningless without context. Brenda, a charity worker, is shown, for example, disturbing sanitary products, what us guys used to call fanny pads. We’ve had fuel poverty, in which women can’t afford to heat their home and, or, buy food. We’ve got food banks. We associate women using an old sock as a fanny pad as a Third World problem. But at the end of the month, women in poverty have to make hard choices about their bodies. £3 spent on fanny pads? Or £3 spent on their children’s food? That’s where the old sock comes in. Hard choices.

Darren McGarvey is filmed at a Reclaim the Night Rally in West Dunbartonshire. It seemed sparsely attended, only a handful of women. And Darren and the camera crew.  I’m not sure where it was. I’m not sure when it was. I hadn’t heard anything about it and I live here. As the target audience, a man, living in West Dunbartonshire, in microcosm, it wasn’t a success.

The experience of Astyn, whose boyfriend was a stalker, who strangled her, isolated her from her friends and beat her up, ended in a high-note, in that she’d left him.

Kirsty, a family counsellor, gave the viewer some insight into how the rich and the poor experience domestic abuse. Men in West Dunbartonshire tend to beat their partners. In comparison, women in East Dunbartonshire are far more likely to experience non-physical abuse, no bruising, but to the women’s psyche and soul.

Those of us that live in Clydebank need no introduction to who Paige Doherty was. She was a wee girl, barely out of school, murdered by a shopkeeper in Whitecrook and her body dumped in a field off Great Western Road. Her mum, Pamela, started a charity to channel her grief and offering children free self-defence classes.

It’s difficult to be critical of such a move, but although a good photo opportunity for Paige’s Promise also ended the programme on a high note. But listen to what Pamela said happened to her daughter. How many stab wounds and slashes Paige suffered. Watch the drama on BBC 4, Those That Kill. Kids play-fighting just doesn’t cut it in real-life scenarios. I should know, having been in plenty of brawls. It’s difficult to defend against the rogue psychopath. The larger narrative of unfashionable class warfare and public cuts are morally indefensible, but we lost the propaganda war. The rich feel justified in bleeding the poor. Boris Johnston’s promise to spend, spend, spend, shows how quickly the lie there is no money in the public purse becomes defunct and part of the great lie. I like Darren McGarvey, but this programme offers us what exactly? Paper cuts and empty promises of betterment.