Crime fictions

It’s almost a truism that anyone who makes a tear-stained televised appeal for help to solve a murder will probably be arrested within the week. It seems as if the more extravagant the grief that is willingly expressed on camera, the more likely that the person is guilty.

Even the BBC has noticed. Today it published a feature on the phenomenon .

And, now, I’ve stumbled across true-crime-in-the-media. 2.0:
Barbora Skrlova on MySpace Assuming this is an elaborate joke, albeit in poor taste, I am compelled to look for MySpace profiles of other notorious figures.

For instance, Myra Hindley seems to have half a dozen.

I type in Fred West and get a “Server is too busy” message a few times.
(Quick break to panic at the idea that half the global population has been taken with a lunatic desire to see which really evil people have a MySpace profile.) Then I find there’s an ill-starred 13 pages full of Fred Wests. Lose interest when I consider that most of them might indeed be real humans who just happen to be called Fred West. Then again, a fair number have headlines such as “Get a load of my floorboards”

On firmer ground with Rosemary West. After a good few innocently but unluckily named real US females who just happen to be called Rosemary West, I find a MySpace profile purporting to be from Fred West’s soulmate. In fact, there’s a link to a more convincing Fred West impersonator in her friend space..

What about Josef Fritzl? That one is actually quite scary. I can’t even work out if its meant to reference the Austrian maniac or the name is just a coincidence.

Michel Fourniret? The server times out. Then I get a
“We weren’t able to find a ” Michel Fourniret ” on MySpace”
message, which probably won’t be true for long.

(In case this name isn’t familiar to you, he’s the male half of a French version of a Rosemary-and-Fred-West couple. She lured young women for him to rape and murder, in exchange for his promise to murder her ex-husband. The family that slays together, stays together…….)

I can partly understand why sane people might create web pages for the truly evil. (Apart from an adolescent desire to shock people.) These sorts of crimes make most of us so uneasy about the nature of what it means to be human that humour becomes a necessary defence mechanism. Otherwise, it’s impossible to contemplate the things they have done.

All the same, I have to suspect that at least some of these tributes aren’t ironically post-modern comments on the nature of notoriety. Some of them have been put there by the very same sort of unspeakable beings who do such crimes.

It’s usually baffling how these spectacularly homicidal people find each other to begin these partnerships in crime.. Rosemary and Fred West; Michel and Monique Fourniret, the children who killed James Bulger; Myra Hindley and Ian Brady…… Do their eyes meet across the proverbial crowded room and they see the spark of a potential partner in homicide? Does it “take one to know one?”

Blimey, interactive web 2.0 must do away with so much of the uncertainty for such people. They could start by putting up profiles of their psycho role models …

More dishonour

Grrr. Yet another offensively-misnamed “honour killing” “Honour” is apparently being redefined in some bizarre medieval way to mean how totally you can control your female relatives. As far as I can see, this is not just dishonour at its extreme.

It also speaks of men who are so completely lacking in a sense of their own masculinity that they can only fake it by killiing females they can’t control. I hate to refer to the currently- dishonoured Freud here, but some things don’t seem to be explicable otherwise.

A 20-year-old woman was killed by her male relatives for “dishonouring” them. (Her body was dumped in a suitcaes over a hundred miles away, just in case you mistakenly imagine there were any shreds of residual kinship feeling in the relatives who did this). Three people (including her father and uncle) have been found or pled guilty.

The police seem to have treated this case with a level of seriousness somewhat lower than that with which they are now supposed to treat kids playing football in the street. (Her father had already tried to kill her once before. Her sister was also beaten.)

Banaz had made several attempts to warn police that her life was in danger, even naming those she thought would kill her.

The BBC site links to the Forced Marriages Unit. You might assume this is a policing unit designed to stop British women being subjected to this sort of evil. Wrong. It’s just yet another anti-immigration department of the Foreign Office, as far as I can see.

(Its website just discusses how a “forced marriage” is not the same as an “arranged marriage.” It has a few case studies and discusses how difficult they can be for consular staff. it seems to offer no redress or solutions, other than the possible extrapolation that the person whose immigration benefit the forced marriage is for won’t get a visa. I would have thought that that is of no interest to anyone except the Foreign Office.)

I can’t see how this is relevant to this case or any use in protecting victims. If this weakest link is the best the BBC can find, it implies there is no dedicated police unit or section of the Home Office. Most honour killings and other culturally excused atrocities such as female genital mutilation have little to do with immigration.

The only policies with any chance of working would involve:

(1) Police treating such cases as a serious priority, so that any man or woman facing a such situation, who has the strength of will to seek help for themselves or other people gets it as a priority.

(2) Aggressive targeting of potential victims through the education system and mosques and temples and churches, if necessary. All girls should be made aware that forced marriage and any of the other associated anti-female horrors are serious crimes in the UK. And the law will be enforced as a priority.

(3) Girls and women under threat need agencies prepared to protect them and to provide them with the means of escape.

(3) Aggressive targetting of potential perpetrators through the education system and mosques and temples and churches, if necessary. Everyone should be made aware that forced marriage and any of the other horrors are serious crimes in the UK. And the law will be enforced as a priority.

[tags]bbc, disgrace, homicide, honor, honor-killing, honour, honour-killing, law, law-and-order, sexism, society, culture, religion, belief[/tags]

Guns and kicking

Fights with kicks rather than punches are very much more likely to lead to serious injury or death, according to a pathologist I heard on TV the other day but can’t find a reference for. (Thank you, Google….) Anyway, with or without scholarly support, simple logic suggests that most of us can kick much harder than we can punch, because a kick engages the whole bodyweight. If you kick someone or stamp on them, there is a good chance you will kill them.

So, even in unarmed combat, the feet are deadlier weapons than the hands. The likelihood of death depends on the power of the weapon. To take up on points in the guns-and-crime blog, fights in which feet are used will be deadlier than those in which punches are traded. Where the protaganists have knives or guns, there is always more chance of death or serious injury.

So, the often-expressed argument that “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” falls down here. For a given level of aggression, the chance of death rises the easier the access to deadly weapons.

This isn’t the whole issue, of course. Every Swiss citizen is required to hold a gun. I doubt if the Swiss murder rate is even equal to the UK’s, let alone the USA’s. (Except, obviously, the murder rate in the English village, Midsomer Norton, which must put Baltimore in the shade) Baltimore has the highest murder rate in the USA (genuine thanks to Wikipedia ) but lower rates of non-fatal violent crime than the next highest contender in the murder sweepstakes, which is Detroit.

With no local knowledge of US cities- beyond what’s provided by the supreme TV show The Wire, of course – this is just speculation. Maybe guns are just easier to get hold of in Baltimore than Detroit? So any crime is more likely to end in a death?

There has got to be more to it, of course, given the Swiss example of a country with lots of guns and few murders. Social and cultural factors can provide an explanation. The social divisions in American cities are huge,. They are made more painful for those at the bottom of the racie and class heap by a context of values that regard those without money as worthless.

It’s common for ministers (BBC ) to blame hiphop music for the spread of gun crime in England. The glorification of guns and money in gangsta rap lyrics is indeed often ugly. However, it reflects values common in American society. These may be attractive to young men around the world who feel unmanned by the options open to them. However, it isn’t likely to influence fulfilled and optimistic young men, beyond a fantasy level. This is like blaming heavy metal bands for teenage suicides.

And in any case, it comes back to the avilability of guns. There are always dangerous and violent people. If you have the misfortune to come up against them, you had better hope they don’t have guns. (And that they don’t know about the feet thing either.)