Friday, August 3, 2012

Patrick Mackay and the System’s Failure

Unchecked Aggression

Generally priests are figures of comfort and forgiveness, but for some people they may represent a symbol that triggers brutal aggression.  So it appeared when the police came upon the bloody crime scene in a cottage in the village of Shorne, Kent around midnight on March 21, 1975.
Father Crean's home
Father Crean’s home
Father Anthony Crean, 64, lay dead in a bathtub, still fully dressed, the water around him red with blood from the open wounds to his head.  A series of crimson spatters on the bathroom walls and ceiling indicated repetitive blows, although it had taken him some time to die, as if the offender had wanted to watch the effects of his handiwork for as long as possible.  It appeared that the priest had been hit with the sharp edge of an axe, splitting open his skull and exposing his brain.  He’d been repeatedly stabbed as well, and there were fresh bruises all over his face.  From all appearances, there was something deeply personal about this assault.
Father Anthony Crean
Father Anthony Crean
Father Crean had been the chaplain for a Carmelite convent and was a friendly sort.  He believed that showing the love of Christ to wayward people could transform them.  In 1973, he had shown a great deal of patience and kindness toward a young man who had then turned around, broken into his home, and robbed him. But like the benevolent priest in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, who gave the escaped convict Jean Valjean the silver that he’d initially stolen, Father Crean continued to be tolerant.  That was a dire mistake, for that same man found himself an easy target when anger overcame the man he befriended.
Book Cover: Psychopath
Book Cover: Psychopath
The only book devoted to this unfolding horror, Psychopath, was penned by Tim Clark and John Penycate, a team of journalists who also developed a controversial documentary on a legal and mental health-care system that had failed to properly assess and treat a disturbed young man who eventually became a killer.  Other writers address the case in the context of the 1970s, and Brian King includes some of the offender’s writings in Lustmord, his collection of artifacts from murderers (although they’re all taken from Penycate and Clark’s book).
Book Cover: Lustmord
Book Cover: Lustmord
It did not take the police long to find the perpetrator of this bloody crime, because they knew about the priest’s association with a neighborhood troublemaker. Within forty-eight hours, say Lane and Gregg, they had located him and placed him under arrest.  He immediately confessed, offering unbelievable details about how he had watched the priest die.  But it turned out that this bludgeoning was only the most recent of a long list of crimes, including other murders.  What this man had to say for himself provides a stark study in the psychology of a psychopath.  It also poses a challenge to the field of risk assessment.  Although the murder occurred in the 1970s, the ability to predict violence is not an exact science.

Quick Arrest

Mackay in custody
Mackay in custody
When arrested, Patrick David Mackay told the police that he was a gardener, but was currently without a job.  The truth was, he’d had a number of jobs, none of which he could keep.  He lived in London, he said, although he actually had no home.  Only 23, he’d seen and done a lot, most of it sordid and violent.
Born on September 25, 1952, in England, he grew up in the home of a man who was an aggressive and violent alcoholic.  No doubt Harold “Harry” Mackay was unhappy in his occupation as an accountant and with his poor economic circumstances, which only worsened with his illness.  On a routine basis, he would get drunk, come home to his wife, accuse her of imagined offenses, and beat her up.  In later years, the former World War II veteran would also turn on his son, although Mackay claims that he never touched the two girls, Mackay’s sisters.  The man was so distant and unloving that Mackay recalled only one pleasant interlude with him.
Harold, Patrick, Marion & Ruth
Harold, Patrick, Marion & Ruth
When Mackay was ten, his father died from the complications of alcoholism and a weak heart, leaving the home in peace but in a struggle to survive.  Harry’s final words to his son had been, “Remember to be good” — an ironic admonition from a man who’d made his son’s life a nightmare. Yet Mackay was nevertheless traumatized.  Not allowed to view his father’s corpse or attend his funeral, he could not come to terms with the loss.  He began to tell people that his father was still alive and kept a photograph of Harry close to him at all times.  Clark and Penycate speculate that he likely felt extreme guilt over having wished his father dead on so many violence-filled nights, and he might have believed that he’d caused it in some way.  For a ten-year-old, that is a heavy burden, and not one that he’s going to lighten by telling someone else.


Patrick at age 10
Patrick at age 10
Over the next few years, Patrick alienated those who might have given him solace.  Often filthy from poverty and neglect and socially isolated, he developed into a bully against younger children, as is often the case when a victim decides to transform into someone with power.  In addition, Mackay suffered from extreme tantrums and fits of anger.
Book cover: The Creation of Dangerous Violent Criminals
Book cover: The Creation of Dangerous Violent Criminals
Dr. Lonnie Athens, author of The Creation of Dangerous Violent Criminals, believes that antisocial behavior like this develops through specific steps.  He theorizes that children are initially benign, and from his research among violent criminals in prison, he determined that people become violent through four stages of what he terms “violentization.”  They are:
  • brutalization and subjugation
  • belligerency
  • violent coaching
  • criminal activity
First, the person (usually a child) becomes a victim of violence and feels powerless to avoid it, as did Mackay.  He or she experiences fear and humiliation, especially as the violence is repeated, along with his helplessness.  Yet as he watches his tormenter, he learns how and when to become violent, as well as how to profit from it.  It’s not long before he’s had sufficient exposure to act on the impulse himself as a way of taking charge and inflicting on others what was inflicted on him.  His array of choices narrows to the one that appears to him to be most powerful, and he’ll often adopt it.
This model certainly fits Mackay’s development.

Fascination with Death

Patrick Mackay was known in school as a liar and troublemaker, and he also turned his violence against small animals, including the family’s pet tortoise, which he reportedly set on fire.  One woman claimed that she had seen him pin birds to the road and then stand back to watch cars come by and crush them.  In addition, he followed in his father’s footsteps by drinking, which in turn inspired him toward greater aggression.  He stole from people on the street and entered the apartments of elderly women to take what he could find.  He also set fire to a Catholic church (as well as other buildings).
As Clark and Penycate observe, Mackay had a fascination with death.  Apparently his father had regaled him with stories from the war about seeing his comrades shot down or blown up.  Mackay himself spent a lot of time with the corpses of animals and birds.  A neighbor saw him toss dead birds into the air and play with them.  It’s likely that he developed fantasies that involved the death process, which may have then become eroticized for him.  One person said that he’d asked about whether his father’s bones were rotting in the ground.
His mother, Marion, allowed the state to place Mackay in several different facilities for disturbed boys, but finally she had him removed and reunited with the family, against psychiatric advice, and she took her three children to Guyana.  But that was short-lived.  The family did not settle well there, and soon they were back in London.  They moved in with Harold Mackay’s sisters, and family fights became the norm.  Marion then moved to the town of Gravesend, and Mackay got two short-lived jobs before going on public assistance.  He continued to bully people.  A probation officer predicted serious violence if Mackay was not removed from the home, but others who knew the case decided to wait and see.  Not long afterward, Mackay attempted to strangle his mother and commit suicide.  He told officials who questioned him that he lived with his father and often saw snakes.  He was again evaluated for a mental illness and again released, whereupon he tried to kill a younger boy.  He later said he’d have finished the job had he not been restrained.
Mackay’s home, 196
Mackay soon ended up in the first of several psychiatric institutions and was finally recognized for what he was.  A Home Office psychiatrist, Dr. Leonard Carr, examined his history and described him as a “cold psychopathic killer.”
He was only 15.
Dr. Leonard Carr
Dr. Leonard Carr

Psychiatric Treatment

There were three possible hospitals in Britain that had “special security” protocols where Mackay could have been sent for incarceration and an indefinite period of treatment.  In October 1968, he was committed to Moss Side Hospital in Liverpool as a diagnosed psychopath.  There he went through a battery of tests to prepare him for therapy, and psychiatrists examined his bullying behavior, cruelty to animals, tendency to steal, truancy, social withdrawal, and penchant for setting fires.  He’d been in trouble with the law by age eleven, when he’d taken things from a neighbor and blamed someone else.  The doctors also noted that his mother had been hospitalized for four months after a nervous breakdown, which, coupled with his father’s death, must have made him feel utterly abandoned and alone.  And there was an early probation report from juvenile court to the effect that the probation officer could not even comprehend the situation sufficiently to recommend a clear way to handle it.  This official had believed that the boy would grow out of his fits eventually.  But it seemed clear to the experts that Mackay’s anger and aggression were probably his way of surviving, and the home environment just made them worse.  Over and over, it seemed that officials had ignored the red flags that signaled increasing violence in this child.  But this team of psychiatrists was hopeful that he might be turned around.
From a test of his brain waves, he was found to be within normal levels for those factors that, during the 1970s, were believed to be involved in antisocial disorders.  Nevertheless, one psychiatrist thought that he had a genetic defect inherited from his father that made him likely to be psychopathic.  The disturbed relationship with his mother was thought to exacerbate this tendency.  Some of his more violent fits had been around her.

Poor Prognosis

At that time, there was no diagnosis for Intermittent Explosive Disorder, now in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This is considered a disorder of impulse control in which there are aggressive outburst, assaults, and property destruction well out of proportion to any stressors.  Mackay certainly fit this pattern.  While sometimes it seems uncharacteristic of the person, quite often, there are lesser incidents of aggression between the more intense outbursts.  In any event, even during shorter stays at other hospitals and treatment centers between the ages of 11 and 14, a number of doctors believed that Mackay ought to be admitted for a substantial inpatient observation where he could undergo therapy.  Most believed he was quite disturbed.
Oddly, Mackay would take a doll to bed with him at night and pressure people to kiss it.  He was clearly immature, and one psychiatrist even believed that the damage done to him was irreversible.  Another predicted that he was a “potential murderer of women.”  Most of them blamed his mother’s ineffectual skills and her indifference to his problems.  But then, it was an age in which mothers took most of the blame for childhood disorders.  Often, where ignorance prevailed on causal factors, the easiest target was Mom. 
The mental health experts believed that Mackay was a psychopath without mania.  In other words, he had a character disorder but was not considered psychotic.  An independent tribunal who interviewed him saw nothing wrong — most likely because what’s wrong with such people doesn’t manifest in obvious appearances or behaviors.  Mackay went through two extended periods of hospitalization in this place, and was twice released, despite psychiatric fears that he might be dangerous. His tendency toward violence was assisted by his growing obsession with the philosophies of Nazism.

“Switching on the Dark”

Nazism, a version of fascism, was the ideology of the National Socialist German Workers Party, led by Adolf Hitler, referred to as the “Führer.  It refers most commonly to a period from 1933 to 1945, when the Nazi Party was in power: the “Third Reich.”  Adherents believed that great nations developed from strong military power, so Hitler called on Germany to stand strong and become more aggressive as a proud nation. Hitler and his followers viewed “Aryan” blond-haired Caucasians as the superior race, so they supported a strong heterosexual racial supremacy at the expense of other groups, such as Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals, whom they perceived as inferior.  They blamed Germany’s deterioration on such people mingling with the purebreds, and deemed that these “mongrels” were not lebensunwertes, or worthy of life.
While the philosophy of Nazism was outlawed in Germany after Hitler’s defeat in World War II, here and there political groups have revived the ideas as Neo-Nazis. The belief that certain races are superior persists, warranting both arrogance and aggression as a birthright.
Mackay worshipped Hitler, write Lane and Gregg, dubbing himself “Franklin Bollvolt the First.”  He made himself a crude uniform, sticking emblems on it symbolic of the Nazi regime, and purchasing stormtrooper boots.  He considered himself quite powerful and believed that he would one day change the world.
Book Cover: The Gates of Janus
Book Cover: The Gates of Janus
In The Gates of Janus, Ian Brady — the British child killer who with his late accomplice Myra Hindley committed the famous “Moors Murders,”— comments on serial killing and ideology.  He himself was inspired by Austrian philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche to become nihilistic, disdainful of others and assured of his own superiority.  From his vantage point, having committed murder in the same country and just a decade before Mackay, he offers a perspective on the motives of others like himself:
“…most people observe legal, moral, and ethical boundaries for immediate personal comfort or from timidity.  The criminal is more attracted and stimulated by the excitement of challenging the norm, of stepping into forbidden territory like a solitary explorer, consciously thirsting to experience that which the majority have not and dare not…”
He refers to this approach as “spiritually switching on the dark.”  The forbidden is a natural attractant, and some people who move toward it with ease possess “advanced criminal potential.”  The serial killer “lacks the patience to compromise and bear the stultifying lassitude of ordinary modern life.  He…wants more NOW…in what is clearly perceived as an extremely uncertain and short life.”
Once a person has committed his first or second act of murder unchallenged, Brady says, “he will gradually accept his own acts as normal, or supranormal.”  He has created a “microcosmic state of his own in which he alone governs, becoming as careless with other people’s lives as are most rulers.”  He is, in effect, a mirror of certain societies that value power over human life.
Mackay was released from Moss Side at the age of 20 in 1972.  It wasn’t long before the real trouble began.

Dangerous Misfit

Having learned no legitimate skills, Mackay tried and failed at a few jobs but nevertheless wanted to be independent of his mother.  (Around this same time, his sister was admitted to another institution after a psychotic breakdown that she blamed on him, so that made at least four members of the family of five who had a history of psychological imbalances.)
Mackay moved in with friends in London and spent most of his time in a drunken state or on drugs.  He had tried to live with his mother and found that he could not, in part because she gave him grief about not paying for his board.  But he also had difficulty with everyone else with whom he tried to live, including his aunts and his friends.  Because of his moods, threats, and irresponsibility, they all ended up wanting him out.
Among the things that frightened others was Mackay’s habit of building models of the Frankenstein monster from Mary Shelly’s novel, sticking pins in it and burning out the eyes.  He continued to be fascinated with the Nazis, and would wear his homemade uniform, complete with an armband, and set about collecting Nazi books and memorabilia.  He was fascinated by the extermination of the Jews and worried about his own mixed blood.  Next to his bed, he kept a picture of Himmler.
Mackay in Nazi uniform
Mackay in Nazi uniform
Having no particular long-term goals, he met sporadically with his case worker, who gave up attempting to set appointment times. He often lost his jobs.  At times, he burglarized homes to get some food, cigarettes, and money.  He had few friends, but then he met Father Crean.

Befriending a Psychopath

Mackay was walking in the woods near his mother’s home when he came across a Carmelite convent, the home of eight nuns who took in geriatric patients.  Father Crean and his dog lived in a cottage nearby.  He made it a point to befriend people who looked like they needed a friend, and Mackay fit that category.  But no one can really befriend a psychopath: They do not have the emotions required for true bonding.
Crean bought Mackay a drink in a local pub, and eventually they were meeting there regularly, but Mackay couldn’t resist his criminal impulses, so he broke into the priest’s home and stole a check for thirty pounds.  Crean reported it and Mackay was arrested.  Crean did not wish to prosecute, but the police did, so the case went to court and Mackay was ordered to repay the priest.  He said he would, but never did, so it became a source of contention between them, especially since Mackay had changed the original “30″ into “80,” so he owed his friend a substantial sum.  This incident caused a rift between them, and Mackay returned to London.
Mackay at Trafalgar Square
Mackay at Trafalgar Square
He went through a succession of jobs and places to stay, ended up in jail, and was given a slight fine and a suspended sentence for yet more criminal conduct.  In short, he got away with more aggression, in part because the system simply did not know what to do with someone with his erratic and potentially dangerous temperament.  They had no resources for it and no way to warrant detaining him.
Clark and Penycate say that it’s possible that by this time Mackay had already killed five people, doing so in the final months of 1973.  He later admitted to drowning a tramp in the River Thames, but the police suspected him in other violent incidents.  No charges were filed on these as there was no evidence that connected Mackay to them.
But for a murder in February 1974, it was a different story.

A Time to Kill

That month, Mackay was following his usual course of breaking and entering when he went into a home in the Chelsea area of London.  There he encountered eighty-four-year-old Isabella Griffiths.  The accounts differ here.  Clark and Penycate say that she was walking down the street, carrying bags of groceries, and when Mackay helped her, she invited him in and they struck up a friendship; Lane and Gregg indicate that she was at home when he broke in and give no indication that she knew him previously.  By one account, anyway, Ms. Griffiths apparently was familiar with him when Mackay eventually chose her home as a point of robbery.
Just before the incident, he had tried committing suicide but was picked up by the police.  A psychiatrist spoke with him and concluded that he was not mentally ill, despite his extensive record of psychiatric observation.  He believed that Mackay had a personality disorder and ordered him to a ward for observation.  Mackay seemed to adjust quickly, so longer detention was not deemed necessary.  He was released from the hospital on February 14, and he was now more dangerous than he’d ever been.
Isabella Griffiths
Isabella Griffiths
He went directly to the home of Isabella Griffiths, who told him she did not need any assistance that day.  He pushed his way in anyway and in a matter of moments had strangled her.  There was no apparent reason for it, other than the fact that he was angry that she had not invited him inside when he arrived.
He dragged her body into the kitchen, wandered around for a bit, and then decided to take out his wrath for imagined insults by mutilating her corpse.  He found a twelve-inch kitchen knife and stabbed her in the stomach, leaving the knife in her.  Feeling better, he grabbed some food and drink, and listened to the radio in her front room.  The place was his now, for the time being.  He intended to enjoy it.
Knif used to kill Mrs. Griffiths
Knife used to kill Mrs. Griffiths
Then, oddly, he considered killing himself (or so he later said).  He removed the knife from the body and looked at it.  Then he changed his mind.  In a strange mood now, he arranged the corpse for greater “comfort,” closing the eyes and covering it.  Then he placed dishes into the sink, along with some shoes, and turned on the water.  Stealing only a cigarette lighter, he took the knife, left the house, and tossed the weapon into some bushes along the way.
Ms. Griffiths’ body lay on the floor for nearly two weeks before someone found her.  Oddly, the police thought she had died from natural causes, even though she had clearly been covered by someone else.  Then police discovered the stab wound, and the case was turned over to homicide detectives, the Murder Squad.  They appealed to the public for information, but few people knew the victim and there were no clues at the scene, so the case went unsolved.
Once again, Mackay had gotten away with violence.  There would be more.

Back at It

During the next year, Mackay took hospitality from a grudging social worker who was ordered to take him in.  According to this man, who asked to remain anonymous, Mackay would talk endlessly about his violent fantasies and wonder if he was possessed by demons.  He pondered dark subjects, and eventually, to the social worker’s relief, he was forced to leave his home.  Once again, he was on the streets, begging from relatives, none of whom wanted him near them.
He went back to the social worker, robbed him, and was arrested once again.  He served four months in prison and was released on November 22.  By then, he’d had time to form a plan to pay society back for its neglect of people like him.  At first he mugged women, often charming them into trusting him, and then decided to find out where the elderly rich women lived to rob their homes.  He had not forgotten how easy it was to gain entry into Isabella Griffith’s home.
Mackay apparently enjoyed the feeling of power he’d derived from killing her, because on March 10, 1975, he knocked on the door at the home of Adele Price, 89.  (Clark and Penycate say he came up behind her as she was opening the door of the house where several people resided in separate flats.)  She offered him a glass of water, so he followed her into her flat. Gregg and Lane indicate that he immediately strangled her, but apparently she engaged Mackay in some conversation first.  As she got the water for him, he came up behind her and strangled her, letting her fall to the floor face-down.  She still wore her overcoat.
Adele Price
Mackay reported later in a confession that this murder had given him a “peculiar” feeling that lasted for several days and had something in common with the other murders he’d committed.  It had no motive whatsoever.  Clark and Penycate fail to clarify what Mackay might have meant by “peculiar.”
Mrs. Price's sitting room
Mrs. Price’s sitting room
Afterward, he lay down on Ms. Price’s couch and took a nap.  He was woken by the sound of someone trying to come in – the victim’s granddaughter, who also lived there.  When she couldn’t enter, she went to call from a hallway phone, and Mackey ran out, passing her on the stairs.  But because others lived in the house, there was no reason for her to remember him.  Adele Price’s death was initially believed to have been the result of a heart attack, but suspicious things about the apartment soon changed its status to murder.
Because Mackay had no connection to the victim, the police had a difficult time finding a perpetrator, so the crime went unsolved and Mackay continued on his deadly way.

The Priest

Mackay went in and out of yet another mental institution, because he’d tried to kill himself, and five days after he killed Adele Price, he was ready to do it again.  After being teased by friends over his former association with Father Crean, which they hinted had been a homosexual liaison, Mackay decided to go to Kent and find the priest.  He had a plan for putting an end to this derisive talk.  On Friday, February 21, he sought out Crean and killed him.
In his confession, Mackay described his experience that day.  He had taken two knives with him on the train from London, so this time he was prepared.  He first went to his mother’s home and told her to cook a chicken he’d brought.  Then he walked down to the convent.  He claimed that Father Crean’s door was slightly ajar, so he entered and called to his former friend.  When Crean saw him, he attempted to leave, but Mackay stopped him.  They struggled, rousing Mackay’s anger, so he attacked.  First he used his hand and fist to knock the priest in the face.  Crean got loose and ran into the backroom, probably to lock himself inside.  Mackay caught up to him before he could manage it, pushing his way in and causing Crean to fall backwards into the bathtub.
Mackay continued to hit him with his hand and then used a knife to stab him in the neck and side of the head, but when he tried shoving the blade into the top of Crean’s skull, he failed.
“I grabbed for the axe,” Mackay said, “and with this repeatedly lashed out with it at his head.”  That made the priest, who’d been sitting to ward off the blows, lay back into the tub.  Mackay says that he then went out of his mind and just kept attacking.  “It was something in me that just exploded.”
He bludgeoned Crean on the face and head, and watched the man’s skull crack open.  Then, as Crean lay helpless and alive, Mackay put in the plug and turned on the water, sitting on the edge to watch his victim struggle helplessly, unable to control his body movements.  Time passed.  It took Crean nearly an hour to finally realize he was going to die.  He touched his skull, feeling his exposed brain, which Mackay found highly erotic.  Then Father Crean expired.  Mackay watched the body for another quarter of an hour, completely fascinated with it, and then returned to his mother’s to eat the dinner she had made him.
Late that night, one of the nuns discovered Father Crean’s blood-covered corpse and called the police.  They had a good idea about who might have done it.

In Custody

Mackay in court, handcuffed
Mackay in court, handcuffed
Mackay was quickly arrested at the home of a friend.  Thanks to a tip, the police tracked him down and got him talking.  He confessed in under half an hour.  The same officer who had arrested him two years earlier for robbing Father Crean nabbed him again.  Around the same time, someone else matched a fingerprint from one of the area robberies to Mackay.  With all of this against him, he went to Brixton Prison to be held for trial.
At first he admitted to three murders: the two elderly women and the priest.  He was appointed a solicitor, Robin Clark, who believed he had a good case for the insanity defense.  Mackay certainly had a long record of mental imbalance.  But when Mackay told inmates of other murders he’d committed, this information got back to the detectives, who once again began to interrogate him.  Others with unsolved killings on the books came as well.
In all, Mackay confessed to having taken the lives of eleven people over a period of two years.  Clark and Penycate offer a list but take care not to say that he was guilty of these crimes, because he was never convicted of them.  The list included a woman stabbed in the throat on a train; three elderly women bludgeoned in their homes; a woman and her grandson stabbed in their apartment; a man thrown into the river; and a man bludgeoned in his shop as he closed up for the night.  But Mackay recanted the confessions.
In prison, he was subjected to psychiatric assessment.  Several opinions were offered on his state of mind during the times when he committed the crimes with which he’d been charged.  Most of them agreed that Mackay was a psychopath.  He had a personality disorder, not a mental illness.  He knew what he was doing, he knew that it was wrong, and he felt no remorse.  When Robin Clark asked Dr. James Stewart to testify to Mackay’s diminished capacity, he would not do so.  He believed that Mackay had a blunted moral sensibility.  And the state of medicine at the time, similar to what it is today, indicated that there was no known treatment for psychopathy.  It was difficult to know what to do with him.
Dr. James Stewart
Dr. James Stewart
Judged sane by psychiatrists and fit to plead, Mackay was brought to the Old Bailey to have his case settled.  He was charged with three of the murders (along with related charges) on November 21, 1975.  He pleaded guilty to manslaughter with diminished responsibility.  He said that admittance to a hospital for long-term treatment was his “last hope to survive as a human being.”
To avoid an expensive and pointless trial, the prosecution accepted the plea, and the judge pronounced sentence: He called Mackay a “highly dangerous man” and sentenced him to life in prison.  He sent Mackay to Wormwood Scrubs.  In retrospect, Mackay viewed his own life as having been wasted and now destined to rot.  He wished that he’d ended it at one of the many points in time when he’d had the impulse to do so.
The newspaper headlines made the most of the story: “The Man Who Enjoyed Killing,” said one.  Another had “Bloodlust of the Beast in Black,” while another foreshadowed the inevitable controversy to follow, with “Life for the Mad Killer Law Let Go.”


Clark and Penycate also did a thorough review in their BBC documentary and book of how Patrick Mackay was passed from one place to another.  Each time he got into trouble, he received the same sentence: probation.  In other words, he was passed along in the hope that, somewhere along the line, he’d wise up, get better, or grow out of it.  “It seemed that those in a position to do something about it wouldn’t,” they conclude, “and those who wanted to help couldn’t.”  He wasn’t going to grow out of it; he was only going to get worse, and those in a position to know about juvenile violence ought to have seen his frightening potential and made more of an effort.
Patrick Mackay
Patrick Mackay
But this case is long over.  The point now is to use it to study others and to understand what can be done to hinder psychopathic violence.  In part, that comes from learning from the killers themselves.
In Lustmord, King includes some entries from Mackay’s prison journals, dated in 1975, as he awaited his trial.  Mackay discussed how his father would get violently drunk and aggressive, “and always when he was like this beat me with the back of his hand and sometimes his fist.”  Harry would not admit to having a problem with alcohol, but in retrospect, Mackay believes that he did.  While Mackay’s father never seemed to beat his sisters, Mackay’s mother was assaulted as frequently as he was. “It was plain bloody regular,” he wrote.

“Poor Me”

In October, a month before his final hearing and sentencing, Mackay admitted to feeling remorse.  As he pondered what he had done during his killing spree, he said that he could not think what motivated him to do all these foul deeds:  “I find it all a confusing matter.”  He admitted that he frightened even himself, yet he then blamed others, including his home life and the psychiatrists.  That’s typical of a psychopath: blame others and shed personal responsibility.  “Poor me,” is the general sentiment.  He even faulted the prevailing attitudes of the 1960s that allowed the system to “manipulate” children without fathers.
He also wrote about the possibility that he was misdiagnosed as being a psychopath without mania, when he believed that he did indeed have mania.  Someone, he thought, was not paying attention.  He figured that he was in a better position to judge his own mind than his doctors were.  And, of course, he wanted to be incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital rather than a prison.
In addition, Mackay blamed an imperfect world for his actions.  He said that when he was released from Moss Side in 1972, he had the best of intentions.  He couldn’t have foreseen then how difficult it would be to adjust.
“These murders were so solemn,” he recalled, “yet so quick, so fast to take place.”  He claimed that he could not remember much, and some of the details he’d been told he simply couldn’t affirm or dispute.  He did recall making the corpse of one female victim (Isabella Griffiths) “comfortable” as she lay face up in her kitchen, and he’d covered her.
Mackay also expressed his hope that someone reading his journals would get some “good” from his experience.
Clark and Penycate add more, including evidence of his utter lack of remorse.  “I shan’t shed a tear,” Mackay had written in his journal.  “Life is full of shocks of all descriptions and they have to be faced….  I am just one example of many bad one.  But who can say totally so?”


It’s one thing to know the details of cases involving multiple murder, and it’s another to be able to distill from them the prognostic red flags.  At least this is clear: We do not yet know what particular behaviors predict that someone will become a repeat killer.  We can only say that some behaviors are associated with these incidents more than others, and they can be linked to a collection of factors that appear to be statistically significant in risk assessment studies.
Patrick Mackay
Patrick Mackay
Many repeat killers behaved in ways that, in retrospect, indicated that one day they might act out — an inability to deal with stress, for example, and angry outbursts or retaliations against others.  The unrelenting buildup of frustration appears to derive from the way they learned (or did not learn) to manage anger and stress.  In essence, that’s related to how their observations of role models interact with their individual cognitive processing.  Those who experience higher exposure to violence in the environment appear to have a greater tendency to duplicate it.
Among developmental factors associated with violence are harmful substances ingested by mothers during pregnancy, chronic maternal stress during pregnancy, early maternal rejection or abuse, nutritional deficiencies, a low verbal IQ, and chronic trouble with attention deficit and hyperactivity.  While no factor clearly causes it, in certain combinations and with certain dispositions, they can provoke anger, thwart the development of anger management skills, and trigger impulsive violence against self or others.  If kids fail to connect early with caregivers, there can be problems later in life.  In addition, self-worth, resilience, intelligence, and empathy are essential to building character for effective conflict resolution.  Without these skills, children cannot establish rewarding relationships with community systems.
Among the specific traits or behaviors that signal concern, which we can see in the Mackay case, are his preoccupation with themes of violence, his low frustration tolerance, stressors on his family unit since childhood, the way he collected perceived injustices and blamed others for his issues, his ability to dehumanize others, his poor coping skills, his sense of superiority, his substance abuse, and his mental instability.
Those psychologists or psychiatrists who did issue warnings clearly spotted these signals, but others with more power over the decision-making process perhaps weighed other factors more heavily.  In any event, Mackay may have been stopped somewhere along the way before three (or more) people were murdered.  A system that allows this to happen needs to police itself and make a plan for improvement.


  1. Very good detailed read!

    1. Yes very interesting,after watching a documentary on the telly I wanted to read more about the man and this article was in depth to give a rounded look at all circumstances within this mans life.