Forensic Psychology

The Pusher – Real?

Hooded-man-eml

The Pusher

For a long time i have been hearing rumors about a serial killer at large in Manchester, UK. Reports state that between 60 and 65 bodies have been recovered from the cities canals in the last 6 years. More then twice the amount who have died in Birmingham, a similar sized city with twice the amount of canal miles.

Nicknamed ‘The Pusher’, reports of this claimed canal killer have been published as far afield as Scandinavia, America and Australia, while stories of near-misses and eerie experiences have been shared under the hashtag #thepusher on Twitter.

Getting his information from FOI requests to the police force, Prof. Craig Jackson pieced together the idea of a unsub prowling the towpaths of Manchester’s waterways.

One misconception seems to be that there is a Dennis Nilsen style suspect is targeting gay men, looking at the stats this looks not to be the case, although the majority of bodies are male.

Canadian tourist Anthony Muise, 53, was found in the Manchester Ship Canal with a puncture wound to his chest in February 2010. Police said “very little” was known about his final movements and his death was treated as unexplained.

Chris Brahney, 22, was discovered in the same stretch of water 10 days after going missing in June 2012 – and an inquest returned an open verdict. The following January, the body of local student Souvik Pal was pulled from the Bridgewater Canal after he disappeared on New Year’s Eve. He was seen walking away from a club with another man, who was never traced, and another open verdict was recorded.

 

The Telegraph

One thing i came to realize while watching the TV documentary is that how in this day and age do we have phones with 20 megapixel cameras but yet the CCTV footage still looks like it was taken with a potato?

 

EDIT:

As i come across any updates or possible information i will include them below:

13/06/2016 – Body Found in Canal in Ashton

Review: Children Who Kill by Carol Anne Davis

Children Who Kill by Carol Anne Davis

Children Who Kill by Carol Anne Davis

“Children Who Kill,” by Carol Anne Davis, is a relatively long (396 pages) book which looks at the always emotive subject of juvenile homicide. The author sets out to explore this subject using in-depth case studies of children aged between 10 and 17. The book, as it was published in 2003, is relatively out of date and it does show when it comes to certain cases.

This could have been a very good book, it is relatively easy, if repetitive, to read. But then it is hard to write a boring book about such an emotive topic. Although this book is described as individual profiles, they are more like average essays including the obligatory lack of supporting evidence for what she puts forward as facts. Which unfortunately leads to Carol coming across as a bit of a ‘know it all’. It also leads to some wild claims which don’t sit as true to me, including a claim that all people who have attempted suicide has at one stage wanted to kill someone else. If I any Psychologists out there can confirm, or deny, this I would be grateful. She also makes the outrageous, and possibly libelous claim that Pathologists lie to spare the feelings of family members.

My main concern with this book, and thus the author, is that she seems to have a very simplistic view of what causes children to kill. Claiming that the only thing that can cause a child to kill is an abusive childhood, she seems to choose to ignore the influence of genetics as well as possible neurobiological influences.

Overall I was glad when it was over and that I don’t have to read it again.

I gave it 2 out of 5

 

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Review: Cries Unheard: the Story of Mary Bell by Gitta Sereny

Cries Unheard: the Story of Mary Bell

Cries Unheard: the Story of Mary Bell

 

Mary Flora Bell at the age of 11, strangled to death two little boys in Scotswood, an inner-city suburb of Newcastle upon Tyne. She was convicted in December 1968 of the manslaughter of Martin Brown (aged four) and Brian Howe (aged three). In this book Gitta Sereny controversially collaborates with Mary to provide a thought provoking biography that sheds some light on one of the most infamous child-killers of the 20th century.

I went into this book not having read her other book on the case (The Case of Mary Bell: A Portrait of a Child Who Murdered). The book was well written with a relatively easy to read journalistic style of writing. The book is structured in a way that Gitta writes a factual summery of a period of time which is followed by the reflective memory of Mary ad those who worked with her. I have two main criticism of Gitta, one is that there is almost an air of hero worship in the tone of her writing, this could be because she has spent so much time covering the case. The second is how she related the lack of religious faith to the fall of morality. If you need the fear of hell to behave in a good way then you’re not the nicest of people to begin with.

Mary comes across as a really articulate and intellectual, especially considering her start in life and the time spent in the system. One thing that strikes me as really interesting is her writing ability which can be seen in her letters.

The inadequacies of the UK judicial system, when it comes to youth offenders, is shocking. There was a clear bias by all involved to put the blame on Mary while Norma Joyce Bell was treated with protective gloves. From where she was held on remand to the way the prosecutor omitted evidence. It may be controversial to say but the evidence shows that Norma played on her ‘slow’ status.

There seems to have been many opportunity to remove Mary from her mother’s care and i can’t help but think how different life would have been for her and more importantly for Martin Brown and Brian Howe.

Reading this book with an open mind and the belief that there must be something that has happened to these children to make them commit these horrendous crimes. I must admit that I now stand by this view with even more conviction. This does not take away from the horror and torment she caused to those two children and their families. The revelations about Mary’s childhood and the physical, mental, and most of all, disgusting sexual abuse suffered at the hands of her prostitute mother. Her mother, Betty, clearly demonstrates a clear narcissistic tendency of needing to be the centre of attention and this came at the cost of Mary’s parental ‘safety blanket’.

Overall it is a really interesting book which shows how not everything is black and white when it comes to these cases.

If your looking for a book that condemns child killers without a thought, then this is not the one for you. But on the other hand if you want a book that makes you think long and hard about what can cause these acts, this is it.

I give it 4 out of 5.

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10 Of The Best Psychology TED Talks

Here are some of the best talks about psychology from some of the giants of this and related fields.

1. Philip Zimbardo: The psychology of evil

This has to be one of the best Ted talks I have ever come across to do with psychology.

“Philip Zimbardo knows how easy it is for nice people to turn bad. In this talk, he shares insights and graphic unseen photos from the Abu Ghraib trials. Then he talks about the flip side: how easy it is to be a hero, and how we can rise to the challenge.”

2. Alison Gopnik: What do babies think?

“Alison Gopnik takes us into the fascinating minds of babies and children, and shows us how much we understand before we even realize we do.”

3. Rebecca Saxe: How we read each other’s minds

“Sensing the motives and feelings of others is a natural talent for humans. But how do we do it? Here, Rebecca Saxe shares fascinating lab work that uncovers how the brain thinks about other peoples’ thoughts — and judges their actions.”

4. Elyn Saks: A tale of mental illness — from the inside

“Is it okay if I totally trash your office?” It’s a question Elyn Saks once asked her doctor, and it wasn’t a joke. A legal scholar, in 2007 Saks came forward with her own story of schizophrenia, controlled by drugs and therapy but ever-present. In this powerful talk, she asks us to see people with mental illness clearly, honestly and compassionately.

5. VS Ramachandran: 3 clues to understanding your brain

“Vilayanur Ramachandran tells us what brain damage can reveal about the connection between celebral tissue and the mind, using three startling delusions as examples.”

6. Dan Dennett: Dangerous memes

Starting with the simple tale of an ant, philosopher Dan Dennett unleashes a devastating salvo of ideas, making a powerful case for the existence of memes — concepts that are literally alive.

7. Scott Fraser: Why eyewitnesses get it wrong

Scott Fraser studies how humans remember crimes — and bear witness to them. In this powerful talk, which focuses on a deadly shooting at sunset, he suggests that even close-up eyewitnesses to a crime can create “memories” they could not have seen. Why? Because the brain abhors a vacuum. Editor’s note: In the original version of this talk, Scott Fraser misspoke about available footage of Two World Trade Center (Tower 2). The misstatement has been edited out for clarity.

8. Steven Pinker: The surprising decline in violence

Steven Pinker charts the decline of violence from Biblical times to the present, and argues that, though it may seem illogical and even obscene, given Iraq and Darfur, we are living in the most peaceful time in our species’ existence.

9. Kevin Briggs: The bridge between suicide and life

If there is one talk out of all these that you do watch, make it this one.

For many years Sergeant Kevin Briggs had a dark, unusual, at times strangely rewarding job: He patrolled the southern end of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, a popular site for suicide attempts. In a sobering, deeply personal talk Briggs shares stories from those he’s spoken — and listened — to standing on the edge of life. He gives a powerful piece of advice to those with loved ones who might be contemplating suicide.

10. Ken Robinson: How schools kill creativity

One of the most watched TED talks and brings a really funny view onto a serious subject.

Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.

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Review: Girl A: The truth about the Rochdale sex ring by the victim who stopped them by Girl A

Girl A

 

This was not something I really thought about as being an enjoyable read, and I was right, but as my future career will bring me into contact with victims such as ‘Girl A’ I gave it a chance. This is really a compelling book once you get past the first paragraph or two. It is written in more of a narrative style, which I guess comes from the fact that she dictated her story to a ghost-writer. Some parts where shocking and others had me feeling angry and frustrated at clear failing by the authorities. This book by far had the biggest emotional effect on me out of all the true crime books that I have read.

It taught me about grooming and what it is really like, as apposed to what you hear about online. I learned a lot about the hold these predators can have without physically controlling them, and how this brain washing works. I did find myself getting angry with her at times and found myself wanting to scream at her when she made, what seemed like stupid decisions. However, I guess this just testifies to the hold that the gang had on her.

The crime itself is shocking and the idea that this can be happening in your, or my, hometown is, well, disturbing to say the least. Can there be any rehabilitation for the perpetrators while inside?

The failings by Greater Manchester Police and especially Rochdale Children’s Services where systematic and shocking. Was this due to them not wanting to open a racial can of worm or was it a prejudice against what they saw as a girl from a ‘poor’ and ‘chaotic’ background? Well I guess we will never know, but they fact the social worker called what was happening a ‘lifestyle choice’ should help realise the answer. In fact, I would go as far as to say, that it seemed the victims social worker had a vendetta against ‘Girl A’. There is no doubt that the abuse that affected dozens of teenagers could have been stopped earlier but in the aftermath of the Baby P scandal social workers were more concerned about cases involving younger children than teenagers. Parents were fobbed off with suggestions that their daughter was simply hanging out with a bad crowd. Yet child sexual exploitation was not an unknown concept to care teams in this area. They first identified girls at risk of grooming in 2007. However, even at the end of 2011 they were still making mistakes in efforts to tackle the problem.

The attitudes of the parents sometimes disgusted me also, I know that they did not know everything that was happening, but the judgmental attitude they held should leave them in shame.

If there is anyone from Rochdale council reading this, then I sincerely hope that you have learnt the lessons needed from this failure. Although I must admit, I am not holding my breath.

Finally if ‘Girl A’ ever happens to read this review, I just want to say that you are a very courageous person and I hope your finally moving on and giving your daughter a better life then you had.

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.

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Shaun Attwood – Drugs and Prison School Talk

Shaun Attwood is a former stock-market millionaire and Ecstasy kingpin turned public speaker author and activist, who is banned from America for life. His story was featured worldwide on National Geographic Channel as an episode of Banged Up Abroad called Raving Arizona. Random House published his life story as the English Shaun Trilogy. “Hard Time” (2010) documents his time in Maricopa County Jail that is run by “America’s toughest Sheriff” Joe Arpaio. His second book “Party Time” (2013) documents his rise as an Ecstasy kingpin. His third book “Prison Time” (2014) documents his time served in the Arizona Department of Corrections. His fourth book is a self-help called Lessons (2014).

Here is his hard hitting talk given to school children about what it was like in Americas prison system.

I have just spent the last hour watching this video after finding it on twitter (thanks @sophies_words who has a great blog over HERE) and what a roller coaster of an hour it has been. This man’s story is tragic yet inspiring, the descriptions of the conditions he, and the other inmates, had to live with are shocking. Cockroaches and spiders infest the cells and murder seems to be an almost daily occurrence. These might be hardened criminals, but at the same time we see insecurities and genuine people who have been dealt a bad hand, such as T-Bone.  I would love to interview Shaun for this blog, so if you happen to be reading this Shaun please get in contact! And I will be buying all three of his books.

You can follow Shaun’s blog at www.jonsjailjournal.blogspot.co.uk

And watch his episode of Banged Up Abroad below:

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Review: Beyond Evil – Inside the Twisted Mind of Ian Huntley by Nathan Yates

Beyond Evil

Being on a role when it comes to reading I have managed to finish two boos this week. The first one can be found here and now I am reviewing this book about the Soham murders.

Nathan Yates who is a journalist for The Daily Mirror and worked the case as it happened writes this book. A book delves deep into the past of both the killer and his partner including their upbringing and Huntley’s previous sexual and violent history. I can help but think there is a heavy use of ‘artistic licence’ in the details and descriptions that he uses. The author documents what Huntley would have been thinking and feeling when he murdered the girls, when he was hiding the bodies and subsequently trying to return to his normal life. As none of these details have ever been revealed, let alone discussed, I wonder how Nathan knew what was going on. The only person who knows what happened that day is Huntley himself. The author also tries to detail how Huntley killed the girls, which is still disputed by pathologists.

There is also one glaring fault in the book where Nathan claims that he believes Huntley may have used a drug similar to GHB to subdue the two girls, or may have given them alcohol. This is inaccurate as the girls stomach content analysis proved that they had not been given drugs or alcohol as their stomachs were devoid of any alcohol or drug related substances.

Nobody relevant to the case was interviewed in the book. The quotes all come from “a person close to the families”, or “An old school pal”.

Overall the book was sensational and biased, rather than fact based, but having said that it was a good read. Weather or not the murder of Holly and Jessica was intentional or not, I do not know. But I do believe that if he wasn’t caught he would have killed again.

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Review: When Kids Kill: Unthinkable Crimes of Lost Innocence by Jonathan Paul

When Kids Kill: Unthinkable Crimes of Lost Innocence (Virgin True Crime)

When Kids Kill: Unthinkable Crimes of Lost Innocence (Virgin True Crime)

Contrary to the sensationalist title, this is actually a very interesting book. “When Kids Kill: Unthinkable Crimes of Lost Innocence“, by Jonathan Paul, is well researched and even reveals some points I had not heard before. It includes a great introduction in which he speaks to Dr Susan Baily, a prominent child forensic psychologist and president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Some of the cases included Mary Bell, the murder of Damilola Taylor, the really interesting case Lisa Healey and Sarah Davey and of course both Jon Venables and Robert Thompson.

This book also asks what makes Children suddenly turn homicidal and talks in-depth about social events and home life which may have contributed to the child’s behaviour. While the author does a good job at pointing out the flaws in demonising child killers, he does sound rather preachy at some point. He effectively points out that what the majority of the killers in these cases have in common is an abusive and unsecure start in life.

One negative thing I have to say is that I cannot shake the feeling that a lot of what is in the book has been borrowed from other authors. This could explain the different styles and levels of details between the cases. Another down side is that it seems to have been a long time since this book was last updated (2002-ish) and a lot of the information is now out of date.

Over all it is a good captivating read and at approximately 250 pages it is relatively short. Overall, I will give it 4 out of 5.

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Review: Cocky – The Rise and Fall of Curtis Warren

Being from Liverpool I was particularly interested to read this book. As far as the reliability of the information contained in the book is concerned, it cannot be faulted. In fact, it sort of read like an official report in places and lacked the writing skills to make it ‘gripping’. I must admit that I struggled to finish it. As an historical background to the issues and reasons behind the troubles in Toxteth it is much more interesting, but that is just a small part of the book.

As far as the Cocky Watchman himself goes, I found him to be an interesting figure who is clearly very clever and charismatic. It is clear that as a youth he had a strong desire to become successful and rise above the poverty and desperation that surrounded him in Toxteth, it just a shame that he did not use his ability and brains for something more productive. Towards the end of the book we start to see how the pressure of being one of the world’s biggest drug dealers makes him paranoid resulting in him living in a safety ‘bubble’ that eventually leads to his downfall.  It is such as shame that he refuses to write his own story, hearing it from his own mouth would be interesting.

I must admit, even though I do not want to, that I did feel sorry for Curtis towards the end of the book. His treatment at the hands of the Dutch judicial system has been disgusting. There seems to have been underhanded dealings between the international police squads that resulted from the desperate need to capture him that has cast a shadow over the whole case.

At the end of the day, the book is written in a journalistic style that can be boring at times and does not really provide anything more then what could be found in reading 90’s newspapers and Wikipedia.

I give it 3 stars out of 5.

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Philip Zimbardo: The Psychology of Evil

Dr. Zimbardo (of the Stanford Prison Experiment) gives a captivating lecture on the capacity of good people to do evil, and how the reverse might be achievable if we understand the process that led to (among other things) the Abu Grahib prison scandal.

Warning: this is very intense and graphic