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Killers in the making? or brutalised children?

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  • Elders (Admins)

The UK has been rocked by the trial of two brothers, aged just 10 and 11, who attacked two other youngsters of similar ages, one of whom was close to death when the paramedics got to him. It is a confusing situation, because the brothers had a history of bad behaviour, in an area where social services were known to be having difficulties, but the perpetrators were apparently were placed in foster care not far from their violent, drink- and drug-using home where they were allowed to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes including cannabis, and watch violent movies. After their attack on their victims, they visited their father nearby.

They've been sentenced to an indefinite period of detention, with a minimum of five years, which in my opinion is not enough for any attempt to rehabilitate them. Nor am I hopeful that their victims will get effective support to overcome their psychological damage, where one boy believed and expressed that to his brother that he was dying.

Here's the BBC news story: https://news.bbc.co.u...ire/8473978.stm

The Daily Mail news story gives more details, but then they always do: https://www.dailymail...iled-years.html

I've recently been going through a self-paced, DVD-based course on neurobiology; a course that goes through from understanding the brain to understanding violent behaviour. I've written up some notes to help me focus on how things can go from beautiful newborns to people, both children and adults, who can behave this way - and also, what can be done to rehabilitate youngsters before it's too late.

I think I should post my notes on my blog here, not least because any responses might help me understand how this kind of situation could occur. One thing of note that the lecturer had to say (the company that produces these lectures is based in the USA) is that testosterone is simplistically seen as the major factor in violence, and that does have an effect of male behaviour (not just human), but he stressed that the most significant question to ask is: Chicago or Toronto? That sent a shiver down my spine.


"Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape." Terry Pratchett

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So hard to believe that people so young could already be involved in this sort of meyhem. One thing that I see in these cases is a stigmitization, or labeling. They do a bad thing and the boy not the act is called bad (and I am talking about events that likely happened years ago). Once they self identify as bad, there is no impetus to try to better and in some cases, there is an escalation toward worse behavior. My theory is that people are most comfortable when they know the limits. ie I like to know my bosses expectations, or my wifes, or etc and when i do not it makes me uncomfortable. this is much of the stress of a new job for example is finding the cultural boundaries of the workplace. Children are not so different, but when caretakers ply them with narcotics, and turn them out on the street and label them bad... it is little wonder there is not more of this really. I think these boys can be saved, but my guess is that putting them into a program with other violent and dangerous 9and likely older) children, is going to further stigmatize them and only escalate thier behavior. It is too bad that there has not been sufficient intervention. A good foster home years ago would have made a world of difference. Libby, I am very interested in your notes.

Edited by Sigil

We live in a world where too many people won't go far enough... won't do what they know is right... what they believe. I don't know how or why it got this way but the world has become so complicated, to involve yourself in someone else's problems is to invite them needlessly on yourself. ~ Frank Black

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  • Elders (Admins)

I agree with your theory, Sigil, about knowing the boundaries. I think there's a lot that goes wrong for children when they aren't provided with those boundaries and of course are way too young to either understand that need or be able to provide them for themselves. Even as adults, we can feel uncomfortable when we don't immediately get the social clues that everybody else seems to know, but at least we can adopt a "watch and wait" strategy, which so many abused youngsters have never learned, and often their bad behaviour can simply be the result of insecurity.

There is a rather long article in the UK's Independent newspaper which gives a description of one the most secure units in the country - these two youngsters will be placed in separate units. Sadly, from reading it, these secure units might be the first experience these two will have of a structured day, guaranteed food, and adults who pay attention to them.


I will put my notes on my blog, and that might help me finish them! It's the last few lectures that I still have to write up, and that's where it starts getting really tough because it's getting into the realms of neurobiology/hormones and aggression.


"Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape." Terry Pratchett

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I've actually had a murderer in my fourth grade reading classroom (years ago). He and two other boys had kicked an infant and beat him with chains when had been around 7. He was not punished in any way, but did go to a lot of state funded coundiling. He was not a "great" student, but he was not violent at school. Of course only a few teachers administrators knew about his past; his peers and their parents were not aware. I understand the desire to fix not punish, but I thought that the parents of other school children had a right to know about his past.

I now teach 7th grade in a middle school, and some of our students were arrested for violent crimes. A few have run away from their homes, and their have been two suicides in the last 7 years. Don't think this is a horrible shcool. Most of the kids are pretty typical and some go on to be honor students in highschool. The school is mostly a place where working familes send their kids.

Like the two boys mentioned in your post, some of my students have been getting high, watching porn, and other "life-style choices" since they were very young. There culture sometimes remind me of Mad Max.

The thing is only a few of them actually seem to go very bad. Most seem to still have good intentions with other people. I've seen horrible parents with great kids horrible kids with great parents; I don't completly buy into nuture over nature.

"What you do when you think no one is looking is who you are."

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  • 4 weeks later...

I know this is different to Libby's original intention for this thread but I hope I will be forgiven as it seems to me to be a further example of the younger members our society being responsible for barbaric acts.

A nine-year-old boy has died and his teenage sister has been injured in a stabbing, police have said.

A man in his 20s has been arrested on suspicion of murder and is being held in police custody.

Officers were called to a home in Bradford, West Yorkshire, last night after reports of a stabbing.

The boy, who suffered multiple stab wounds, was taken to Bradford Royal Infirmary where he died.

The 18-year-old girl's injuries are not thought to be life threatening.

The arrested man, who is known to both police and the mental health service, is understood to be the dead boy's brother. This has not been confirmed by officers.

Police are not looking for anyone else in connection with the attacks.

Neighbours have described the family as "normal", with one resident telling Sky News: "They were a very close family.

"They kept themselves to themselves and they were just a normal family."

The Telegraph & Argus said there was a large police presence outside two homes in Rookes Avenue, Wibsey, Bradford.

People who live in the area said both homes were occupied by members of the same family.

Talking about the boy, one neighbour told the paper: "He was a fantastic lad and they are a close family."

Another said: "I'm really shocked. The family is really fantastic and nice and friendly. They keep themselves to themselves. They've only lived here for two or three years."

Further details have emerged that the perpetrator in question is the older brother of the deceased child and his injured sister. Yet again, a case of this kind has an extra element that makes it resonate more strongly. If it isn't repugnant enough that a young man would murder a child in this manner it is revealed his own brother and fully intended to do the same with his sister.

During a discussion with my mother she recanted the story of Mary Bell. Mary Flora Bell was convicted in December 1968 of the manslaughter of two boys, Martin Brown (aged four years) and Brian Howe (aged three years). Bell was ten years old at the time of one of the killings, and eleven at the time of the other.

What stunned the British populace was the notion that a child could kill. My mother described how unfathomable this was to people at the time. With the increasing numbers of incidents like these my mother has described as what she sees as a society becoming increasingly sensitised to something that once rocked it. She once believed that the likes of Mary Bell was an aberration, a random happening of evil so without reason or explanation that it simply couldn't happen again. She now views society as harbouring a generation of potential Mary Bells and sees each new incident of this kind as evidence of this.

She may well be wrong, and to some degree I think she is, but I believe she is indicative of the mindset of many of people of her generation and it is precisely this mindset that David Cameron hopes to monopolise upon with his 'broken Britain' rhetoric.

What has fascinated me is to the see the way these events have shaped the current face of British Horror. Like Chris Carter with Millennium, storytellers are influenced by whatever cultural Zeitgeist they are surrounded by. With CC it was the rising paranoia associated with the dawn of a new Millennium and with British film-makers it seems to be the rising fear associated with society's young. James Watkin's "Eden Lake" (2008) is the story of couple tortured and murdered by children whilst on a camping vacation, Tom Shankland's "The Children" (2008) is the story of parents tortured by their children during a Christmas vacation and with three more in development ("Ours", "Nighty Night" and "The Cradle Will Fall") it seems Britain is continuing to explore the trend which has been seen in movies from across the globe.

The difference between these films and others such as "Village Of The Damned" is that we are not looking at the idea of possessed children or supernatural preoccupations but children who for no other reason turn to torture and murder for kicks.

When the two children Libby wrote about were asked why they had tortured and sexually assaulted the two young boys their response was "..there was nothing to do.."

That's more scary than the ideas behind The Exorcist surely :confused:




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