By James, Monday 9th May 2016
Everyone is someone’s child, even a serial killer. Murderers and Their Mothers (which starts Sunday at 10pm) looks at the complex stories of serial killers’ family relationships and on a case by case basis looks into the vital role played by their mothers.
Here we speak to the show’s presenter Donal MacIntyre about this gripping series which is exclusive to CBS Reality.
CBSR: How do you approach such a series like Murderers and Their Mothers?
DM: The approach is both journalistic and academic. As a criminologist I am trying to bring a rigour and deeper understanding to the matters in hand. As a journalist I am trying to get to the story, get the interviews and break new ground and get fresh material. The fusion of both of those roles I hope make for a unique product. Myself and Dr. Liz Yardley are currently working on two academic papers based on the project and these should be published in academic journals later this year.
CBSR: Did you find it difficult in choosing which families to cover?
DM: This was a collaborative process but I can tell you that the school shooting spree committed by Adam Lanza was of course the most difficult to research and analyze. As a father one could not contemplate the trauma of any parent who would send their infant child to school and to see them returned in small coffins.
CBSR: What was the most surprising thing you discovered whilst making this series?
DM: I was surprised to discover that in the case of Adam Lanza - it can be argued that his mother, Nancy, may have suffered from Münchausen Syndrome by Proxy and therefore could be held nearly equally as responsible for the Sandy Hook school spree shooting as her son.
We postulate that Nancy Lanza fabricated and exaggerated some of Adam Lanza's early difficulties and amplified descriptions of his behaviour for her own pleasure, attention and gratification. Essentially she took away his voice and built a world around him where Adam was treated as special and different and this appeared to give Nancy some gratification - the same kind of twisted pleasure we see in those with Münchausen Syndrome by Proxy Disorder.
Adam was indulged and allowed to retreat from the real world over a period of nearly 15 years by his mother and this separation, I contend was driven by her. This separation was key to the magnification of his pathology that led him to invest up to 16 hours a day in video games and writings about serial killers and ultimately drove him to kill 20 young school children and 7 adults including his own mother.
It should be noted that Nancy herself claimed to her friends that she had a life threatening illness and yet no evidence whatsoever of her condition materialised. It is a fresh perspective and certainly and very interesting exploratory position.
CBSR: Do you personally think that people can be born “evil”?
DM: Evil is not a concept that genes create but certainly some people are born with a disposition to be psychopathic or have similar tendencies. Essentially, your ability to be empathetic is key to your sociability and by contrast, your ability to kill without remorse. Environmental factors are more than capable of redressing some genetic dispositions. It takes a perfect storm of environmental, experiential and genetic factors to create a serial killer or spree killer.
CBSR: Did you uncover anything that was just too extreme to be broadcast?
DM: We were very careful about the graphic images and descriptions of some of the murders we used.
CBSR: Did you come away from the series with a deeper understanding of a murderers psyche?
DM: Certainly, I am delighted to work with Dr. Liz Yardley my colleague at the Centre for Applied Criminology at Birmingham City University and I learn so much in her company I am grateful for the opportunity to examine these ten cases in detail with her and my entire journalistic team.
CBSR: How do you switch off after making such a gritty series?
DM: I watch TV crime shows.
CBSR: So what are you working on at the moment?
DM: I am working on a series about contract killers and developing other documentaries.
CBSR: Donal MacIntyre, thank you very much.
Murderers and Their Mothers starts Sunday May 15th at 10pm.
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