How do we measure criminal culpability? Do we do so by body count, lack of remorse, age of the victims, murder weapon, malicious intent, the brutality of the actual crimes, scale and scope of the cover-up or is motive the key determining factor?
As shocking as the Watts case is, in many respects, if we’re serious about comparing apples with apples [annihilators with annihilators], then Watts isn’t nearly as distinctive or unique as we may think. Adam Lanza is probably one of the worst family annihilators in history. We don’t think of him that way because he murdered dozens of schoolchildren at Sandy Hook Elementary, but the fact is his first victim was his mother. And Lanza ended the slaughter by taking his own life.
Two fairly recently examples in South Africa of annihilators who wiped out their families but not themselves are triple axe murderer Henri van Breda [20-years-old at the time] and Don Steenkamp [15-years-old at the time]. Van Breda’s body count was almost as high as Watts’. He would have matched it, except his sister Marli miraculously survived the axe bludgeoning and the severing of one of her jugular one side. Interestingly in both cases, the younger sons stood to inherit millions of Rands if found innocent. At the time of the murders there appeared to be serious, escalating estrangement within the family.
Three family annihilations in Australia are worthy of note:
The father of the four children killed in a suspected family murder-suicide has opened up on what led his father-in-law to pull the trigger, and revealed the suicide note that he left behind.
Aaron Cockman, who was estranged from the family, told Seven Network’s Sunday Night program he believes Peter Miles killed his family as he had wanted to kill himself but did not want them to suffer.
Mr Miles, 61, his 58-year-old wife Cynda, their daughter Katrina, 35, and her four children – daughter Taye, 13, and sons Rylan, 12, Arye, 10, and Kadyn, eight – were found dead at Forever Dreaming Farm in Osmington, near Margaret River, on May 11.
Three guns licensed to Mr Miles were found at the hobby farm and the family all suffered gunshot wounds. Mr Cockman said the deaths came after a two-year custody dispute over the kids, which resulted in court orders, including over where the kids should live. The father told Sunday Night he believed the costly and lengthy custody dispute helped push Mr Miles over the edge.
A 24-year-old father has appeared in Perth Magistrates Court charged with murdering his three daughters, aged under four, as well as his wife, before killing the children’s grandmother the following day. He is accused of murdering Ms Harvey’s mother, the children’s grandmother, 73-year-old Beverley Ann Quinn, in the same house the next day.
WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said police would allege a blunt instrument and knives were used in the crimes, but no firearms were involved. He said the bodies of Ms Harvey and Ms Quinn were found in the kitchen of the house, with the children’s bodies found in other rooms. Barefoot, bearded and wearing a dark grey t-shirt and jeans, he showed little emotion during the hearing and as the charges and names of his wife and children were read out to the court.
Ms Harvey is believed to have worked in the Pilbara some years ago, and land title records show she bought the brick-and-tile home on Coode Street back in 2008. Neighbours said an older woman visited regularly to help with the children.
A neighbour, who asked for just his first name “Alfie” to be used, said he didn’t know the family well, but never heard any conflict at the home. “I always waved at them and the two twins were always dressed the same, beautiful little kids,” he said. “You could hear them all day there in the back, running around. “There were never fights, arguments there, never ever.” He said Ms Quinn was always at the house helping her daughter. Alfie witnessed police jump the fence of the property on Sunday and said he thought there had been a robbery. “They were hammering on that back door, then others went in by the front,” he said. He said police took footage from his CCTV cameras, which were only activated at night.
A separate article in the Daily Mail refers to financial problems:
Another neighbour, Alfie Cambos said they were ‘just a normal family’ and were always playing in the backyard. ‘There were never fights or arguments,’ he told Perth Now.
‘They were just beautiful little kids. We used to hear them playing in the backyard.’ Professor of criminology, Guy Hall of Murdoch University, said that the recent incidents occurred in a pattern such as a ‘copycat phenomenon’ and the two main motives behind these atrocities is revenge and depression.
‘Family killings are very strongly related with depression, unable to cope, can’t see a future, a sense of hopelessness,’ Mr Hall told WA Today. ‘They then act out their frustration and anger…men will kill their own children just to teach their partner a lesson, while it’s very rare for women to kill their own children as revenge on their partners.
The children’s father, Mr Harvey, who ran a Jim’s Mowing franchise with his wife Mara, told a neighbour he was struggling financially and felt under pressure to work even when sick to keep the business afloat. The couple ran the business in Morley, north-east Perth, after previously working for a Sino Steel Pilbara mine.
3. Brenda Lin, the only surviving Lin family member, breaks her silence – news.com.au
In the early hours of 18 July 2009 in North Epping, New South Wales, newsagent proprietor Min Lin, age 45; his wife, Yun Lin, 43; their sons, Henry (12) and Terry (9); and Yun Lin’s sister, Irene Lin, 39, were bludgeoned to death.Police investigators noted the blood spatter from floor to ceiling, and the faces of the victims were so disfigured that forensics had to be used to identify them. Forensics also determined that the killings had been started with a hammer-like object, alleged at trial to have been bought from a $2 store, and four of the five victims had signs of asphyxia.
The massacre was one of the most brutal in Australian history. Ms Lin, the eldest child of Min and Lily Lin, told the NSW Supreme Court trial Xie sexually assaulted her on a number of occasions when she moved in with his family after the murders. She also gave evidence of instances of inappropriate touching before the killings. One of the motives advanced by the Crown was that Xie would be able to continue to offend against Ms Lin with her family gone and with her living under his roof.
“He was someone that I trusted…As a person who isn’t a murderer. And also know what he has done,” Ms Lin said in a Sunday Night promotion. “I’d give anything to have my family back.”
Ms Lin spoke of her harrowing ordeal in her victim impact statement read to her uncle’s sentencing hearing. She was on a trip to New Caledonia when the murders occurred. “I do not even know how to begin to express how the murder of my immediate family have impacted my life — there are not enough words to describe the pain and suffering caused me and those around me.” The second motive was Xie’s perception that he did not have equal status within the family — and his jealousy of how highly regarded Min Lin was.
Xie’s sentencing heard about the bloody mess found inside the tidy, two-storey family home. The amount of blood in the bedrooms was not only an “immediate and graphic” illustration of the “murderous assault” which killed them, it also revealed they were killed in the rooms — and in the case of the adults — in their “blood soaked” beds.
Blood was smeared up the walls and across the floor. Of all five victims, young Terry Lin was the only one not killed instantly, such was the severity of the injuries each family member received to their heads and faces. A distinct pattern was visible on their battered faces, with a forensic pathologist later determining a hammer-like object was used as the murder weapon. Justice Fullerton said the murders were “heinous in the extreme” and were “a single episode of brutal and calculated murderous violence”.
She was satisfied Xie killed the family with a hammer like object with a rope attached “most likely so he didn’t lose control” of it and also to maximise “the degree of force to ensure he killed with speed and efficiency”.
She believed Xie used a key that was cut for his wife Kathy — Min Lin’s sister — and used his knowledge of the home he gained as a “trusted family member” to carry out the murders. Xie showed no emotion when the sentence was passed and he learned he would spend the rest of his life in jail.
More: Lin Family Murders
Robert Xie guilty of Lin family murders -Herald Sun