Motive is a fascinating part of murder, because it is bound up with the psychology of the killer. I find myself thinking of the motives that have driven people to dispose of others: resentment, hatred, envy, greed, retaliation, revenge, fear, anger… very human emotions that we all experience at one time or another, thankfully without fatalities. But what is it that pushes someone beyond the self-control that limits the majority? If we are to believe some crime fiction and the apparent evidence of real cases, there is sometimes the desire for fame, or notoriety, but this is perhaps very rare, if true at all.
Of course, investigators of murder cases think very closely indeed about motive, as that may well point to the perpetrator, or at least narrow down the possibilities: Who might have had a grudge? Who was close to the victim, by kin- or friendship? Who might have gained from the death?
These days, unfortunately, there are more frequently political motives for murder, when reason is overpowered by belief, and we might well gasp in astonishment that anyone could be fanatical enough to take a life in so public a way as last week in Woolwich. Most murderers seek anonymity.
It’s common to hear people say, “I’d kill for a… beer, a smoke, a cup of tea, a Mars Bar”, but the statement’s intentional hyperbole confirms its lack of seriousness. However, I have heard one person say, quite matter-of-factly and without any obvious intent to shock, that he could kill, full stop. Needless to say, I found his comment quite unnerving and, after considering the kind of person he seemed to be, not beyond the bounds of possibility. I have also turned the focus upon myself and asked myself if I could kill and, if yes, under what circumstances and with what motive? Crime of passion? Maternal defence of child? Revenge for abuse? Being for some reason or another at wits’ end? And if I were to commit murder, would I do it in a calculated way so as to minimise the risk of detection? Here I am, essentially a very pacific person, heading the way madness lies; however, as a crime writer, I do spend time on self-analysis, the better to understand the minds of my fictional characters.
Regular readers of this blog will see a link here with my recent rhubarb post, which of course was tongue-in-cheek stuff, and might now be determining never to cross my path. Fear not, whatever murderous intentions I have will be sated with words.