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‘Heartbreak In The Himalayas’ by Dr Ray Hodgson

 

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If nothing else, reading ‘Heartbreak In The Himalayas’ by Dr Ray Hodgson has made me realise how lucky I was to have the best prenatal care and my children delivered by well qualified doctors and nurses in a modern New Zealand hospital, with the best equipment. Postnatal care for mothers and babies is vital for their ongoing health and to detect any abnormalities in the babies’ or their mothers’ recoveries.  Not having ever travelled to Nepal, a patriarchal country with appalling rates of death in childbirth of both mothers and babies, I had no idea of the primitive conditions mothers and their babies still have to endure, even in this 21st century, and it is not surprising that so many do die. There is very scant basic prenatal or post-natal care, and often when women and girls are seen by a doctor, or midwife, it is too late to save their babies.

But this inspiring book is so much more than a reminder of how lucky we are to live in a wealthy and largely egalitarian country, which we take for granted. It is an insight into the enduring spirit of poor rural Nepali women and girls who suffer debilitating pain and social stigma from the horrific effects of pregnancy and childbirth as a result of giving birth too young, too many pregnancies, and with little spacing between those pregnancies. The most common problem among these mothers is uterine prolapse estimated to affect 850,000 females in the country. Amnesty International suggests that the condition impacts around 10 percent of the country’s total female population of almost 14 million and it is considered to be a human rights issue as well as a health issue by Nepal’s Supreme Court. Cultural attitudes favour males over females and as a result, according to the World Economic Forum, the 2016 Global Gender Index ranks Nepal 110th out of 144 countries on gender parity. Girls receive a basic formal education, or none at all, while boys are encouraged to stay at school and later to travel to cities or overseas to further their tertiary studies.

Females grow and harvest crops, take care of children, cook meals. Mothers carry heavy loads while pregnant, and also immediately after giving birth; there is no relief from their punishing workloads.

By comparison, unless men travel to India for seasonal work, their light work load entails selling any excess crops grown and harvested by females.

Dr Ray Hodgson is an associate professor in Obstetrics and Gynaecology based in Australia. Following his discovery of the appalling state of women’s health in Nepal in 2010, he founded the humanitarian organisation ‘Australians For Women’s Health’. As a specialist gynaecological surgeon and obstetrician, Dr Hodgson leads teams of volunteers on medical camps to remote regions of Nepal where they provide surgical care, and treatment of general female health issues, to underprivileged woman and girls. During the temporary camps, each member of the medical team even manages to pass on their skills to Nepali doctors, nurses and midwives.  They often have to work in tents using flashlights during power failures, and at times have had to donate their own blood in order to save dying patients.

Uterine prolapse is a debilitating condition which can cause years of excruciating physical, emotional, not to mention, social pain.  Uterine prolapse is also commonly referred to as pelvic organ prolapse or genital prolapse. Nepali men are generally uninterested in what they perceive as ‘female problems’, comfortable as they are in their total ignorance of what women actually suffer and endure. Added to that, cultural norms dictate that education is ‘wasted’ on girls, because they are expected to work with their mothers in the fields and at home. Their formal education is basic and they often marry too young, before their bodies are fully grown and ready for sex, or for giving birth.

Menstruating women and girls are evicted from their homes, with their babies, and young children, and even exiled from their villages, adding humiliation to their extreme physical suffering.

Nothing demonstrates the disregard men have for their wives’ and daughters’ suffering more than the banishing of menstruating females to the windowless, doorless, menstrual huts or chhaupadi, due to Nepali cultural rituals of impurity or menstrual taboos and Nepal has one of the most brutal cultural practices of this type in the world. The use of chhaupadi continues to cause the deaths of hundreds of women and girls from exposure, dehydration, snake bites, smoke inhalation, starvation, blood loss and many other health issues. One is left to wonder how Nepali husbands and fathers can be so cruel and uncaring about what happens to their wives and daughters banished to the outdoors in one of the harshest climates around the globe. These unfortunate females are expected to walk for hours, sometimes days, with uterine prolapse, and other debilitating internal injuries, to get the most basic health care. The great majority of pregnant women and girls do not receive any prenatal or postnatal care at all, so that their own ignorance in caring for themselves is exasperated and passed on from generation to generation.

Dr Hodgson promises to change that. His camps have already improved the lives of hundreds of mothers and their babies, and he wants to do so much more. Sadly, each day the short-term camps operate, there are endless queues of desperate women who have to be turned away, and this in itself is heart-breaking.  The doctor goes on to say that the severe gender imbalance in rural Nepal is one of the reasons he believes his team’s work is so crucial.  When the first camps were implemented the team focused primarily on helping women with prolapse but the extent of the problem loomed so large, their life-saving work extended to include general women’s, and maternal, health.

The author’s aim is to raise enough money to build a permanent hospital for mothers and babies in remote Nepal, not only as a base for his team’s life-changing surgery and maternal healthcare, and to end the frustration, the inadequacy, of the short-term camps, but also to provide a teaching hospital to train more midwives and surgeons. Dr Ray Hodgson hopes that the sale of his book ‘Heartbreak In The Himalayas’ will generate enough funds to finance his hospital, and perhaps in the future his project will influence cultural change, but he is also realistic: “The challenges are both medical and cultural in what is a highly patriarchal country.”

Dr Ray Hodgson’s story details the adventures and challenges that present themselves during a four-week surgical camp in a remote area of Nepal. The story is based on, and contracts, actual events that he and his volunteer group have faced over the years. But ‘Heartbreak’ is not all about the suffering of women and girls…it is also about hope for a better life for all females in Nepal in the future and Dr Hodgson is right when he says that when girls are better educated, Nepal will become a more equal society. His views are supported by historical evidence that well educated women make better and healthier mothers who in turn are delivered of healthier babies who in their turn pass this on to future generations.

To illustrate his prediction, Dr Hodgson has cleverly incorporated in his beautifully written book, a thread running through the main events, which helps to alleviate the horror the reader finds within these pages; it features an intelligent and resourceful 12 year old girl called Poppy.  Poppy helps in the camp’s kitchen, before and after school, to provide meals for the medical team and its staff, who have all come to love her.  This young girl has a particularly difficult life, living with her brother and father, without her mother who tragically died giving birth to Poppy. By this process, we are given a closeup, insightful view into the hardship young girls face, and what life is like living in a primitive one room hut with no privacy. Poppy’s future appears bleak indeed, but there is hope that Dr Hodgson might find a way to convince Poppy’s father that she deserves a good education, with the help of a scholarship, and that she in turn will be able to help the people of her country appreciate the contribution women could make in transforming Nepal into a more modern and egalitarian society.

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Please help author Dr Ray Hodgson raise enough funds to build his teaching hospital for mothers and babies in rural Nepal by buying his  book; you will not only be buying a great read, but most important  of all, you will be helping to save the lives of hundreds of mothers and babies which will in turn set rural Nepal on a path to a more equal society where females are valued  as much as males are.

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-Anne Frandi-Coory 16  July 2019 

 

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CARDINAL

In June of 2017, the best-selling book Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell

 written by investigative journalist, Louise Milligan, was withdrawn from sale in bookshops across Victoria. Cardinal George Pell had just been charged with multiple historical sexual offences against children. The publisher, Melbourne University Press was concerned that the book could prejudice the case and be in contempt of court.

George Pell has since been convicted of child sexual abuse and is currently in custody awaiting sentencing on the 13 March 2019. Pell continues to maintain his innocence on all charges. His appeal hearing has been set for June 7-8, which critics claim is unfair as most inmates usually have to wait a year or longer before their challenging of a court verdict is heard.

Now that CARDINAL is available for sale again, I can finally post my review. This is a book that is even more relevant then ever, because Pell is now a convicted paedophile. His crimes are no longer just allegations.

One of the complainants Milligan interviewed for the book, whose criminal trial was recently dropped by prosecutors (due to insufficient evidence) has now elected to take the matter forward, via a personal civil action against Pell and other church and state entities, including the trustees of the Sisters of Nazareth (formerly St Joseph’s), the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne and the State of Victoria.

In another associated case, the father of one of two St Patrick’s Cathedral choir boys sexually assaulted by Pell, has announced that he intends to sue Pell and the Church following the death of his son due to an accidental drug overdose.

These victims’ accusations, along with many more against Pell and other Catholic clergy, and the resultant cover-ups, are also detailed by Milligan and her research is thorough; searching and reading through hundreds of documents, tracking down and interviewing victims and their families, Catholic clergy, teachers and principals.

So much of what Milligan writes about in CARDINAL is heart-breaking. e.g. Several generations of children abused by the same paedophile priest, children raped by priests at their school.  Pell’s Melbourne Response, which he established to compensate victims of Catholic clergy abuse is heavily criticised and considered dangerous. In one case, the victim was forced to confront her abuser, alone with him in a room with the door closed, before the Church would even consider compensation. And most critics say that compensation is woefully inadequate to pay for psychologists, psychiatrists, medication, etc.

It is very interesting to read about Pell’s rising authoritarianism and adherence to strict orthodoxy which enabled him to make the changes he carried out at Corpus Christi seminary in Clayton. When he was first appointed as rector, he sacked all the staff, and dismantled the strict screening processes for those young men wishing to join the priesthood. Vocations for the priesthood were plummeting so there was a worldwide shortage of parish priests.  All who wished to enter the seminary in Victoria were from then onwards accepted at face value! Someone who spoke to Milligan stated that Pell’s ‘exercise of power was ruthlessly destructive.’ The ‘veritable tsunami of child sexual abuse claims coming at the nation’s Catholic Church’ revealed that Victoria had more paedophile Catholic clergy, and victims, than in any other place in the country, and most of the paedophiles operated during Pell’s time as priest or bishop.

Yet Pell is persistent in his claims that his Melbourne Response procedures were the first to respond to help victims of clerical paedophilia, but this is hotly disputed by several critics of Melbourne Response in the book. The percentage of Catholic clergy in Australia, including Christian brothers and priests, accused of sexually abusing children, as revealed by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse, is staggering.

Another aspect of Pell’s governance of the Church which Milligan explores is Pell’s obsession that the Australian Catholic Church would disappear into obscurity because of its ‘egalitarian nature’ and he agreed with Pope John Paul ll that this egalitarian nature would undermine the authority of the clergy! Pope John Paul ll, Pope Benedict  XVl and George Pell,  are now suspected of having covered up thousands of cases of sexual abuse of children by paedophile Catholic clergy worldwide. None-the-less, by the year 2002, Pell had become a true Catholic celebrity; wined and dined by media and politicians, including Liberal prime ministers, by which time he had gained the epithet ‘a brilliant conversationalist’. But so rigid was Pell in his determination to keep the Australian Church within his parameters of strict orthodoxy, that many priests called him ‘Captain Catholic’; the Church’s reputation always came first above all else, including the safety of children. Pell had finally succeeded in making ‘his’ Australian Catholic Church in his own image. Meanwhile, hundreds of children around Australia had been raped and brutally abused by Catholic clergy, indeed were still being abused, and the Church was by this time well skilled in covering up that abuse.

Then in 2013 the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was established. The worm was turning.

During Cardinal Pell’s testimony at the Royal Commission, he repeatedly denied that he knew about paedophilia in his Church. The Commission’s Chair, Justice McClellan interrupted; ‘We have heard from others that paedophilia has been understood by some in the Church as sexual activity with prepubescent children but not adolescent children’. Pell said he was aware of the distinction.

‘It is not unknown, of course for priests to have engaged in sexual activity with adolescent boys, is it?’ McClellan asked. Pell replied that that was correct. So, although a priest having sex with prepubescent children was a sin and a crime of paedophilia, a priest having sex with adolescent boys was merely homosexuality? The people in the courtroom were reported to have responded with horror at this revelation. ‘So’, Milligan writes:

‘the Catholic Church that lectured to people that sexual intercourse was not permitted outside the bounds of marriage, that had railed against the contraceptive pill and condoms, this same Church had made granular distinctions between how it viewed sexual relations of whatever complexion, between adult priests and boys, depending on their age? Well, yes, it seems that it did.’ This is so very disturbing and goes some way in explaining how the Church has managed to trivialise and cover up the abuse and rape of children across the world, for decades.

The pomposity and arrogance of Pell is evident for all to see. His answers to questions during the Royal Commission, and at other public hearings, were evasive, with deliberate obfuscation and ‘I don’t recall’ replies. This can be attributed to a form of ‘mental reservation’ or ‘mentalis restrictio’ in the Latin; essentially a Catholic loophole in the truth. Many of Pell’s victims are convinced this is how he evades answering questions truthfully, even under oath. It is a theological strategy dating back centuries which involves the idea of truths ‘expressed partly in speech and partly in the mind’. Lying is considered a sin but it is a Christian’s ethical duty to tell god the truth …restricting part of that truth from human ears is okay if it serves the greater good i.e. protecting the Catholic Church’s wealth and its reputation.

The book also focuses on Pell’s propensity to blame others for the Church’s failings in protecting children from paedophile clergy. He appears to readily blame other bishops and priests, whenever he is questioned too closely. Although he often uses the phrase ‘I can’t recall’ when reminded of some particular episode or answer he has given in the past, he always has rapid recall of a name he can use to accuse another bishop or priest of negligence in using their powers to protect children e.g. bishop Mulkearns, who it is alleged frequently asked for Pell’s assistance to deal with serial paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale from ‘Catholic Ballarat’. Mulkearns even travelled to the Vatican to consult with Pope Benedict XVl. When Mulkearns sat down with the pope, Mulkearns asked him for help to deal with Ridsdale. The pope stood up, turned his back on the bishop, and walked out of the room. That’s strict Catholic orthodoxy in practice!

Could Pell have devised and upheld the strict orthodoxy of the Australian Catholic Church in order, not only to augment his own power to protect the Church and its wealth and assets, but also to keep hidden his own dark secrets?

Reading this book shines a bright light on the extreme suffering of the child victims of clerical abuse, and the breach of trust; absolutely no empathy for victims is displayed by the Catholic Church’s hierarchy. There are many people within the Church who do not believe that Pell is guilty of paedophilia, and are certain that the victims are lying and are intent only on destroying the Church. Do these supporters of Pell not realise that they are enabling paedophiles?

In May 2015, child psychiatrist and associate professor from the University of New South Wales, Carolyn Quadrio, gave evidence at the Royal Commission. She is arguably Australia’s most experienced practitioner on the impact of childhood sexual abuse throughout a victim’s life. Milligan writes that the Commission had such confidence in Quadrio’s expertise that it devoted an entire day to her evidence.

Quadrio tells Milligan during an interview that ‘when a member of the clergy abuses a child it can be more profoundly unsettling for the victim than when it is an ordinary member of the community.’ She goes on to say that the ‘trauma of betrayal itself can be more traumatic than the memory of the physical act of sexual abuse.’ Quadrio explains at length in CARDINAL, the reasons for this.

Through her many years of practice, and intense study of local and international research, Quadrio has discovered that there is a distinct difference between the way that boys respond to abuse, compared to that of girls. As Quadrio states in her evidence to the Royal Commission: ‘There needs to be a huge amount of awareness that children who are troubled, are troubled for a reason.’

I recommend this book to all parents and families, whether Catholic, or any other faith, or indeed atheists, because it will not only instruct readers on the evil of paedophilia within the Catholic Church, but it will ensure that sexual abuse of children on this scale, never happens again. That children will be safe at school and families will be more aware of the signs that their child is being sexually abused.

– Anne Frandi-Coory 12 March 2019

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Update 13 March 2019: Today, Cardinal George Pell was sentenced by Judge Kidd to six years in prison with a non-parole period of three years and eight months for historical sex offences against two choirboys. His name has been added to the Sex Offenders’ Register.

Update 21 August 2019:  On this date, Cardinal George Pell’s Appeal was dismissed by two of the three Court of Appeal Judges. 

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I received the wonderful Christmas gift of Michelle Obama’s autobiography, ‘BECOMING’.
and I did enjoy reading this beautifully written book. I  thoroughly recommend it.
What an inspirational and intelligent woman she is. Michelle Obama’s life journey begins with her childhood in a poor, black neighbourhood in Chicago, and takes us through her years at school, university, as a corporate lawyer, and on to the eight years in which she reluctantly gives up her much loved career to become the First Lady of the United States of America
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Michelle (a descendant of African slaves) wastes not one minute of her time as First Lady, establishing:   a huge vegetable garden in the White House grounds to which she invites disadvantaged families to share in, mentoring programmes in schools and universities for disadvantaged children, healthy food delivered to schools for millions of children across the US, a movement to encourage schools to implement at least 60 mins of exercise every day… and these are just a few of her accomplishments. There is so much more that this amazing woman achieved, and most of it with an aim to better the lives of disadvantaged children, especially girls and young women. For as Michelle explains in her book, so many boards and influential meetings she attended over many years, were mostly made up of white males, where so often she was the only woman present, or the only African American or mixed race person in a group of world leaders.
I think readers will agree with me when they reach the last pages of this book, that Michelle Obama, by her example of selflessness and high standards in attaining her achievements, has inspired many women of mixed race in the USA to garner their inner strengths and voices, to explore their choices in life, and to aim for higher ideals.  One of the last paragraphs in the book reads:
“There are portraits of me and Barack now hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, a fact that humbles us both. I doubt that anyone looking at our two childhoods, our circumstances, would ever have predicted we’d land in those halls. The paintings are lovely, but what matters most is that they’re there for young people to see – that our faces help dismantle the perception that in order to be enshrined in history, you have to look a certain way. If we belong, then so too, can many others.”
-Anne Frandi-Coory

The Somnambulist by Essie Fox

 

Essie Fox has written a powerful Victorian novel, set in Hertfordshire in London’s East End; the writing so vivid that the reader can almost hear carriage wheels riding over ancient cobblestones, and easily imagine the incessant fog conjuring up ghostly figures and eerie lighting. The Somnambulist is a moody and nostalgic tale of obsessive love and betrayal, full of unexpected twists and turns, eventually revealing the truth behind family mysteries and dark intrigue.

The young and naïve protagonist Phoebe Turner captivates the reader as soon as she arrives on the scene. And then there is her beautiful, sensuous aunt Cissy who rescues Phoebe from a suffocating life of religious fervour and introduces her to the wonderful world of the music hall stage, passionate men and the intense spiritualism that pervaded the Victorian era. Docks, music halls, and graveyards add to the Gothic atmosphere of the tale. Mysterious men with past connections to Cissy and the Turner family seem to pop up everywhere only to confuse Phoebe even more. And why do the dead exert such influence over the living? As Phoebe grows into womanhood, she begins to learn more about the secrets of the past, only for tragedy to strike again.

I love the way Essie Fox weaves her Gothic tale around the haunting painting of the same name:     ‘The Somnambulist’ by Pre-Raphaelite artist John Everett Millais.

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The painting overshadows the goings-on in the Turner household and Phoebe is haunted by it, often dreaming about the sad woman wandering the dark cliffs, seemingly alone. But is she alone? Phoebe suspects that it is a painting depicting her adored aunt Cissy in the role. She often wishes Cissy was her mother instead of Cissy’s much older sister the religious zealot, Maud, whose life is devoted to converting heathen men and women, including whores, to a life with Jesus, and to preventing Phoebe from falling into the evil abyss like Cissy has done, due to her life on the stage in music halls surrounded by loose women and ‘dangerous’ men.

When seventeen-year-old Phoebe visits Wilton’s Music Hall with her Aunt Cissy, her life changes forever, and she risks the angry preaching of Maud who marches with the Hallelujah Army, and who besiege the streets calling for all London theatres and music halls to close.

Actually, the plot may be set in the Victorian era, but I can relate to Phoebe as a 17 year old, lied to, had her parents stolen from her because of some Christian hypocrites who long ago made the decision to keep Phoebe in the ‘dark’ about her true parentage. The plot is not that far-fetched as far as family intrigue goes, in my view, but what Fox has achieved in ‘The Somnambulist’ is the clever weaving of many layers intertwined with mystery and subterfuge all the while evoking emotion and sympathy from the reader toward Phoebe, and also toward her aunt Cissy, both of whom seem to be doomed to a life filled with deception, regret, betrayal, and loss.

Since reading ‘The Somnambulist’ and ‘The Goddess and the Thief’ by Essie Fox, I have now catapulted her into ‘My Favourite Authors’ category which is unusual as my most read genre is non-fiction and some historical fiction. Although, I would classify this wonderful book as Victorian historical fiction, interlaced with thespian dramatics and spiritual effect.

-Anne Frandi-Coory 19 December 2018

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The Goddess And The Thief by Essie Fox …read my review here:

 

Anne Frandi-Coory Reviews of Books in My Collection here on facebook:

5 *****  

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Dr Helen McGrath is currently an adjunct professor at both Deakin and RMIT Universities.

Cheryl Critchley is a prolific investigative journalist.

 

The fifteen crimes analyzed in this book, all carried out in Australia,  involve three women and twelve men. The criminals were generally not diagnosed with a severe mental illness, however, they were all diagnosed as having a mental disorder, such as a personality disorder, and they were well aware that what they were doing was wrong. The difference between mental illness and a personality disorder is explained in detail at the beginning of the book.

The various personality disorders are delved into at length by the authors. MIND BEHIND THE CRIME is well set out, divided into chapters and parts  e.g. each chapter is devoted to one specific crime with the offender and victim/s involved in that particular crime listed at the beginning of the relevant chapter. Parts of the book are divided up into the specific, diagnosed disorders as they relate to each perpetrator’s behaviour and decision-making in the lead up to their horrendous crime.

PART 1: Filicide and familicide – Killing Your Own Family

‘Men commit nearly all familicides and filicides (92-97 %) and there is evidence that such mass murders are increasing in Australia.’

Filicide is the term used to describe a situation in which a parent intentionally kills one or more of their children …the parent may or may not then kill themselves. The motive and case history of each of these crimes is explored thoroughly.  Familicide and familicide-suicide are the two terms most commonly used to describe a situation in which one family member kills or attempts to kill all members of their direct family and then often suicides. Classification schemes are used to aid the reader in identifying the behaviours and mental disorders that motivated these murderers.

Family annihilation is described as a subcategory of mass murder, defined as the killing of four or more members of the one family in one location and during one event. Family annihilators are mostly men.

‘Associate professor Carolyn Harris Johnson, a leading expert in filicide and familicide…points out that the media frequently romanticises (saying they acted out of love) and sanitises this type of crime, to soothe the anxieties of the audience because the subject matter of child murder is taboo, or too confronting for most people. But this approach distorts the public’s understanding of why these events occur and the extent of the perpetrator’s responsibility. This makes it much more difficult to identify actions that can be taken as early warning signs and prevent such child murders in the future.’ [my emphasis]

A summary of each of four categories are:

The self-righteous killer-seeks to blame their partner for damage to family, breakdown of relationship, etc. Has been controlling and possessive in the past, engages in over- dramatic behaviour and comments, may attempt suicide to avoid facing the criminal justice system.

The disappointed killer – concludes their family has let them down, their family is an extension of their own needs and aspirations, self-obsession prevents them from seeing their children as separate entities.

The anomic killer – perceives they have damaged their family’s income or lifestyle, have lost their economic status, lost their job.

The paranoid killer – perceives there is an external threat (real or imagined) that will destroy their family e.g. social services may take their children.

 PART 2: Narcissistic personality disorder and malignant narcissism – arrogant, dangerous and sometimes vulnerable.

PART 3: Dependent personality disorder – desperately needy.

PART 4:  Paranoid personality disorder – you can’t trust anyone

PART 5: Antisocial personality disorder – Life outside the rules. People with ASPD can be dangerous and difficult to detect. They lurk in homes and workplaces, playing the role of the perfect partner or colleague until they decide to use and abuse those around them for their own ends.

PART 6: Criminal autistic psychopathy and sexual sadism disorder –

a dangerous combination:

1. autistic spectrum disorder.

2. Asperger’s syndrome.

3. pervasive developmental disorder.

A diagnosis of this disorder can be made when there is evidence of behaviours such as those listed in the following two categories:

1. behaviours that indicate deficits in social communication and interaction. (Deficits in social communication and interaction are listed in more detail in this section).

2. restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests or activities.

Every one of the above disorders is explained at length in each section to help the reader understand the mind and behaviours of the perpetrator at the time the crime was committed.

All of the cases chosen for this book are recent high-profile Australian murders most readers will already know about.  MIND BEHIND THE CRIME refers to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual and other classification schemes to help explain each disorder and the subsequent motives of the perpetrators involved.

The authors argue that no amount of mild to moderate depression excuses killing those closest to you. It is never justified and the perpetrators should be called what they are – murderers. They go on to say:

“A common myth about these crimes is that parents who kill their children do so out of love and that the extreme love they feel for their child/children means they can’t bear to be separated from them…loving fathers and husbands don’t kill their kids. And unless the public’s perception of these murderers changes, other men will continue to feel that if life gets too tough they, too, can take this option and be eulogized by their loved ones in the media rather than condemned  as they should be.’ Most children were killed in a brutal and violent way; in their last moments knowing that it was their father who killed them.

‘The positive way many of those who kill their children are described in the media has the potential to influence others to commit the same crimes. Such coverage also detracts from the victims’ suffering and makes the crimes seem less horrifying. It implies that nothing can be done about these killings because they are neither predictable nor preventable. This would not be the case if, as a society, we accepted the hard reality about these crimes and focused more on identifying potential warning signs.’

It is clear at the outset that the authors care deeply about the victims involved in these crimes. They warn of the dangers that men with these disorders pose to their wives/partners and children. There is an appendix at the rear of the book: ‘Where to go for help and support’.

This is a book for our times, and I recommend it to readers who may know of someone in their family who is at risk, or for anyone interested in trying to make sense of why these murders are occurring across Australia. There is also widespread concern that Australia’s Family Court system requires reform to ensure that justice is done and that families and children are better protected.

-Anne Frandi-Coory 14 December 2018

 

 

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A friend recently introduced me to author Essie Fox and I’m so glad she did. The first of Fox’s books that I have since read, is The Goddess And The Thief and I am so looking forward to reading another of her books The Somnambulist.

The Goddess And The Thief  is set in the time of Queen Victoria, when Great Britain was in the throes of plundering India and exiling the Maharajah (Great Ruler) with the inestimable assistance of the Honourable East India Company, during the early days of the British Empire. This very fine example of a well researched historical novel is my favourite genre; a way of learning about world history via a great story.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Essie Fox was herself a Hindu goddess …every line she has written in this book, is evocative of wonderful, sumptuous India, juxtaposed with the corset-laced Victorian age;  an era fixated with death, opium and all things exotic.

Readers will be able to instantly identify with the motherless heroine, Alice, who after her father had died, moved permanently back to Windsor, England. Hindu mysticism along with childhood memories of India travel over the seas with her; apparent reincarnations and a sculptured goddess whose eyes appear to follow her every move in her father’s house, confuse Alice.  And her Aunt Mercy, who at best is ambivalent towards Alice, is obsessed with the mysterious and intense Lucian Tilsbury.  When the troubled Alice reaches her teens, she finds herself reluctantly attracted to him, also a little afraid of the intense, sexual affect he has on her, no matter how much she fights it.  What are Tilsbury’s true intentions? Why are her aunt and Tilsbury so intent on stealing the Koh-i-Noor diamond from Queen Victoria and returning it to India where he believes it rightfully belongs and which Britain had claimed as its own at the end of the Anglo-Sikh wars? There is also mystery surrounding Mini, her ayah, whom Alice adored. Her heart broke when she had to leave her behind in India, and she yearns to return to be re-united with her beloved Mini, whose parting gift was a bangle made of glass beads and sacred brown rudraksha seeds, given with her last words:

Always wear this my dearest, it shall be a token of our love. And every time you touch a bead you shall know that Mini thinks of thee, and that Mini shall be praying still for her beloved’s safe return.

Aunt Mercy, a spiritualist medium, wants Alice to be her assistant during séances held for broken-hearted women, including Queen Victoria, who has a compulsive yearning to re-connect with her beloved Prince Albert who has recently died so young. Although Alice agrees to aid her aunt during séances initially, she finds the experience unnerving and unethical, and the relationship between Alice and her demanding aunt deteriorates rapidly. Mystery and suspense evocative of India fill every page of this book, and Fox’s superb writing sucks the reader into the sensuous depths of this beguiling story. I especially loved Fox’s use in the book of asides with such titles as The Letter Never Sent and The Prayer Never Answered to unobtrusively give the reader some insight into the past.

Eventually Alice begins to experience bizarre ‘dreams’ in Mercy’s house and later in Tilsbury’s,  where he eventually confines her in a strange bedroom under what she believes is some sort of spell,  although the stupor that envelops her renders her unable to think clearly.  Added to that, ghosts appear in odd places, seemingly to warn Alice of danger. Statues of the goddess Parvati and her consort Shiva sometimes seem to move; are they just figments of her vivid imagination, reincarnations if you will, of the stories Mini used to tell her?

There is no-one apart from Mrs Morrison, Aunt Mercy’s cook, who Alice feels she can trust. But then, how can she find the words to explain the mysterious and devastating effect that Lucian Tilsbury has over her body and soul?

 

Anne Frandi-Coory – 25 September 2018

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The Somnambulist by Essie Fox…read my review here: 

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I have always been interested in why people do the things they do; why they commit crimes, particularly murder. Was it nature or nurture, or a combination of both? I have read many biographies for this reason, and I love British criminal investigation series like Vera and Silent Witness, to name only two. Criminal profiling has come into prominence in recent years, and I find this method of investigating crimes fascinating, ever since I watched the British TV series ‘Cracker’ about a psychologist/police profiler played by Robbie Coltrane.

I spotted The Profiler by Pat Brown, on display in a book store, bought it and raced home to read it. I find reading books so relaxing and it helps clear my mind after I’ve spent the day as a key board warrior on social media taking politicians to task, posting my opinions on the state of the world in general. In between, answering questions on my blog, or my email accounts, and responding to various comments.

The cases Pat Brown has investigated and writes about in The Profiler are all very interesting and varied. She has also investigated suicides and, how, although they are relatively easy to investigate compared to complicated murder scenes, families find it difficult to believe that their loved ones would want to kill themselves. It is another level of heartbreak for them.

Pat Brown’s successful career as a criminal profiler intrigued me, especially the round-about-way she qualified and became such a success at it. To be honest, I didn’t expect that a large part of the book would be taken up with her story as a mother who not only home-schooled her three children but who also worked nights interpreting for deaf suspects being interviewed by police. She was a mother who wasn’t happy with the standard of education at the only school in the area and decided that she would home-school them. She describes herself as being an ‘earth mother’ and she relished the role. Not only that, she also took in foster children and a boarder to help finance their large home and their lifestyle. Once her children had left school and had embarked on their own life journeys, she decided to use the language skills she had honed, to study. I enjoyed this part of the book almost as much as I enjoyed the criminal profiling cases Brown actually got down to writing about. All-in-all Brown spent about ten years working in the emergency rooms at a Washington hospital centre and Howard University. In these establishments Brown says she learned a lot about forensics when her deaf clients rolled in on stretchers and she acted as interpreter. This was one of the most violent wards in Washington DC.  Subsequently, Brown studied criminal profiling in depth and was eventually proficient enough in the field to work with police, families, or to be hosted on TV shows to discuss various crimes and give her opinion using her skills. It took her several years to prove herself, and to be taken seriously, especially by police.

The cases Brown investigates in the book are varied, and she takes us through each stage meticulously. Many of the cases remain unsolved because of police carelessness in ’losing’ evidence, concentrating on the wrong suspect, or as in one case, possibly protecting the main suspect because of their connections ‘high up’. Brown wished to join the FBI as a criminal profiling agent, but she was too old among other things that I won’t delve into here. Brown largely educated herself by reading hundreds of books and studying various textbooks. She eventually earned a Masters degree in criminal justice from Boston University in order to “learn more about police operations and procedures and the challenges of the criminal justice system in general.”  She later developed the first accredited Criminal Profiling and Investigative Analysis programme in the country for Excelsior College where she is an adjunct professor.

It is alarming to discover how many brutal murders remain unsolved in the US and the reasons are many, but the majority are unsolved because of the lack of funds to investigate crimes in depth, and of course more serious crimes are happening more often and there just aren’t enough police or resources to continue on-going investigations for any length of time. Brown is aghast at the carelessness by which some police initially investigate serious crimes, such as not taking good photographic evidence of the crime scenes, not sealing off crime scenes, neglecting to interview all suspects, or take samples of blood or other body fluids left at the scene of the crime for DNA testing. Brown is constantly asked by families to investigate cold cases involving the murder or suspected suicide of a loved one because they don’t believe the police have done their job thoroughly enough and have reached the wrong conclusions.

I was a little disappointed that none of the crimes Pat Brown investigated resulted in an arrest or a conviction. The main reasons for this were because they were cold cases, in which evidence was lost or was insufficient to enable a conviction. From what I read, the police were at the very least, careless in their investigations of the crimes, and at best, negligent, especially at the initial stages when the crime scene was first discovered. The police who were involved were often not willing to assist Pat Brown by allowing her access to evidence when they did have it, and in one case, the judge sealed evidence and refused to release it. Never-the-less, Brown was able to proceed with criminal profiling  in spite of these set-backs, by interviewing police, suspects, family members, witnesses and obtaining autopsies. She also used lie-detectors on some suspects.

I recommend this as a great read for anyone who has a keen interest in criminal profiling.  There is no doubt that a female author writes criminal profiling from a whole new angle when compared to male authors. I have to admit to enjoying the change of perspective.

-Anne Frandi-Coory  15 August 2018

 

 

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