Whatever may have transpired in Margaret River that morning, the narrative of the “good bloke” who “snaps” and kills his family is myth, whether it’s “what people thought of him” or not. And maintaining it as a frame for news reporting provides external validation to potential murderers that their inclinations towards violence are not unconscionable.
Indeed, “good bloke” memorialising around suspected killers instructs that you can both murder your family and retain your reputation.
As if any man who murders his family will maintain a good reputation.
We know it provides powerful affirmation, because we know that men who murder their female partners “continue to blame the deceased women after the killing”, “express a lack of remorse or empathy with the victim” and even see themselves as “victims who had been wronged”.
We also know that what domestic murderers have mostly in common isn’t the “heartache” that’s been speculated within Peter Miles. It isn’t tragic childhoods, substance abuse problems, persistent criminal behaviour or mental illness, either.
What perpetrators overwhelmingly share is the use of violence to enforce rigid stereotypes about gender roles where “being dominant in their relationships with women was central to their sense of manliness”. These men feel “belittled” by a partner’s desire to leave, because their understanding of masculinity is rooted in maintaining a unique power differential against women. We know “homicide is often triggered by a loss of control over the victim”. The intent to control a female partner informs many cases in which men murder their children.
So let’s see what three researchers, two of them women, determined after studying instances of familicide, filicide and uxoricide.
Daly and Wilson [1988bl argued that killers who perpetrate the sorts of homicides which are especially damaging to their “fitness interests” are especially likely to be suicidal or insane. In particular, the lethal destruction of one’s family would seem to attest to a state of mind in which one no longer perceives what is in one’s interests (as an evolutionist would define “interests”) and/or is disinclined to pursue them, hence is either insane or so despondent as to be suicidal.
Contrary to what Balham “knows”, mental illness is a factor:
Familicides, the killings of multiple family members, are believed to constitute an overlap between child homicide (filicide) and intimate partner homicide (uxoricide). The aim of this paper was to examine and compare the socio-demographic, contextual and psychopathological factors of familicide perpetrators with factors of filicide and uxoricide perpetrators. Data were extracted from files in a forensic psychiatric observation hospital in Utrecht, The Netherlands, for the years 1953-2006. The sample of 536 persons was identified in one of the three categories of interest; 23 were accused of familicide, 133 of filicide and 380 of uxoricide. Familicide perpetrators are more likely than filicide perpetrators to be male, to be older, to be more educated and to commit the offence with physical violence. They are more likely than uxoricide perpetrators to be married, less likely to have committed a previous violent offence but more likely to suffer from a personality disorder and more likely to attempt suicide following the homicide. Although similarities exist between the three groups under study, those accused of familicide cannot be equated with those accused of filicide or uxoricide. The finding that a large majority of the perpetrators were mentally ill at the time and that many killed when faced with divorce and/or custody over the child(ren) may suggest that increased monitoring of this group might have preventative value.
Twelve couples in cases of murder-suicide were compared to 24 couples in cases of homicide during the period 1978 to 1987 in Albuquerque, N.M. Data were obtained from police, the courts, hospital records, and interviews with friends and family of the deceased. The most striking findings were that perpetrators of murder-suicide were depressed (75%) and men (95%), while perpetrators of homicide were not depressed and one-half were women. The data indicate that the murder-suicide and homicide groups are two different populations.