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This week: disability, we often assume most serial killers, murderers and criminals were able-bodied and had full use of all of their sense, but which of them didn’t. Just to clarify, I won’t be including mental disabilities (as the list would be endless), nor killers with debilitating but no disabling conditions, such as Dennis Nilsen who had life-long stomach issues and Dennis Radder aka BTK who suffered from Scoliosis, a painful curvature of the spine. Right:
Number #1: Obviously, we have Oscar Pistorius; the infamous “Blade Runner”, T44 and T43 double-amputee athlete who famously won gold in 100, 200 and 400 metre sprint in the 2008 Paralympics and gold at the 100 and 400 metre sprint in 2012, who has since been convicted of the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp having shot her multiple times, believing she was a burglar.
Number #2: Seisaku Nakamura, a Japanese deaf serial-killer, known as Hamamatsu Deaf Killer, who stabbed nine people to death during the 1930’s and 40’s. In 1938, he raped and murdered two women whilst he was aged just fourteen. Over the next four years, he’d kill and injure several more including his brother, father, sister, brother's wife and child, a random couple and their family. When arrested, he admitted to two more murders. He was executed shortly after his trial.
Number #3: Baljit Singh Buttar. In August 2001, following a beef in a beauty salon, wannabe gangster Baljit Singh Buttar was shot and seriously wounded in a shooting in East Vancouver. Shot in the chest, neck and head, with what witnesses described as “his brains on the floor”, no-one thought he’d survive. But he did. And yet, even though he was now a blind quadriplegic living in a care facility, Baljit confessed to multiple gangland hits in 2004, three years after his life-changing injuries, but being unable to try him for murder, he was tried for murder conspiracy, confide to his care facility, and died in 2011.
Number #4: Jake Fairest, Warwick Toohey and Georgia Fields, three deaf housemates, who in 2016 in Melbourne Australia, were found guilty of the murder of their friend Robert Right, after they threw him off a second floor balcony. When Police checked the CCTV footage, the threesome were seen signing to each other. “Georgia asked Jake ‘you want dead or alive and how die?’ Jake signed ‘can strangle neck area, what do you think?’ Warwick signed ‘strangle risky’, Georgia signed ‘fall good’.” Deemed unfit to stand trial, owing to their mental impairments, Jake & Warwick were committed to a treatment facility and Georgia avoided jail and was confined to live at home, with her parents.
Number #5: Joseph Mesa Jr. In 2002, in Washington DC, deaf student Joseph Mesa Jnr was found guilty of 15 charges including the robbery and murder of his classmates Eric Plunkett and Benjamin Varner in their freshman dormitory at Gallaudet University, a liberal arts college for the hearing impaired. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Number #6: Donald Lang. In 1965, Donald was arrested for the murder of Chicago prostitute Ernestine Williams, blood was found on his clothes and his guilt was obvious, but because he was deaf, illiterate and did not know lip-reading or sign language, he could not be convicted. He was confined to a mental hospital and ordered to learn sign language so that he could stand trial, but he was unable to. When a key witness died, the case was dismissed and he was free in February 1971. Five months after his release, he murdered another prostitute - Earline Brown – and this time convicted to a maximum of 25 years. But in 1975, this verdict was over-ruled at appeal as they believed Lang had not been able to adequately defend himself. He remains confined at the Chicago-Read Mental Health facility.
Of course, if you are blind, consider this; over the period of their incarceration, having trained as a Braille typist, Dennis Nilsen translated many books into Braille and Edmund Kemper also recorded over 5,000 hours of audiobooks for the blind. So whatever you’re currently reading or listing to currently, you could be listening to a serial killer.
And putting murderers aside for a second, here’s some criminals.
Between 2003 and 2011, Gary Foster - who although legally blind climbed to the successful heights of becoming Vice President of Citigroup Bank - he also stole $22.9 million dollars by syphoning off money to dummy accounts. He was sentenced to eight years in prison and now he’s now free.
In 2005, wheel-chair bound paraplegic, Juan Romero Robles was charged with second degree robbery and attempted robbery having stolen a woman’s driving licence and threatening to kill her, with a fake gun he had stolen from a toy store. Juan was a gang member with previous convictions for robbery, rape and was a registered sex offender. He is currently serving a life sentence.
In 2012, severely disabled Daniel Roque Hall, who is wheelchair-bound and suffers from Friedreich's ataxia, a life-shortening condition which requires him to have round-the-clock care was sentenced to three years in Wormwood Scrubs prison having smuggled £300,000 worth of cocaine in his wheelchair. He pleaded not guilty, stating that he was groomed, but was found guilty and convicted.
Interestingly, following the conviction of Andrei Chikatilo, the Russian serial killer who murdered at least 53 woman and children in Rostov, a recent study by the University of California showed an odd correlation between the frequency of his murders, the pattern of his brain-waves and intervals between his epileptic seizures. The research is ongoing and is currently inconclusive.
But - of course – disease can also be a disability, especially for those on Death Row. On 1st October 2019, in Missouri, Russell Earl Bucklew – who was convicted of murder, kidnapping and rape - was executed by lethal injection. But his death sentence did receive a brief stay of execution, as he suffered from a rare condition called cavernous hemangioma, which causes blood-filled tumours to grow in his head, neck and throat, and which they feared, during his execution, could painfully burst. He was confirmed dead at 6:23pm and the State Prosecutor said his death “was peaceful”. Well, of course they did.
And if you were listening to that bit, whilst eating a burger, a sausage or some yummy blood-filled black pudding, I hope I haven’t put you off your meal? Although I suspect I have.
If you found this interesting? Check out the Mini Mile episodes of the Murder Mile UK True-Crime Podcast, or click on the link below to listen to an episode.
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a writer, crime historian, podcaster and tour-guide who runs Murder Mile Walks, a guided tour of Soho’s most notorious murder cases, hailed as “one of the top ten curious, quirky, unusual and different things to do in London”, nominated "one of the best true-crime podcasts at the British Podcast Awards 2018", and featuring 12 murderers, including 3 serial killers, across 15 locations, totaling 50 deaths, over just a one mile walk
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a crime writer, podcaster of Murder Mile UK True Crime and creator of true-crime TV series.
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