Who’s Afraid of Will Cornick?

In Leeds on the 28th April a fifteen year old boy murdered his teacher by repeatedly stabbing her in the back. He did this in the middle of a lesson, with little warning. She eventually died from her injuries.

The boy’s name is Will Cornick, now aged sixteen he has been convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison; that’s a minimum of twenty years.

As expected the press have reacted by labelling him as ‘psychotic’, ‘evil’, ‘deranged’ and ‘psychopathic’.

The interesting thing is that after extensive time with psychiatrists it has been concluded that he is neither psychotic nor psychopathic. The current evidence seems to suggest that he has an emerging personality disorder. What’s incredibly interesting is that Will Cornick, whilst certainly displaying the lack of remorse and empathy that we associate with ‘psychopaths’, completely lacks other indicators.

The main thing that seems to be confusing people is that he had a seemingly happy home life with supportive parents- so supportive that they stood with him in the dock during the court case.

He was a clever, quiet but enthusiastic boy who seems to have slipped under the radar for most of his life. He’d never hurt anyone before and had no history of mental health problems or violence. He was as normal as you or I.

As well as this his name has been made public- something that is certainly not standard procedure- for him ‘life’ will mean life. He’ll never be able to get away from what he did, he’ll always be the evil, remorseless, psycho killer.

The judge who chose to make Cornick’s name public stated that he did so as he felt that it would be in the best interests of the public. In doing so he’s assured that his boy will never be able to move past this. I’m not saying that this is necessarily a good or bad thing, I’m just stating the facts.

The public attitude towards this case has been overwhelming, maybe I just feel like that because I live right next door to Leeds, but everywhere I look his mug-shot seems to be staring out at me.

What I really want to address about this case is the way that Will Cornick has been struck off by society. He’s been labelled a ‘psychopath’ and a monster. I’m not saying that what he did was in any way excusable, I’m just saying that we’ve written off a sixteen year old boy, we’ve put him in a box and tried to convince ourselves that he’s ‘evil’.

Guess what? I don’t think evil exists. I think that we’re terrified of this boy, and we’re not terrified of him because of the things that he’s done- we’re terrified because he was ‘normal’, he could have been our son, our brother, our friend, our nephew, our cousin, our boyfriend. So we label him as a ‘psycho’ because we need to assure ourselves that he’s not like us, he’s one of the mental people and we could never, ever know anyone like him.

People are baffled at the fact that he came from an apparently happy home. Right, because only people who spent their childhoods being beaten and raped can ever have any kind of mental health problem? Only people who’ve exhibited violent tendencies in the past can commit murder? Only ‘mental people’ can kill others in cold blood?

I have no doubt that there’s more to this boy than meets the eye, especially in terms of this mental health. What angers and frustrates me is that whilst we claim to live in one of the most enlightened and advanced countries in the world we still think that it’s okay to condense someone into the word ‘psycho’.

We are absolving ourselves of any kind of social responsibility. He has mental health problems, maybe the government should be putting more funding into the mental health services so that people with problems can be spotted and treated before they escalate?

Oh, of course, silly me… that’s not how things work at all. We just need to label him as ‘evil’, convince ourselves we’re good people who wouldn’t do anything like that and move on with our lives.

He may have emerging mental health problems but Will Cornick is not a psychopath. He has a good family and a good education. In those respects he reminds me of a lot of my friends… and that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we’re so scared of him.

For more information click here, here, here and here.

’til next time,

Wren x

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2 thoughts on “Who’s Afraid of Will Cornick?

  1. Thank you for your posting. I am appauled by the way the media circus(including The Guardian a newspaper that likes to think of itself “enlightened”) has handled this case. I do not condone the tacher’s killing, but I always thought there is more to this boys’ case than it is known. Being a mother of 2 children, one of which has high functioning autism ( that is, above average intelligence with the emotional side not so developed) had not been for help for him to understand his emotions, and controlling his obsessions and temper outbursts) he could go this way as well. It has come to light (though most of the press did not published it) that one specialist on mental health has already given her opinion, and I am not expert, but having read all books on ASD, I could see a lot of characteristics of ASD in W. Cornick.

    http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/crime/article4256799.ece

    Early warnings were missed

    Published at 12:01AM, November 4 2014
    Will Cornick is likely to have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and was showing signs of distress years before he murdered Ann Maguire, a child psychiatrist has said (Georgie Keate writes).
    Ghazala Afzal,of Nightingale Hospital in London, said that an early period of self-harming by the teenager should have been identified by experts as evidence of his developing behaviour problems.
    “It often happens that quiet children, who are isolated and have communication problems, go unnoticed and their development goes unassessed until something terrible happens,” she said.
    “The information that has emerged tells us he was a little weird, liked playing video games — something that can indicate isolation or loneliness — he rarely spoke and was possibly a bit of a social misfit.
    “It is likely that he was developing a paranoia built up around a fantasy. This is often done through a misinterpretation of events. Here, the focus was his Spanish teacher who excluded him from a school trip.
    “His lack of remorse and the joke he made after murdering his teacher also show a lack of judgment and empathy.”
    Dr Afzal said these factors suggested ASD, a genetic disorder that is often unaffected by environment. “That he had a loving, a good family, is of course good, but unless the signs are identified, this does not make a difference. ASD is often entirely manageable, but it is important to have it assessed properly by an expert.”
    Early identification of any disorder could have helped to prevent the teenager’s murderous intentions later on, Dr Afzal said. “Things like his unrealistic hatred for Miss Maguire would have been picked up on. A psychiatrist would have seen he was suffering from fantasy and paranoia and dealt with it.”
    Sue Bailey, a child forensic psychiatrist who worked with Jon Venables, the James Bulger killer,said teenagers from good backgrounds, demonstrating callous and remorseless traits, were becoming increasingly identified in criminology, often with links to autism.
    Social media allowed such teenagers to “look at anything, for however long they like”, without anyone knowing. But early signs of anxiety often led to bigger problems.
    “It demonstrates how important it is to have mental health facilities in schools to pick up these early signs,” she said. “We know a lot about child psychiatry now and what may look like a violent act occurring for no reason actually has minor triggers and signs which can be spotted early.”

    • Thank you so much for your comment, that’s really interesting- I don’t know a lot about ASD so it’s great to see a new perspective. I completely agree that we won’t know the full extent of what’s going on in his mind for a long time. It’s disgusting how the media have jumped on this and demonised him. Whilst obviously this is a tragedy for the family of Ann Maguire, it’s also a tragedy for the family of W. Cornick.
      Thanks again, it’s always great to hear other opinions!

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