Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

British Maniac Patrick Mackay

In Custody

Mackay in court, handcuffed
Mackay in court, handcuffed

Mackay was quickly arrested at the home of a friend. Thanks to a tip, the police tracked him down and got him talking. He confessed in under half an hour. The same officer who had arrested him two years earlier for robbing Father Crean nabbed him again. Around the same time, someone else matched a fingerprint from one of the area robberies to Mackay. With all of this against him, he went to Brixton Prison to be held for trial.

At first he admitted to three murders: the two elderly women and the priest. He was appointed a solicitor, Robin Clark, who believed he had a good case for the insanity defense. Mackay certainly had a long record of mental imbalance. But when Mackay told inmates of other murders he'd committed, this information got back to the detectives, who once again began to interrogate him. Others with unsolved killings on the books came as well.

In all, Mackay confessed to having taken the lives of 11 people over a period of two years. Clark and Penycate offer a list but take care not to say that he was guilty of these crimes, because he was never convicted of them. The list included a woman stabbed in the throat on a train; three elderly women bludgeoned in their homes; a woman and her grandson stabbed in their apartment; a man thrown into the river; and a man bludgeoned in his shop as he closed up for the night. But Mackay recanted the confessions.

In prison, he was subjected to psychiatric assessment. Several opinions were offered on his state of mind during the times when he committed the crimes with which he'd been charged. Most of them agreed that Mackay was a psychopath. He had a personality disorder, not a mental illness. He knew what he was doing, he knew that it was wrong, and he felt no remorse. When Robin Clark asked Dr. James Stewart to testify to Mackay's diminished capacity, he would not do so. He believed that Mackay had a blunted moral sensibility. And the state of medicine at the time, similar to what it is today, indicated that there was no known treatment for psychopathy. It was difficult to know what to do with him.

Dr. James Stewart
Dr. James Stewart

Judged sane by psychiatrists and fit to plead, Mackay was brought to the Old Bailey to have his case settled. He was charged with three of the murders (along with related charges) on November 21, 1975. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter with diminished responsibility. He said that admittance to a hospital for long-term treatment was his "last hope to survive as a human being."

To avoid an expensive and pointless trial, the prosecution accepted the plea, and the judge pronounced sentence: he called Mackay a "highly dangerous man" and sentenced him to life in prison. He sent Mackay to Wormwood Scrubs. In retrospect, Mackay viewed his own life as having been wasted and now destined to rot. He wished that he'd ended it at one of the many points in time when he'd had the impulse to do so.

The newspaper headlines made the most of the story: "The Man Who Enjoyed Killing," said one. Another had "Bloodlust of the Beast in Black," while another foreshadowed the inevitable controversy to follow, with "Life for the Mad Killer Law Let Go."


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