Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

British Maniac Patrick Mackay

Fascination with Death

Dr. Leonard Carr
Dr. Leonard Carr

Patrick Mackay was known in school as a liar and troublemaker, and he also turned his violence against small animals, including the family's pet tortoise, which he reportedly set on fire. One woman claimed that she had seen him pin birds to the road and then stand back to watch cars come by and crush them. In addition, he followed in his father's footsteps by drinking, which in turn inspired him toward greater aggression. He stole from people on the street and entered the apartments of elderly women to take what he could find. He also set fire to a Catholic church (as well as other buildings).

As Clark and Penycate observe, Mackay had a fascination with death. Apparently his father had regaled him with stories from the war about seeing his comrades shot down or blown up. Mackay himself spent a lot of time with the corpses of animals and birds. A neighbor saw him toss dead birds into the air and play with them. It's likely that he developed fantasies that involved the death process, which may have then become eroticized for him. One person said that he'd asked about whether his father's bones were rotting in the ground.

Mackay's home, 1967
Mackay's home, 1967

His mother, Marion, allowed the state to place Mackay in several different facilities for disturbed boys, but finally she had him removed and reunited with the family, against psychiatric advice, and she took her three children to Guyana. But that was short-lived. The family did not settle well there, and soon they were back in London. They moved in with Harold Mackay's sisters, and family fights became the norm. Marion then moved to the town of Gravesend, and Mackay got two short-lived jobs before going on public assistance. He continued to bully people. A probation officer predicted serious violence if Mackay was not removed from the home, but others who knew the case decided to wait and see. Not long afterward, Mackay attempted to strangle his mother and commit suicide. He told officials who questioned him that he lived with his father and often saw snakes. He was again evaluated for a mental illness and again released, whereupon he tried to kill a younger boy. He later said he'd have finished the job had he not been restrained.

Mackay soon ended up in the first of several psychiatric institutions and was finally recognized for what he was. A Home Office psychiatrist, Dr. Leonard Carr, examined his history and described him as a "cold psychopathic killer."

He was only 15.