Fri | Sep 24, 2021

Mark Wignall | The psychology of murder

Published:Thursday | April 1, 2021 | 12:10 AM

In October 1992, Vic Higgs, a white expatriate who had been working with the tourism ministry to produce a yearly classic golf tournament, lost his way on the Runaway Bay to Kingston trip. He slowed the car to seek directions. Then the men offered to travel with him to connect with the main highway. Then they robbed him and murdered him. Placing his neck under the trunk lid and sitting on it, one of the murderers said in court, “Mi could a hear when him a dead.” Think of that.

Could the proximate motive simply be situations spinning out of control? But even that does not provide a reason, even the most morbid for linking it to murder. They are strangers and knew nothing of each other. So what, did they murder him simply because he was available? In addition, the men seemingly never committed any level of crime before the murder. Which begs the question? how can we see the very moment when a human morphs from normality to murderous animal?

In 2011, Freddie Hickling, then Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at The University of the West Indies, spoke of a study which indicated that about 40 per cent of Jamaicans have some form of mental illness. Might not a man accused of murder and not prone to levity make out a cogent case that he is mentally afflicted by a generational disorder and then appeal to the court to free him on that basis?

We had another seismic social moment at the murder of Khanice Jackson. And without being too perverse, both parties knew each other, a certain level of trust had developed. Many of the elements of the first tragedy are missing from the second horror. But again, how can we know when a man’s dangerous mind trips him up and moves him to murder?

It used to be that even in our worst cultural and social understandings women were considered delicate and special. The odd couple would experience a convenient silence when Parson Brown inflict physical damage to lady, Miss Icy. When Parson drink. But generally, the shame kept it down as we still saw our women as protected species.


That has long changed since the days of the 1960s when women, children and the elderly were to be shielded from all harm. It may matter little that we have no widely acceptable reason for why we moved the meter on our womenfolk. What we do know is that no Jamaican woman can now walk the streets by day or night and have even an ounce of confidence that she is safe from sick predatory males.

It is safe to admit that many Jamaican men have poor social skills with women because in their youth they were part of the generation which deliberately undercounted the social and human value of a woman. So many couples regularly have their kick up, box dung series and it is seen in many communities as socially acceptable. Add to that the fact that many Jamaican women are whopping the men as far as social and educational advancement. And in doing that, bear in mind that a high percentage of our women have seized the moment to claim their crown instead of waiting on a man to rope her into a tie-head.

It is also useful in trying to understand the national debasement of our women that we ought to understand also that in terms of ‘quality’ of the person, Jamaica women would outrank our men about three to one in that sweepstakes. Many Jamaican men are very uncomfortable with those new paradigms.

I cannot determine the solutions to saving our women, especially in a situation of wide social rot. The escape valve is used up in claims the terrible problems of the safety and security of our women is to be found in the acceptance that all fixes must be applied at the same time.

Think.of this too. Close to 20 years ago, I met a 15-year-old girl in the most terrible of circumstances. She had been held in captivity for two days and along with other girls they were repeatedly raped. At one stage when she begged them for water to drink, she said one of them fetched water from a toilet tank and gave her.

Now certainly we cannot make any rational claim that those subcultural excesses have not grown. It may a cliché and it may even be misunderstood – but to fix the problem of the safety of our women is to fix our men.

One politician explained it to me off the record about 10 years ago. “We must have a cut-off time and date. The nation has scarce resources and cannot deal with all matters. We have to save this generation of children, and young people who want to get ahead must be prioritised. A certain percentage are going to be left out. Their own cronies and the police will deal with those.”


COVID-19 politics at the vaccine level will pretty much define near future global relationships. Some are calling for a Marshall Plan-type approach in preparing for the next pandemic and laying out plans for the best fix. China has already begun to rev up manufacturing capacities but it needs to step out in front of supporting smaller economies who cannot afford to foot the bill, especially with COVID-19 variants on the increase.

In a race to bring its population to herd immunity (inoculating 60 per cent of population) America is likely to get there first. That will be a direct benefit to Jamaica. Americans love our north coast and it suits the Biden administration to assist us in any vaccine overflows after that 60 per cent level is reached.

We need all the assistance now because our real needs cannot be satisfied by any medical innovation in Jamaica. We do not produce vaccines.

Mark Wignall is a political and public-affairs analyst. Email feedback to and