For those of us with an interest in true crime, it is endlessly fascinating why someone commits a crime, especially a murder. Sometimes there are clear motivational hints or clues but since the beginning of time there has been discussion about what makes someone kill when another person would just walk away from the same situation.
We recently examined the case of Tyrone Bates on the UK True Crime Blog. It is a fascinating case where Bates murdered his landlady after apparently waking up to find her having sex with him. His violent reaction appears to be completely out of proportion to the circumstances and at odds with his normally passive nature so what was it that made him respond in that way? Even at his trial, the judge was at a loss to understand why he killed with seemingly little provocation.
There are numerous medical reasons suggested for such a loss of control such at that apparently experienced by Bates. One really interesting case from the US involved ex-marine Charles Whitman, who killed 16 people at the University of Texas before being shot dead by police. For a detailed account of this crime, check out this article.
Whitman (pictured above) had been complaining of terrible headaches before the massacre and in his suicide note he requested that his body underwent an autopsy to try to uncover why he felt so strange. His wish was granted and the autopsy revealed a globlastoma tumour. Forensic investigators have since theorised that the tumor may have been pressing against the nearby amygdala region of his brain. The brain contains two amygdalae, one on each side, and the amygdalae are known to affect fight-or-flight responses. Some neurologists have since speculated that Whitman’s medical condition was in some way responsible for the attacks.
What do you think? Could brain tumours answer some of our questions about seemingly inexplicable crimes, including murder?