A chilling videotaped confession of a murderer who molested and killed a seven-year-old boy, was filmed just a few days after he was arrested by the police.
“I did not have the intention of killing a child,” the imam (prayer leader) of a mosque told the police after he pleaded guilty to molesting a boy, slashing his throat and dumping his body in a mosque. In a candid, half-hour interview, the imam went into detail about how and why he had lured the boy to an empty room on the top floor of the mosque, and when he made the decision to kill him.
Fearless and arrogant, the imam did not seem to fit the stereotype of a pedophile, let alone a rapist and murderer. The imam had no lifelong crime sheet and had not been accused of molestation before. He pleaded guilty. The forces that drove him to kill remain a mystery.
“I still cannot explain what I have done. Shaitan (the devil) overpowered me and may Allah forgive me.”
The imam allowed his confession to be videotaped in front of police detectives. It offers not only a child killer’s own account of the crime but also insight into what caused him to take the life of an innocent child. Analyzing this video, the ingredients for lust and violence were churning within him, mixed into dysfunction and dark desires hidden behind the veneer of religious normalcy.
Convicted child killers do not often agree to such frank interviews with the police; in this case, the imam gave them a glimpse into the mind of a murderer.
“I have never done something like this in my life,” he said. “Evil got into me at that time. I hid the clothes and the knife in the floor,” he confessed.
The imam noticed the seven-year-old boy sitting outside the mosque. He invited the young boy to come into the vacant mosque. The imam described that, after getting him alone, he molested him and slit his throat before dumping the body in a trash bin in the mosque. This leads me to suspect that the imam had been grooming this child, getting to know him and making him feel safe.
The question that comes to mind for many who hear of the tragic killing is: Who would kill an innocent child? This has to be a psychopath. Forensic psychiatrists have followed such cases and cite a number of reasons why a person would possibly sexually assault and kill a young child.
A person could be dealing with mental illness. It could be someone who wanted to have a child but could not have one or — the most obvious explanation –a child predator who, for whatever reason in their life, in their sexual development, developed a predilection for young boys and perhaps even violence combined with it as their source of sexual gratification.
However, a person can move beyond performing a sexual act on a child to killing a child afterwards. In the course of doing whatever it is the imam wanted to do, he ended up killing the boy accidentally, panicked and had to hide him somewhere. Or that was part of his sexual predilection, to kill him.
After years of working in this field, the short interview is sickening, horrible and so evil that it defies understanding. This is not something that people advertise; it is something that people go to great lengths to hide. He stares into the camera framing his confidence into the most heinous confession.
People who can look you in the eye and describe what it was like to use a knife to slit an innocent child’s throat show how desperation can lead to animalistic rape, how pedophilic obsession can infect, fester, destroy. He looks insanely relaxed, cold and callous, with superficial remorse.
At hardly any time during the interview did he profess to be confused by his actions. Wrists in chains, his eyes cold and flat, were mellowed into something resembling thoughtlessness. He said he had been overpowered by the devil.
“I know I did wrong but Allah will forgive me.”
Interviewing a suspect or even a convicted killer can be a mental game and officers are sometimes not sure whether the person is bragging or lying. They do not want to tell you but their ego sometimes overrides that. They want to say something that lets you know they are extremely clever. They do not want to get into trouble but they want to get credit for what they have done. It is not always easy to identify child sex abusers and killers.
Over the past many years, I have studied and researched their crimes, reached out to them and engaged them in lengthy conversations. Those depths are dark. It is easy to assume that these men are fairly similar: sinister, remorseless, the personification of evil. After all, how else could they have done such things?
Yet, after speaking to them, I know that behind the unforgivable crimes of murder, rape and molestation lie very different men, with distinct motives and rationalisations for doing the unthinkable. The imam did have one thing in common: he desperately wanted to talk about how his life has unravelled. He wanted to explain, face-to-face, how and why he became who he was. He is a callous, exploitative individual with blunted emotions, impulsive inclinations and an inability to feel guilt or remorse.
We get a diet of violence weekly, if not daily, and we have become insensitive. The findings are agonizing because they are so at par with the popular mood of disquiet; the level of public fear about violence against children is running at a very high level.
Recriminations already continue over who was responsible for the death of 132 children in Peshawar. Further alarm was provoked by the death of hundreds in Thar and then the DNA report of a 17-year-old suspect confirmed him as the killer of seven-year-old Moeen who had also been molested inside a mosque earlier this month and subsequently murdered by hanging.
These violent incidents have a moral significance; these cases are not just some isolated incidents of evil. It is part of a moral recession and we should wonder what has gone wrong with our society and what we are going to do about it. Parents today are being bombarded with a set of anxieties that my generation of parents never had. As a parent, as a grandparent, I have never been more scared; I worry about what will happen. My problem is I should know better.
The writer is a professor of Psychiatry and consultant Forensic Psychiatrist in the UK. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org