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Continuing this week is the documentary series that delves inside the minds of killers in an attempt to find out why they kill; how they get away with their crimes and how they rationalise their actions. In each programme, Dr Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist at New York City’s Columbia University, considers killers and places them on his ‘most evil’ scale. In this edition, the makings and motives of stalkers are analysed. What turns an innocent fantasy into a murderous obsession?

The stalkers featured in this programme all went on to kill. One of them is Robert Bardo, who pursued the object of his affection for three years before ending her life. Bardo first saw actress Rebecca Schaeffer in a television commercial and felt an instant connection with her. Dr Stone observes that “fantasy is at the core of all stalking”. Bardo suffered from manic depression, an offshoot of which was that he could not distinguish between fiction and reality. He truly believed that he knew Schaeffer, but the only way he could actually possess her was to murder her. Due to his psychotic tendencies, Bardo was not aware of the consequences of his actions, so Stone gives him a low ranking on the scale of evil – only a level six. Bardo’s mental illness may have helped fuel his unhealthy infatuation, but mass murderer Richard Farley’s involvement with Laura Black started out just like any other romantic crush. The two worked at the same company and Farley admired Black from afar. But when his interest became obsessive, Black had no choice but to take out a restraining order against her co-worker.

Unable to handle this blow to his ego, Farley snapped. He went to the office armed with eight guns and shot dead seven people while Black watched. Stone points out that, unlike Bardo, Farley did not just commit a crime of passion. “This wasn’t an impulsive mass murder,” he says. “This was a drawn-out plan of deadly desire.” Stone ranks Farley at 14 on the scale of evil, because he was an “egocentric schemer” who not only wanted to physically harm the object of his affection but mentally scar her by having her witness innocent people die.

People may become stalkers because they are mentally ill or violently egotistiscal, but another dangerous trigger also exists. Dr Stone presents Mark David Chapman as an example of a killer with an addictive personality. In 1980, Chapman murdered John Lennon while he stood outside his New York apartment. His actions shocked the world and the question was posed: who would want to commit such an act? Dr Stone attempts to answer this question by peering into Chapman’s past. He had a history of drug and alcohol abuse, and had displayed obssessive behaviour in the past. “For Chapman, religion and music became his fixations,” says Dr Stone, “and he would do anything to protect them both.” So when John Lennon declared that the Beatles were more popular that Jesus, Chapman could not cope with this conflict of ideas. The solution for him was to eliminate the source of his mental confusion – Lennon. Dr Stone places Chapman relatively low on the scale of evil, giving him a score of seven, because unlike Farley, he only killed one person.

The programme also includes scientific analysis of the minds of stalkers. Anthropologist Dr Helen Fisher tries to shed some light on obsessive behaviour using her study into the brain activity of jilted lovers. “Rejection is one of the most powerful human experiences on earth,” she says. Feelings of humiliation, shame and abandonment “trigger the rage system”, according to Dr Fisher. And if that rejection occurs time and time again, the rage becomes unmanageable in some people. By profiling exactly who might be likely to have such an extreme reaction, science can help determine what is an innocent crush and what may turn out to be a dangerous infatuation.

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