Friday, January 23, 2009

Disturbing decapitations

If you are squeamish, you may want to skip this post...

I was stunned when I heard the news that 22-year-old graduate student Xin Yang was decapitated with an 8" kitchen knife by a fellow Chinese doctoral student in a campus cafe at Virginia Tech two days ago. This after another horrific crime this summer in Canada that you may not have heard about: On July 31st, Tim McLean--also 22 years old--was heading home to Winnipeg when a 40-year-old Chinese immigrant from Alberta suddenly began stabbing him more than 40 times in the chest with a large hunting knife. The other passengers ran screaming off the bus as the attacker cut off the victim's head and held it up. Yang was acquainted with her attacker, though his actions were unprovoked; McLean's killing was random. I am not familiar with Chinese cultural attitudes toward decapitation, but China has a long history of execution by beheading, as the images on this site [caution] show.

I also remembered at least one instance of suicide by decapitation recently, and found three. In August 2008, British businessman Gerald Mellin, age 54, angry at his wife for leaving him, tied one end of a rope to a tree and the other end around his neck, then drove into traffic in his Aston Martin. The month before, another Englishman David Phyall, 58, had removed his own head with a chainsaw because he was distraught at being evicted from his flat; the result is here [caution]. And in April, 41-year-old Michigan man Steve Gregory Walther cut off his head with a chainsaw in his ex-wife's driveway after attempting unsuccessfully to reconcile with her. His suicide was not immediately achieved, but he died in the hospital [caution].

I have identified the victims in these crimes, and the suicides, but it is my general policy not to name killers on this blog. I think giving them name- and face-recognition in the media is the sort of fame (or infamy) that potential murderers crave when they carry out a massacre and that avoiding this attention would help in small part to reduce this incentive.

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