Streatham attacker Sudesh Amman died because he couldn’t let go of an insane delusion – but he wasn’t the only tragic victim of mental illness in the news this week.
THREE POLICE CARS screamed past me down Streatham High Road. That was the first sign.
And a couple of minutes later, I saw the ‘Copper Chopper’ in the air half a mile away, hovering over the dead body of failed jihadi Sudesh Amman.
Unlike some people I know, I wasn’t close enough to hear the deadly shots.
But, almost every day, I shop where Amman unleashed his mayhem. I go to the little store he stole the knife from.
And only recently, I’d shot photographs from the exact spot where the armed police had shot him.
On Sunday, my first thoughts were for my family but – once I knew they were all safe – I started worrying about the innocent people Amman had stabbed.
All I thought about him was that I was glad he was dead – and it was only later that I started to see the 20-year-old’s demise as a tragedy, of sorts.
By Monday, I knew that Amman’s three victims were going to survive and, in my relief, it struck me that this had been a pretty pathetic attempt at a terror attack.
Nick a knife. Fail to kill anyone. Try to run away and then die in the street: what a way to go.
I looked on Facebook quickly to see if anyone was feeling the same way as me… but they weren’t, exactly.
Someone called Amman a “dirty c***.” Others were making – perhaps relieved – jokes about a picture of him lying dead, saying that one officer in the frame looked ready to shoot a cash machine next.
It was only when I learned more about Amman – his wretched mother describing him as “a polite, kind, lovely boy… always smiling” and the sadly familiar tale of his increasing religiosity and radicalisation – that I thought: He was ill. He was mentally ill.
How else to explain Amman being open to such hatred apart from some sort of breakdown?
What else would make a sweet and clever teenaged boy from Harrow start to gather knife-fighting manuals and urge his girlfriend to behead her parents?
Probably, as his Mum claims, he became more radicalised – or more deluded – after being sent to Belmarsh Prison for possessing hate tracts.
But can a plan to kill innocent people really take root in a mind that isn’t already seriously disturbed?
I hope I’m not the only one feeling miserable about the awful, shocking waste…”
Reading today’s newspapers, I stumbled across another miserable tale of a man in the grip of a toxic delusion: the 49-year-old who has been jailed for three years after refusing to stop stalking TV presenter Emily Maitlis.
Edward Vines, a Cambridge University contemporary of the Newsnight presenter, was jailed for three years at Nottingham Crown Court for a 12th breach of a restraining order.
The court heard he had been harassing the BBC journalist for more than 25 years.
Sentencing Vines, Judge Stuart Rafferty said: “There is no sight of this ever ending. He has not expressed any remorse at all. It is a sad case…
“You are convinced that you are in love with her and, no doubt, you think she is in love with you. I am afraid I have to sentence you on the basis that you are a long way from any reality dawning on you…
“She can’t live a free life because of you. She is forever looking over her shoulder to see if you are there. If you keep breaching the order, all the court can do is lock you up.”
Just our neighbours were in our thoughts in Streatham on Sunday, it is the victims of Vines’ criminality who should have the main call on our sympathies.
But – having suffered from mental illness myself, having at times felt myself wronged, slighted and angry without much basis in fact – I also feel gutted that unchecked delusional thinking has wasted two promising young men’s lives.
At 19, with a brilliant future ahead of him at Cambridge, Vines began to feel slighted and misunderstood – and surrendered his life to a 25-year illusion.
At 18, according to a former school friend, “(Amman) really had the potential to make it far in life”. But then, he fell prey to his own madness, and began the journey to a lonely and reviled death on a London pavement.
I hope I’m not the only one feeling miserable about the awful, shocking waste.