The ruling came down today that Brenda Leyland committed suicide, that no one else was else was involved in causing her death. Already there are those who say they will never accept the ruling, that they have no doubts Brenda was murdered. Others accept the suicide ruling but believe that there are those who are responsible for pushing Brenda to the edge, in a sense, pushing her off the cliff. I certainly see their point of view; Brenda might be alive today if Martin Brunt hadn't doorstepped her, if the newspapers hadn't run a vicious campaign of name-calling, labeling Brenda a troll in large black letters across the top of tabloids, perhaps, if she hadn't been targeted by certain pro-McCann groups that turned over a certain list to the McCanns/Summers&Swan/SKY/the police/whomever that started the ball rolling.
But, as far as the manner of death is concerned, there is a large gap between criminal behavior and bad behavior. Just as Brenda Leyland's tweets did not meet the standard of criminal behavior, those who outed Brenda did not commit any criminal acts as far as I can see, just rather mean ones. Now, defamation is another matter and this is a civil one which Brenda Leyland's family can decide to pursue or not.
But I want to discuss the matter of suicide, why people choose this option and how often families and others often refuse to accept this manner of death as what really happened, why they so often believe someone has gotten away with a homicide staged as a suicide.
First, to why people commit suicide; because it brings an end to the struggle, whatever struggle it is. Often, the full depth of that struggle is not apparent which is why the act of suicide comes as such a shock to those around the deceased. They might have understood that the victim had problems or was depressed, but they don't believe that it was so bad that the person would have taken his or her own life. Interestingly, sometimes they are actually right, but the person who has committed suicide lacked the ability to put things into perspective; that whatever misery they feel today may blow over in a couple of weeks, or they are overfocusing on the negative, or everyone in life experiences bad blows. Some people can handled massive trauma and others are felled by the slightest misfortune; people are very different but families and friends often can't fathom someone taking their life over something they think could have been weathered.
Brenda Leyland could have refused to talk to Martin Brunt. She could have shut down her Twitter account, stayed away from the Internet, and taken a vacation to the Canary Islands until all the nastiness in the news had blow over. She could have then returned to friends and family and taken up the rescue of abandoned animals. She could have, but she didn't. She simply couldn't stand the pain she found herself in after being thrashed in the media and she decided to remove herself from ever having to deal with it or think of it again. This is the way suicide happens.
But, some just won't believe it, in spite of no evidence to the contrary. Brenda had contemplated suicide; she said so to Martin Brunt. She researched ways to kill herself. She bought implements with which to take her own life. She went to a private place where she would not be disturbed. She carried out her wish to end her time on earth. There is zero evidence of anyone else in the room who assisted her in any way nor is there any evidence of trauma which might indicate someone forcefully took Brenda's life.
I can't tell you how many obvious cases of suicide are brought to me by family who claim their loved one was murdered. It doesn't matter to them that the death occurred behind a locked door, that there was no sign of violence, that there was a three page suicide note left beside the body written in the victim's handwriting, that the deceased had spoken of suicide prior to taking their life or had actually attempted suicide prior to this successful suicide. They cannot accept that the victim needed to go to this extreme, that if they had been that desperate, the family would have known it and they would have helped them.
And, I think, in the end, this is why the family refuses to accept a suicide ruling; they feel guilty. They feel like they should have, could have done something. They should have known their loved one was in such a bad way, they should have, oh, why didn't they know? Were they too involved in their own lives, did they brush off their loved one when they had asked for help? Did they roll their eyes or scoff at them when they spoke of their problem being so bad? Did they tell them to get over it, move on with their lives, grow a backbone? Did they tell them their significant other wasn't worth moaning about? Did they push them too hard in school? Did they, did they, did they? The recriminations go on because the truth of the matter is, you often have no idea if a person is ready to jump, really jump, this time.
Who knows if during another week or month of her life Brenda Leyland would have chosen to tell everyone to sod off and then taken a cruise around the world? Who knows if Brenda didn't have a myriad of other problems and this was just the straw that broke the camel's back? Who knows if the same treatment had been meted out to another "troll" that this person might have not have stood up and fought back? Who knows? None of us.
My prayers go out to the family of Brenda Leyland in the wake of this tragedy. Whether they want to pursue a civil course of action is entirely up to them. But, as far as a criminal matter, this case is simply not one.
Criminal Profiler Pat Brown
March 20, 2015