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Frankie Goes to Holloway

Posted by Dr No on 11 February 2010

frankie.jpgThe trouble with love is that it can cover a multitude of sins.

No doubt a number of the catholic priests who abuse little boys believe they have ‘love in their heart’. Those that do not have cynically used the love of the Mother Church to mask their obscene acts. Where better for those with sin in their heart to hide than under the cloak of the priesthood?

And as in priesthood, so in parenthood. Not all parents will have the best interests of their children at heart. Some will be misguided, others more sinister in their intent. And what better mask for such a parent than a plea of ‘love in the heart’?

Frankie – as she is known by family and friends – Inglis, the mother who was convicted and jailed for killing her brain-damaged son Tom, has made such a plea. For some, the plea has resonance. The jury were heckled for convicting, and Frankie hailed by many as brave and heroic; a mother who had indeed acted with love in her heart. A media storm of sympathy whipped up. Mercifully, no one got round to calling her Saint Frankie, but one thing was sure: in the eyes of many, far from going to jail, Frankie should go to Hollywood, or - more likely - the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Dr No was and is disquieted. The protestations of ‘love in the heart’ have begun to rankle, as if she doth protest too much. The news that she is to appeal, on the grounds of 'slow burn provocation', set him a-thinking. So Dr No looked deeper. What he found led to a dark conclusion: that, so far as we can tell from what we know, Frankie’s story was not so much of a mother’s love for her son, as about a mother’s concern for herself.

The clues – all hearsay, and this Dr No accepts - are many. Each one, of itself, might weigh little, but taken together, they build to a weight that has the scales to tip away from what we might call ‘mercy killing’, towards a darker purpose. Let us consider some of those clues:

• Inglis had past dealings with Jehovah’s Witnesses, a religion known for its unusual beliefs over certain aspects of medical treatment

• Inglis worked in the ‘caring professions’, professions that are natural magnets for those with ‘love in the heart’, be that love genuine or of more sinister intent

• Inglis consistently denied any possibility that Tom might improve, despite the fact doctors told her repeatedly that he might improve, possibly even return to normal life

• Inglis refused consent for surgery, accusing the surgeon of wishing to operate not for clinical reasons, to bolster his CV (consent was given – by Tom’s father)

• Caught breaking a bail order not to visit Tom, Inglis said: ‘I would rather spend the rest of my life in prison than watch my son live like this for another day.’ Cui bono?, we might ask. Whose ‘living hell’ is to be released?

• Inglis made not one but two attempts to kill her son, and in a very real way, it was the first attempt that sealed Tom’s fate. Before the first attempt, he was responsive, albeit in minor ways, and the prognosis, even if guarded, was hopeful; after it, Tom lay damaged beyond hope; an inevitable target for the mother with ‘love in her heart’

• Immediately after killing Tom, Inglis – who, remember, we are asked to believe, was acting with ‘love in her heart’ - snarled at nurses, claimed she was HIV positive, and threatened to spit on them

• Inglis denied murder, on the grounds that she lacked malice. Be that as it may, it is a misguided understanding of the law: murder does not require malice (or aforethought for that matter); it requires intent (which lawyers sometimes call malice aforethought to confuse the rest of us) – and no one can doubt Inglis’s intent

• Inglis has at no time shown any remorse. She has made it clear she would do the same thing again if the circumstances arose

• Inglis intends to appeal, on the grounds of ‘slow burn provocation’, a defence most commonly associated with domestic violence: the ‘perp’ is in fact also a victim, driven to crime by a drip-drip-drip of aggravation from the actual victim

It is within the last clue (and ‘Cui bono?’) that we see most clearly the shadows of the sinister processes at work in Inglis’s mind. This crime may or may not have been about ‘releasing’ Tom from his torment (if indeed it was torment – we only have his mother’s word that it was so); what we also see is a mother hell-bent on releasing herself from her own living hell, even if it means going to jail.

And there’s worse to come. An appeal on grounds of slow burn provocation is nothing less than a cynical ploy that seeks to turn the facts on their head. Those with ‘sin in their heart’ are of course no strangers to such ploys; and yet it contains, Dr No believes, the seeds of Inglis’s undoing, for it holds the light to her true state of mind: that she considers herself provoked by her own torment to kill; and that because she was provoked, it wasn’t murder.

Were such an appeal to succeed, we will – make no mistake - find ourselves in a chilling new world, where ‘mercy killing’ will extend beyond merciful release for the stricken patient, to merciful release for the grieving family, provoked to kill by the enduring torment of seeing their suffering relative.

The psychiatrist is often called to decide whether a person is mad, bad or sad. The categories are not mutually exclusive. Frankie was certainly sad – whether that sadness was part of a natural grief, or a clinical illness, is a moot point. Was she bad? Knowing what we do, we have to say yes. She killed with intent, and that is murder, and murder is bad. No absence of malice, and its replacement with ‘love in the heart’ can alter that. Was she mad? On balance, Dr No feels the evidence says no. She was obsessed, even to the extent of being deranged in her beliefs, but there are many who are obsessed and deranged in belief who are not mad. And so we are left with badness, albeit badness tinged with sadness.

So it is right that Frankie goes not to Hollywood, but to Holloway.


Very well written King No :)


I am not as articulate and erudite as yourself Dear Doctor No, so could not have put it better myself.

Was Frankie mad or bad - I do not know. Cui bono? For herself I think. But she would argue this, with a firm conviction. From your clues given, it would seem that she was intent on 'saving Tom' and became blind to everything else. She may or may not have been intent on saving her 'own life.' But I doubt whether she would have been aware of this. In her own mind, she would have murdered Tom for his sweet release from hell, but in doing so, would have purged herself from her own hell. As said previously, she would equate this personal feeling of well-beibg as proof that she had done 'the right thing.'

I can relate to this. There is this person I love dearly. Initially, I wanted X to die, although I did not really want X to die - but at the same time I did. I did not want X to exist in the realm that I work in. But I have moved on. X has an existance. But X is very lucky! Not many X's are as lucky as X.

Did I want X to die for me or for him/herself? I like to think that I was thinking of X? I TRULY believe I was. But in reality, was I thinking of how X would be perceived in my life and in doing so, would X been seen as a failure on my part?

I do not know! There but for the grace of God and all that s---e, go I. But I DO think she killed Tom for her own sweet release. But perhaps she does not know this? If she does, she is bad. But is she does not, she is a tormentented martyr who has sacrifiiced all for her son.

But I think she is the former.

Dr No was aware of being harsh on Inglis in this post. But a mother murdering a son is not a trivial matter; and drowning the discomfort we might feel in a chicken soup of maternal love is both shabby and cowardly. We need to confront Inglis and her actions head-on, not shy away into side-shows of blinding sentimentality.

That said, overwhelming injury - say an intra-cranial bleed - or illness - say dementia - that destroys the brain, and so the person, is a loss, and grief and bereavement normal reactions in those left behind. It may even be that the grief is aggravated, by the continued presence of a living body: the person has gone, but at the same time has not gone.

Those with experience - personal or professional - of grief will know that among its stages there can be anger, sometimes great anger: anger at the departed for departing, anger at self for having failed the departed, and anger at those who 'should have done something' to prevent the departure. It is indeed possible that Inglis got stuck at the 'anger' stage, and that in time it became exaggerated and obsessive. If that is so, then it is a horrible place for her to be, but it does not in anyway excuse her killing her son. And - furthermore - if she killed from an anger stuck at grief, it does not alter Dr No's central point in this post: it seems that the primary driver for this murder was not Tom's deliverance, but his mother's.

I would like to commend Dr No for an outstanding series of posts dealing with euthanasia, assisted suicide and 'mercy killing' - if there has been a better collection of thoughts recently, I have yet to read them.
I have no doubt many of his visitors will have been wrestling with the many difficult issues he raises and this, of course, is exactly what he intended all along?

Turning to his final question, " ......... so it is right that Frankie goes not to Hollywood, but to Holloway" - the short answer is, NO, Frankie Inglis should not go to jail.

Inglis is not a risk to anybody else (AFAIK), neither would any mother kill her own child simply because of Inglis's actions (unless she was mentally ill).
Of course, this still leaves the matter of retribution, or punishment - a difficult matter, no doubt, but I think her time would be far better spent as a a cleaner on a neuro-rehab ward (say) rather than being locked up with drug dealers, or violent women in a ghastly hellhole like Holloway.

I appreciate some will find it difficult to accept that her deeds were qualitatively different to other 'murders', or even the motives which lead to somebody taking another person's life - but, in my mind, bumping off your own child is not quite the same as killing somebody for financial gain, or sexual jealousy, say?

After all nobody calls our troops 'murderers' if a bomb is dropped on innocent civilians and as medics know the doctrine of double effect can also be a grey area occasionally?

Although other argue this is not necessarily so;

Even a Catholic archbishop has weighed in today

Surely its a good thing that we are finally getting these matters out into the open?

A&E Charge Nurse - thanks for your kind words. Dr No is blushing, but thankfully the site's red theme hides the worst of them!

I suppose I am taking a rather "Old Testament" view of murder. If you kill another with intent (except in that very small number of exceptions, like war - and even then there are many who will saw war is murder - think Iraq), then it is murder, full stop. Nor does it get divided into first degree, second degree etc. It may be simplistic, but perhaps trying to classify murder is fraught with difficulty. Is it better or worse to kill your relatively fit granny who has asked you to kill her because her time has come, or your brain damaged son who has not asked to be killed?

So murder is murder. The variance in response is not in the verdict, but in the sentence. Clearly the armed robber who kills is different to 'mercy killing', even though both are murder. Thinking about sentencing means thinking about our aim in sentencing. Punishment? Retribution? Deterrence? Rehabilitation?

Sending Inglis to work on a neuro rehab ward could be seen as especially spiteful, or chillingly appropriate, depending on one's viewpoint. It might even be unwise - on a par with giving Shipman a crate of morphine and free run of an old people's home.

There are no easy answers, but Dr No thinks it is important that we call a spade a spade, and a murder a murder, and avoid fudges and bodges like 'mercy killing', mainly because of the risk of creep (murder > mercy killing > merciful release - Hey! it's no longer killing, its releasing!).

Maybe the practical answer to finding the Witch Doctor's 'kind heart' is in a simple alteration to the sentencing guidelines. Murder remains murder, but there is greater flexibility in sentencing.

And in the end of the day, there is the safeguard of the jury. For all its many flaws, it is still the ultimate arbiter, with the power to nullify (as Gilderdale's jury did) a charge it believes is wrong.

The Churches: what has struck Dr No is, given their moral position, how relatively quiet they have been. But then, maybe that is not so surprising. The Vatican knew about the Nazis and the Jews, but did nothing.

Ray Gosling smothered his dying lover (suffering with AIDs) - he said, "when you love someone, it is difficult to see them suffer. My feelings on euthanasia are like jelly - they wobble about".

What a touching metaphor - Dr No has certainly had me wobbling recently!!

Since Gosling admits murder I wonder if the Police will turn up at his sheltered accommodation to question him further?

I find it sad a doctor of over 25 years experience should make such judgements without having spoken to the person he writes about. It's tantamount to remote diagnosis. Would he diagnose a patient subject to what he's read about that person's symptoms in the media? Probably not. Yet he exudes authority on Frankie's case and makes some sort of smartarse article on the pun 'Frankie goint to Holloway'. Shame of him. I know Frankie and know her to be a person of integrity. Her family would say the same. I've no idea who this Dr No is nor would I want to.

I sincerely hope he gets some bizarre comfort out of condemning people on the Internet. Perhaps he should concentrate more on healing patients and empathising with suffering people. I somehow doubt this so called doctor would know what I'm talking about.

Let he who (thinks he) is without sin cast the first stone. And keep well out of his way.

Sue Marr

Sue - Thanks for your comment. I fully accept Frankie may be a person of integrity - but that has to sit with the fact (not disputed, even by her) that she intentionally killed her son, and intentional killing is murder - full stop. That's why she went to jail, and it is why it is right she went to jail.

She also unilaterally decided to commit the murder - 'assuming' it was what Tom would have wanted simply is not good enough. Not to convict her would send a very very dangerous message - in effect, it would say anyone could decide a 'loved one' had had enough, and kill their loved one with impunity. That is not the sort of society I wish to see.

The real point about this post was not 'remote diagnosis' although I accept there is an element of that, but about the clash between a media frenzy based on 'love in the heart' (ie Hollywood) and the reality - murder (ie Holloway), wherein the former fudges the latter. The post concludes by saying Holloway was the right outcome.

I am also not sure how the 'slow burn provocation' based appeal sits with integrity. In effect it says Tom drove her to kill him - that, somehow, it wasn't really her fault, but his.

Lastly - despite appearing perhaps heartless - I do fully appreciate the terrible position Frankie was in. Had she been a patient of mine, I would have hoped that between us we could have worked out a way of dealing with her distress that didn't involve her killing her son and going to jail. Win - win, rather than loose - loose.

Dr No has already censored one of my comments on this post but having been on the receiving end of a self -obsessed mother I do do feel strongly about this subject so I'll try again.

I'm not familiar with the precise detail of this particular case but nobody has the right to take the law into their own hands and take away their child's life. As soon as society sympathises with this kind of action we go down the Nazi Germany route. The first to be gassed were mental patients then it moved onto other groups ..

My own feeling has always been that if you have children then you should take responsibilty and murder is murder..

As Winston Churchill once observed, the measure of a society is the way it treats its most vulnerable

Dr No - very reluctantly, yes; but he makes no apology - did censor, because in his view the comment was indiscreet.

The point of this post is that murder is murder, and no amount of 'love in the heart' pleading can alter that basic fact. On that point - and the corollary, ie parents are there to look after their kids, not kill them (and any change to that principle is indeed dangerous creep) - KM and Dr No are in complete agreement.

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