“There’s no motive”. Every one of us during our life has heard news and newspapers pronounce this sentence referring to crimes often very heinous.

In people’s minds, it seems that there are “understandable” murders motivated by power, money or revenge and another type of violence, inexplicable, incomprehensible, that leaves us stunned and astonished. Often, it is precisely these crimes that attract more attention from readers and spectators. As if, being very careful and studying all the facts, in the end an explanation can be found and when this does not happen then journalists apply that useless word, and I would even say harmful, that is: “raptus”. And so the quietness of all is restored: no one has been able to give an explanation because there is no explanation. It is human nature that is bad and each of us can have a moment of madness and kill someone. This thesis is often confirmed by acquaintances and neighbours who say: “he seemed like such a good person, always so quiet”.

But is it really so? Do raptus really exist? And above all, is it really impossible to understand these seemingly unjustified crimes?

Let’s start from the beginning: what is a motive? Every person who has watched at least once in their life a crime movie knows how to answer, but in criminology the motive is the stimulus that drives to act, the thought (conscious or not conscious) that is behind a criminal behaviour.

One might think that to discover this hidden thought is required a confession of the guilty or a logical deduction from the facts. But this would lead us to discover only conscious and rational motives: money, power, revenge, jealousy.

There is an entire branch of psychology (investigative psychology) that deals precisely with investigating the deepest, most hidden motivations. It doesn’t work starting from the interview with the perpetrator, but from the crime scene. In many cases the killer is still unknown, and the forensic psychologist must deduce the psychic reality of this person from how they behaved at the time of the crime. Were they disordered and decomposed or rather very meticulous? Did they leave obvious signs of themselves? Did they pose the body? Did they commit the deed and then ransacked the room as staging? These are just some of the questions we need to get to the killer’s personality.

But then, if there is even a profession that from behaviour seeks the psychic characteristics of a person, why do we have to resort to raptus to explain those crimes that appear without motive? Why can we not say that mental illness exists and that sometimes, if left untreated, can lead to very serious consequences for the sick person and for others?

We should begin to admit the possibility that in people’s minds there is not only rationality, but also a whole world of emotions, thoughts, feelings that can get sick and when this happens in a very serious way you can get to do the so-called delusional perception: I see someone and immediately I know that person is… the devil. Then I must eliminate them to save me and my family. This is just one example, but unfortunately to get to commit a serious fact as a crime or a violence on a minor or a sexual violence it is even enough to lose your own humanity that you no longer consider the other as a human being. And after this last sentence I ask myself: but are we sure then that we really understood the crimes with a classic and rational motive?

Gioia Piazzi

Thanks to Chiara Fanasca for the translation of this article


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