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36 THE NEW YORKER, SEPTEMBER 6, 2010 LETTER FROM NEW ZEALAND MiND gAME When a

36 THE NEW YORKER, SEPTEMBER 6, 2010

LETTER FROM NEW ZEALAND

MiND gAME

When a murderous shrink moved to a trusting coastal town, both had a surprise in store.

BY CARL ELL i OTT

D unedin, New Zealand—the second city of the South Island, and the

home of the University of Otago—is an uncommonly peaceful place. Once, at tea in the university’s Bioethics Centre (where I’ve had a visiting appointment for some years), a nurse leaned toward me and said, “In Dunedin, we have only interesting murders.” She had a point. Rates of vio- lent crime here are similar to those in the more placid European countries, such as Denmark and the Netherlands. But, when Dunedin does have a murder, it is spectacular. In November of 1990, three months after my wife and I first arrived in Dunedin, a mentally disturbed man named David Gray shot thirteen people in a nearby village, the deadliest murder toll in New Zealand’s history. In June, 1994, a former missionary teacher named Robin Bain and his wife and three of their children were shot dead in Dunedin very early one morning. The oldest son, David, was eventually convicted of the murders, but there was never a good explanation for the crime, and the conviction was overturned last year. In July, 2009, Clay- ton Weatherston, a tutor in the Otago economics department, was convicted for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, a re- cent graduate. She had been stabbed two hundred and sixteen times. Even in Dunedin, however, a psycho- pathic psychiatrist stands out. What is striking about the case of Colin Bouwer, who was once the head of psychiatry at the University of Otago Medical School and is now a convicted murderer, was the man’s ability to fool his colleagues, many of whom would have studied psychopaths in their medical training. It’s hard to say whether his success reveals more about the nature of psychopathy or more about the character of New Zealanders.

I n November of 1999, an internist at a New Zealand hospital faced two mys-

teries. One had to do with Colin Bouw- er’s ailing wife, Annette. A forty-seven-

year-old physiotherapist, she had been in good health until a few weeks earlier, when she began experiencing dizziness, blurred vision, and problems with coördi- nation. She made an appointment with an optician and got a prescription for glasses. Annette’s symptoms did not seem espe- cially alarming, until the morning of No- vember 20th, when Bouwer reported that he had awoken to find her unconscious in bed. An ambulance took Annette to Dunedin Hospital, the main teaching hospital for the University of Otago. It was quickly determined that she was in a hypoglycemic coma, which is most commonly caused by self-administered glucose-lowering drugs that diabetics use, such as insulin. But Annette did not have diabetes. Dr. Andrew Bowers, a specialist in internal medicine, was managing her care at the hospital, and he asked Colin Bouwer to search the house for drugs. He also ordered a lab test for the presence of such drugs in Annette’s blood. The tests came back negative, and, during the next few days, Annette’s blood sugar stabi- lized. Why it had been so low in the first place remained baffling. The other mystery was Colin Bouw- er’s behavior. Bouwer, who had moved from South Africa two years earlier, was a stout, self-assured psychiatrist with an Af- rikaans accent. “He gave me a warm, hard handshake, and said he was a physician, a psychologist, and a pharmacologist,” An- drew Bowers says. “He said it in an intim- idating way, as if to establish that he was the one in charge.” Soon, though, Bouw- er’s attitude shifted. “It was like hot and cold taps: He tried to overbear me at first, but that didn’t work, so then he tried being friendly.” Even more puzzling was Bouwer’s lack of medical knowledge: he had described himself as an expert in in- ternal medicine, yet he seemed unable to discuss the diagnostic tests associated with hypoglycemia. Four days after Annette was dis- charged from the hospital, she went into

ANDREA VENTURA

another coma, and was readmitted. After an extensive workup, the endocrinolo- gists consulting on the case came to think that Annette might have an insu- linoma, a rare neuroendocrine tumor, but a pathology report later revealed no

sign of one, and her condition, once more, had stabilized. About a week after she was discharged again, Annette’s symptoms returned. Andrew Bowers is a genial, dark-haired man in his mid- forties, with the tired eyes and the slightly doughy skin of someone who has spent too much time indoors. “Annette was scared,” he says. She had lapsed into two comas in nine days, and no one could tell her why. At the time, Bowers was only three years out of training. “I was feeling insecure about what was going on,” he says. “I was thinking, Is there anything that I’m missing?” His insecu- rity colored his interactions with Colin Bouwer, who, as head of the Department of Psy- chological Medicine, was sev- eral notches higher than Bow- ers in the academic hierarchy. Annette was discharged for the third time, on Christmas Eve. Early on the morning of January 5, 2000, Bowers got a call at home. “Annette is dead,” Bouwer told him. He asked the internist to come to his house and sign the death certificate.

This was an unusual request.

Signing a death certificate is normally a job for the patient’s general practitioner, not a hospital consultant. When Bowers arrived, it was clear that Annette had not died peacefully. The bedroom was a mess, and Annette’s body was splayed across the bed. The bed- clothes were soiled with vomit. Bowers suspected that she had undergone a sei- zure. Yet Bouwer said that he had no- ticed nothing out of the ordinary until he found Annette dead early that morning. “We slept in different rooms,” Bouwer later explained to the police. Bowers wanted to order a postmortem exam to find out why Annette had died so unexpectedly, but Bouwer objected. Both he and Annette were Jewish, he said, and, according to Jewish law, Annette’s body

had to be buried within forty-eight hours. Bowers offered to have the postmortem done right away, but the psychiatrist still resisted. It was only when Bowers refused to sign the death certificate without a postmortem that he relented. Bowers at- tended Annette’s funeral, the following week, and he was surprised to find that the ceremony was not Jewish. It was con- ducted by an Anglican priest, Helene

on the couch, unresponsive, while Bou- wer did all the talking. He also made an unusual choice of music for the funeral, Mann says—not a hymn, or anything that Annette was especially fond of, but a song about going over a cliff. For Andrew Bowers, the most alarming sign came on the morning of Annette’s death. Dr. Anne Walsh, one of Bouwer’s colleagues in the Depart- ment of Psychological Medicine, was at the house when Bowers ar- rived. Bowers wondered what she was doing there so early in the morning. As he was leaving the house, he later testified, Walsh pulled him aside and said, “It will be good to get all this settled, espe- cially since Annette had accused Colin of trying to murder her.”

I n most medical schools,

h a r d

i t

i s

n o t

to identify the stars, the charismatic figures whose charm and enthusiasm draw in students and resi- dents. It’s not just that they radiate energy and excitement about their work; it’s that the excite- ment seemingly extends to you, personally. Colin Bouwer was this sort of figure. “He was a brilliant doctor,” a former patient

says. “He had this way of embracing his patients. He made me feel important.” The psychiatric resi- dents (or “registrars,” as they are known in New Zealand) found him dazzling. “He made each one feel they had some special knowledge or intelligence that was not being recognized or put to full use,” Dr. Jubilee Rajiah, a Dunedin psy- chiatrist who trained in Bouwer’s de- partment, says. Bouwer was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, in 1950. He graduated from medical school at Pretoria Univer-

sity in 1975, and spent a number of years in South Africa as a general prac- titioner. At a meeting of Mensa, the high-I.Q. society, he met Annette Langford, who was then working as a

FPO
FPO

Dr. Colin Bouwer dazzled and deceived his colleagues with ease.

Mann, and at one point Annette’s closest friend, a South African expatriate living in Auckland, spoke movingly about the faith in Jesus that she and Annette shared. Later, Annette’s body was cremated. Bowers was not the only person puz- zled by Bouwer’s behavior. The Reverend Mann prepared for a number of funerals that week, but says that her visit to the Bouwer house was unlike anything she had ever experienced. “It felt like a chem- istry laboratory,” she says. “Sterile, as if it had been disinfected.” Mann usually talks to the children of the deceased, because they often have stories that she can use in her eulogy. But, when she tried talking to Colin and Annette’s two teen-age chil- dren, Greg and Anthea, they sat silently

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37

physical therapist, and they married in 1981. Later, Bouwer specialized in psy- chiatry at Stellenbosch University, the most illustrious of the country’s Afri- kaans-speaking universities. Dr. Sarah Romans, a former head of Otago’s De- partment of Psychological Medicine, remembers meeting Bouwer at a con- ference in Spain: “Here I am, an aca- demic head of department, looking for good staff, and here is this unpolished diamond. He seemed like a great catch.” Dan Stein, Bouwer’s research partner at Stellenbosch, now head of the depart- ment of psychiatry at the University of Cape Town, sent an enthusiastic letter of recommendation: “On a personal level, I regard Dr. Bouwer as a man of enormous integrity. He has a wonderful sense of humor and ability to commu- nicate with others, so that he is held in warmest esteem by patients from all walks of life.” In early 1997, Bouwer arrived at Dunedin; Annette and the two children soon followed. The town was founded in the nineteenth century by Scottish set- tlers. Its streets are named for those of Ed- inburgh, and at its center is a statue of Robert Burns, looking wistfully out to- ward Otago Harbor. When Mark Twain visited Dunedin, in 1895, he wrote, “The people are Scotch. They stopped here on their way from home to heaven—think- ing they had arrived.” It would have been an easy mistake to make. Dunedin sits on

himself to what people want to hear.” He was often willing to experiment with higher doses of drugs and non-standard combinations. His research was on anxi- ety disorders—social anxiety, panic disor- der, post-traumatic-stress disorder. “Colin had this fascination with things that terrify people,” Romans says. “People being suffocated, being exposed to water torture, or drowned.” Some colleagues may have thought that this was the result of Bouwer’s own experiences. Bouwer told them that he had been involved in the South African resistance struggle during the apartheid era—joining the African National Con- gress in the nineteen-sixties, as a teen- ager—and had even counselled Nelson Mandela when he was released from Robben Island. Bouwer described how, when he was a young man, the South African police had detained him with- out a trial for six months and tortured him for his political beliefs. He would bring up his torture casually, at confer- ence receptions or over a beer, and then provide graphic details. A doctor who had seen Bouwer as a patient gave this testimony: “He said the torture con- sisted of standing naked with a brick being hung from his testicles, sleep de- privation, exercised to exhaustion with a hessian bag over his head, then dunked in water until drowning, electric shock administered to the penis and anus, sod- omized and being confined to a single

cell.” The doctor added, “He said he communicated to others by Morse code at night and practiced meditation and self-hypnosis.” Few of Bouwer’s colleagues knew An- nette. This was unusual in a city as small and friendly as Dunedin, but Bouwer rarely brought her with him to social events, and told some colleagues that she had social phobia. Still, he seemed de- voted to her, and also to his two children, whom he spoke about with obvious warmth. One colleague told me that she once spotted Colin and Annette walking together down the street, holding hands, and she remembered being moved by their quiet affection. On September 15, 2000, nine months after Annette’s death, the Dunedin police arrested Bouwer on murder charges. By this time, the police had been tapping his telephone and bugging his house for “How about, for God’s sake, this one?” nearly three months. His genial air was so

the coast among steep, intensely green hills, which swoop down unexpectedly to reveal sandy white beaches. The effect is a cross between Ireland and Fiji. The Bou- wers lived in a cliffside house overlooking St. Clair Beach, known as the best surfing spot on the South Island. Bouwer was hired by the University of Otago, New Zealand’s oldest university, as a senior lecturer in psychiatry, and he swiftly rose to the top administrative post. When I spent a sabbatical at the universi- ty’s Bioethics Centre, in early 2000, his office was across the street. Our paths never crossed, but I knew several of his colleagues. They describe him as an ebul- lient, down-to-earth rugby fan who was always good for a laugh or a story. He had decided to emigrate, he said, because of worries about violent crime. Bouwer had a paunch and a bushy beard, and though his hair was thinning on top, he wore it long and unkempt; it gave him, as one colleague said, “rather an Einstein look.” He came across as deeply caring. “He’s the sort of guy where you’d let your child sit on his lap and open a present,” a former assistant in his department told me. “He’s sort of a cross between Santa Claus and your old uncle.” By all accounts, Bouwer was an excel- lent psychiatrist. “He has this amazing an- tenna,” Sarah Romans says. “He can reach out and just size people up and know where their vulnerabilities and their strengths are, and, chameleon-like, adapt

reach out and just size people up and know where their vulnerabilities and their strengths are,

convincing that his colleagues were stunned. Just about the only person who wasn’t surprised was Andrew Bowers, the internist. Despite pressure from superiors to drop the matter, he had worked quietly with the police for months. Bouwer’s method of murder was sim- ple. He had written prescriptions for glu- cose-lowering drugs, ground them up with a mortar and pestle, and given them to Annette, most likely in her food. (Al- though Annette was tested for such drugs in the hospital, the test was only sensitive enough to detect the drugs shortly after they had been administered.) The day be- fore Annette died, Bouwer picked up a prescription for a thousand-unit vial of Humalog insulin, a dose large enough to kill her. The legal proceedings against Bou- wer left his colleagues wondering what, if anything, they knew about him. Who was he, really, and why had he killed his wife with such methodical precision?

A lthough Bouwer was indeed a qualified psychiatrist, much of his

autobiography was constructed out of lies and half-truths. He did not have a gradu- ate degree in pharmacology, or any spe- cialized training in internal medicine, or a relationship with Nelson Mandela. On official papers, he lists his religion as Methodist. Annette was not his first wife, as he told some people; she was his third. Bouwer had two children from the first marriage: an adopted daughter, Henri- ette, who was the child of his first wife, Mariette Kruger, and a biological son, Colin, Jr. Many people tell lies to protect them- selves. Bouwer lied even when nothing was at stake. Still, there was a certain consistency to the lies. They were often told in an offhand manner, seemingly without any calculation. They were usu- ally self-serving, in that they aimed at generating admiration or sympathy. And they were often so fantastic that, at least from the outside, it is hard to imagine anyone believing them. Yet people did. “He was just so plausible,” Dr. Robin Emsley, the chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Stellenbosch, says. “He had a way of convincing you that he was telling the truth, even when he was backed into a corner.” Here is Bouwer explaining a late paper to a colleague in America by e-mail: “I am

terribly sorry about the delay in getting the final draft to you. I have been in East Timor doing volunteer work for Doctors Without Frontiers during their riots and elections.” When he was at Stellenbosch, Bouwer reportedly told his colleagues that his first wife had committed suicide after killing their two children. Later, he told them that Annette was being treated for breast cancer at the University of Cape Town and, as a result of metastases to her brain, had become psychotic. None of this was true, of course. Despite all the stories of having been a brave political dissident, Bouwer had ac- tually been trained as a doctor by the South African military. A press photo- graph from the time shows him standing alongside his fellow medical graduates with a slight smile on his face and a grad- uation robe draped across his shoulders, wearing sunglasses and a military uni- form. He was commissioned into the South African Defense Force on Septem- ber 22, 1975. Records show that he served in the military for only two months before he married his first wife and resigned his commission. In 1982, the South African Medical Council suspended Bouwer’s license to practice medicine and put him on its list of “impaired” doctors, because, it seems, he had a weakness for Demerol. It was more than ten years before his license was fully restored. In 1996, two former pa- tients reportedly claimed to have had sex with Bouwer while under his care. (On being asked to provide more intimate de- tails to the medical counsel, they appar- ently decided to withdraw their com- plaints.) Bouwer supposedly told them that he hadn’t had sex in a long time be- cause his wife was dying of cancer. Bouwer had an aura that many women found attractive. He also had a knack for spotting women with psychological vul- nerabilities that he could exploit. Soon after he arrived in New Zealand, in 1997, he was given an apartment at Southland Hospital, in Invercargill, where he did part-time clinical work, so that he could stay overnight. Before long, rumors began to circulate about the number of women who visited his apartment, and about the number of telephone calls he got, since all phone calls came through the hospital op- erator. Investigators eventually concluded that Bouwer was sexually involved with at least four hospital staff members in Inver-

Bouwer was sexually involved with at least four hospital staff members in Inver- THE NEW YORKER,

THE NEW YORKER, SEPTEMBER 6, 2010

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40 THE NEW YORKER, SEPTEMBER 6, 2010 cargill and Dunedin. His most visible re- lationship

40 THE NEW YORKER, SEPTEMBER 6, 2010

cargill and Dunedin. His most visible re- lationship was with Anne Walsh, the psy- chiatrist who was present at Bouwer’s house the morning that Annette’s death was reported. Walsh was intelligent and ambi- tious—as the director of training and a former acting head of the Department of Psychological Medicine, she carried con- siderable influence in the department— but was also widely seen as needy and emotionally brittle. She was married to the head of the Department of Pathology, with whom she had a teen-age daughter, but it was no secret that their marriage was breaking up. According to evidence introduced at the trial, her sexual relation- ship with Bouwer began on a trip to a pharmaceutical-company-sponsored conference in Copenhagen in October, 1999, a month before Annette went into her first coma. (Walsh says that she be- came involved with Bouwer only after Annette’s death.) If Bouwer had any inkling that he might become a suspect, there is no evi- dence of it in his behavior prior to the murder. He was stunningly reckless. Two months before he first sent Annette to the hospital unconscious, at a time when she was still in good health, he told a gradu- ate student that she was in a coma. In late November, after Annette had been hos- pitalized, he sent an e-mail apology to a colleague for missing a deadline on a paper, explaining that his wife was “termi- nally ill.” He even gave a tutorial to a group of medical students in which he ex- plained how to commit the perfect mur- der. If you injected insulin between the toes, he told the students, the murder would never be detected. In the weeks following Annette’s death, however, Bouwer apparently re- alized that suspicion might fall upon him. In January, he began to communi- cate with experts in toxicology all over the world, asking about the likelihood that glucose-lowering drugs could be detected in a postmortem exam or a ret- rospective blood test. He must have also come to realize that the police could track the prescriptions he had written. By early February, he had decided to fabricate a more complex story: he had prostate cancer; he was severely de- pressed; and at the time of Annette’s ill- ness he was planning to take desperate action. “When [Annette] went into a

coma, I saw it could be quite an easy way to die,” he told the police. “I was going to kill myself.” He said that he had stockpiled the glucose-lowering drugs in a plastic container in his closet. Annette must have found the con- tainer, he suggested, and taken the drugs herself. Bouwer flew to South Africa in late January, 2000, purportedly grief- stricken over Annette’s death, saying that he needed to set their affairs in order. His children moved in with Anne Walsh. When Bouwer returned, just over a month later, his appearance had changed so drastically that many people did not recognize him. He was bald and beardless, and his eyebrows had been shaved off. The reason, he said, was that he had undergone chemotherapy. Later, he produced a forged letter, supposedly from a Pretoria urologist, saying that he had been treated for prostate cancer, and another forged letter, supposedly from a psychiatrist in Cape Town, cer- tifying that he had received electroshock therapy for severe depression. Finally, he produced a suicide note. Dated Jan- uary 4th, the day before Annette’s death, it was addressed to Annette: “I’m sorry for being a weakling. I know [your specialist] will be back tomorrow and you’ll be safe in the medical ward. Please forgive my cowardice. I’m ending my life knowing you will be safe and in good medical care.” In the months after Bouwer returned from South Africa, some people who had initially found his stories plausible began to have second thoughts. His be- havior was not that of a dying, grieving man. He continued to play squash reg- ularly, even though he said the cancer had metastasized to his bones. Dr. Rich- ard Mullen, a psychiatric colleague, ran into Bouwer one day in the hospital. “He told me he was off to get his testi- cles cut off due to cancer,” Mullen says. “He didn’t appear to be upset at all with his impending procedure.” At work, Bouwer missed appoint- ments and broke promises, and he be- came convinced that rumors were being spread about him, especially about his affair with Anne Walsh. He began to summon faculty members into his office for meetings, at which he pumped them for information. “I would start shaking before the meet-

ing,” one faculty member told me. “I would feel nauseated. He would bad- mouth other people.” Although the police originally thought that Anne Walsh might have been involved in the murder, their sur- veillance convinced them otherwise. In the conversations recorded by the police, Walsh seems almost desperate to believe that Bouwer was innocent. She con- stantly reassured him, trying to dispel his worries that he was going to be arrested, and she urged him simply to tell the truth. Shortly before Bouwer was taken into custody, he gave Walsh the suicide letter that he had supposedly written to Annette, explaining how and why he planned to kill himself. In a conversation recorded by the police, Walsh seemed al- most deaf to Bouwer’s actual concerns about the letter:

A.W.: I cried over your suicide letter. C.B.: Why? A.W.: It’s the sweetest, most very sad, but it just says it all, really. C.B.: It’s not put on, is it? A.W.: No, Colin, no, it’s not, but it shows how much you loved your wife and family. C.B.: My handwriting is not too good. A.W.: It’s fine, it’s fine. C.B.: I didn’t love her, Anne. A.W.: I think you were very fond of her. C.B.: We had an understanding.

When Bouwer went on trial for the murder of his wife, the prosecution argued that his motive was twofold:

he wanted the money from Annette’s life-insurance policy, and he wanted to marry Anne Walsh. Yet that argu- ment never really made much sense. An insurance policy for two hundred and sixty thousand New Zealand dollars was unlikely to tempt a doctor whose salary exceeded a hundred thousand dollars a year. Nor would Bouwer need to kill Annette in order to marry Anne Walsh. He had divorced twice already; he could do so a third time. It’s not even clear that Bouwer ever planned to marry Walsh, given all the other women with whom he was involved. Just as puzzling as Bouwer’s lack of motive was his poor judgment; he was weirdly careless about covering his tracks. The faked prescriptions, the references to Annette’s impending death, the lec- ture about the perfect murder, the bi- zarre lies, the shaved eyebrows, the e- mailed toxicology inquiries: these didn’t exactly seem like the product of a cun- ning mind. When the police arrested

Bouwer and searched his house, they found the mortar and pestle he had used to grind up the glucose-lowering drugs, hidden in the pantry behind a box of Weetabix. Nine months had passed since the murder, and Bouwer hadn’t bothered to dispose of it.

S everal months after Annette’s body was cremated, Bouwer and the chil-

dren went to one of her favorite spots to scatter her ashes. “We just threw the ashes to the wind, and they seemed to get like a glow,” Bouwer told Annette’s mother in South Africa, on the telephone. “It was like a light with the ashes going up.” Bou- wer let his daughter run her fingers through the ashes before they were scat- tered. Later, in a police interview, he ad- mitted that the ashes were not actually Annette’s. He had taken them from the fireplace in his house. What personality type does this kind of thing? In 1941, Hervey Cleckley, a pro- fessor of psychiatry at the Medical Col- lege of Georgia, published a book about psychopaths called “The Mask of Sanity.” Drawing from patients in his clinical practice, Cleckley told stories of men and women—successful businessmen and professionals as well as con men, biga- mists, and petty thieves—who were friendly, charismatic, and often brilliant at manipulating other people. Yet alongside the glib charm of these psychopaths was a kind of moral blindness, an apparent in- capacity to feel moral sentiments such as guilt and empathy. Cleckley marvelled at the psychological ease with which psy- chopaths lied, cheated, and betrayed their friends and families. While the charming, cunning psy- chopath has become a stock character in Hollywood films, Cleckley’s psycho- paths bear little resemblance to Hanni- bal Lecter. Often, they look more like the bunglers in “Fargo,” whose elaborate criminal plans are derailed by spectacu- larly boneheaded decisions. Cleckley’s psychopaths are not simply blind to the interests of others; in some ways, they are also blind to their own. They consis- tently underestimate the intelligence of other people, lying needlessly, even in circumstances where they are certain to be caught. In “The Mask of Sanity,” Cleckley keeps returning to words like “mimicry” and “simulation” to empha- size how psychopaths can use moral and

“mimicry” and “simulation” to empha- size how psychopaths can use moral and THE NEW YORKER, SEPTEMBER

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emotional language skillfully without really feeling its depth and resonance. And yet, like a pianist with a tin ear, the psychopath can perform for only so long before his deficiencies become apparent. In moral philosophy and the law, psy- chopaths present a theoretical problem. On the surface, they seem like the very worst kind of characters: not mere crim- inals but criminals without remorse. Yet the fact that even clever psychopaths show such poor judgment about their own interests suggests a deeper neuro- logical impairment. “The core bit of psy- chopathy seems to be the emotional dys- function—the lack of guilt, the lack of empathy,” says Dr. James Blair, a neuro- scientist at the National Institutes of Mental Health, who has spent fifteen years studying the moral judgment of psychopaths. “And at the brain level we can relate those problems to problems in the way the amygdala works, and prob- lems in the way the ventromedial frontal cortex works.” But, if a neurological im- pairment prevents psychopaths from fully understanding the wrongness of their actions, are they fully to blame for their wrongdoing? Complicating the issue of blame still further is the fact that at least some aspects of psychopathy appear to be genetically related—not in their criminality, which appears more closely linked to classic causes, such as trauma and abuse, but in their emotional poverty. “The heritability of the basic emotional problem does seem to be pretty high,” Blair says, noting that, on a scale from zero to one, it’s .7. “Which is a pretty respectable heritabil- ity.”

I

n

m

May of 2000, four

o n t h s b e f o r e

lissa, and had returned home to find Ria dead. Colin, Jr., was, at first glance, unlike his father. He made his living by install- ing and repairing air-conditioners and ice machines. And although he was a well- built, good-looking young man, he does not seem to have inherited his father’s charm. He was a more intimidating figure, according to Abram van Zyl, a pri- vate detective hired by Ria’s mother, Lou- ise van Schalkwyk, to look into the mur- der. “There was a stage when we were still investigating the case when he had been to see some hit men in Johannesburg to persuade them to knock me off, so that the investigation would come to a stand- still,” van Zyl told me. He says that Colin, Jr., was a jealous, domineering husband and, on several occasions, had thrown Ria out of the house, together with her be- longings. The couple had fought on the day of the murder, and Colin had stormed out. When he returned, Ria was on her bed, writing a letter. Colin strangled her in the bedroom. After the murder, however, the actions of Colin, Jr., proved to be just as bizarre and self-defeating as those of his father. His first move was to call his mother, Mariette Kruger, who drove thirty miles from Johannesburg to Kempton Park, and helped him move Ria’s body to the bathroom, arrange the crime scene, and devise a story to tell the police. (She was later found guilty of being an accessory after the fact.) That story was suspicious from the very start, according to van Zyl. No items of value had been taken from the house, and although Ria’s panties had been slit, she had not been raped. Colin, Jr., began pressuring Ria’s mother to call off the investi- gation, a move that naturally cast suspicion on him. Seven months later, in March, 2000, Colin, Jr., and his mother staged a phony kidnap- ping to deflect attention from the mur- der. They told the police that while Mariette was driving her granddaughter to day care, two armed men hijacked her pickup truck and disappeared with the infant. A few hours later, Melissa was found unharmed in the abandoned ve- hicle. About a week after the kidnap- ping, Louise van Schalkwyk found a

a week after the kidnap- ping, Louise van Schalkwyk found a Colin Bouwer was arrested in

Colin Bouwer was arrested in New Zealand, his son Colin Bouwer, Jr., then twenty-five years old, was arrested in South Africa and charged with murdering his wife, Ria. She had been found dead in the guest bathroom of their home, in Kempton Park. Her panties were slashed, and toiletries were scattered around the bathroom, as if a break-in had occurred. Colin, Jr., ini- tially told the police that he had been out of the house for several hours with their seven-month-old daughter, Me-

voodoo doll in her mailbox, with pins stuck in its body and a condom pulled over its head. Attached to the doll’s neck was a Christmas decoration, one that van Schalkwyk had placed on her daughter’s grave. Four more voodoo dolls arrived, this time with genitalia molded out of a pliable material. In April, 2000, van Schalkwyk was at- tacked and beaten as she left her house, and her leg was broken. Van Zyl says, “That was also something that Bouwer had orchestrated, there’s no doubt in my mind, but we were never able to prove it.” Colin, Jr., eventually confessed to the murder and was convicted of culpa- ble homicide.

P erhaps because New Zealand is such a small place, the South Island

especially, people are far more trusting of one another, and even of strangers, than they are in the United States or Europe or, indeed, South Africa. In downtown Dunedin, it is not uncom- mon to see bicycles standing unlocked on the street. The Otago Daily Times is sold in the Dunedin Hospital lobby:

payment is deposited in an honesty box. As a rule, New Zealanders are not known for being introspective. They are modest, outward-looking people who live in big landscapes, and most of them probably find American-style self-ex- amination to be a bit narcissistic, al- though they are far too polite to say so. The iconic New Zealander is Sir Ed- mund Hillary, the self-effacing climber of Mt. Everest, who always insisted on sharing the credit with his Sherpa climbing partner, Tenzing Norgay. This climate of trust and humility is one reason that visitors fall in love with the country, but it may also make New Zea- landers vulnerable to hustlers and con artists who do not play by the rules. “Kiwis are easily conned,” said Jubilee Rajiah, who got her medical degree in India before training in Bouwer’s de- partment. “In India, he’d be caught out in no time.” But Bouwer also took pains to make himself likable, by molding his persona to fit the individual he wanted to manipu- late, finding—or inventing—a common interest. For Sarah Romans, it was shared academic ambition; for another colleague, it was family devotion. Bouwer sent raun- chy e-mails to some people in the depart-

ment, while to others he emphasized his religious faith. A secretary in the hospital told me that when Bouwer found out she was a Christian he brought in a Bible the next day and pointed out his favorite chapter. When Bouwer’s mask did slip, it was in situations whose moral significance es- caped him—his substitution of fireplace ashes for those of Annette, his odd habit of bringing up stories of detention and torture over a beer. In early August of 2000, the police taped a telephone con- versation between Bouwer and one of his lovers, a physician whom I will call Kate. At one point, she began to tell Colin about a young crash victim in the inten- sive-care unit who she feared would not survive:

ColIN: People are allowed to die. KAte: this guy’s time is up too soon. ColIN: People welcome death sometimes. KAte: this guy’s time is up too soon. ColIN: Are you listening to what I’m saying? KAte: Mm. ColIN: the problem is the physician’s at- titude towards death. KAte: Mm. ColIN: Because it’s an enemy to our training. KAte: He’s only twenty-two. ColIN: I couldn’t care a stuff. Death is our friend, it’s not an enemy.

Later in the same conversation:

ColIN: Just go to his funeral, that means so much to the family. KAte: Mm. ColIN: And you can say, shit, I feel so bad for all of you. KAte: Mm. ColIN: And you can cry and then you can leave. You don’t have to be there longer than ten minutes.

A few months before Bouwer began to poison Annette, he told her sister that it would be easy to get away with mur- der in New Zealand, because the police there were not equipped to handle com- plex criminal cases. Here Bouwer mis- understood his adopted country. Kiwis may not be accustomed to violent crime, but they have a knack for improvising solutions. The Dunedin police put to- gether a case against Bouwer so airtight that it took a jury only three hours to convict him. In the months leading up to Bouwer’s arrest, the police inter- viewed staff members of the Dunedin Hospital, and, remarkably, no one let it slip out that Bouwer was being investi- gated. A detective who worked on the case told me that in the Dunedin police

who worked on the case told me that in the Dunedin police • station there is

station there is a framed photograph of Bouwer, along with his remark about the New Zealand police being unable to catch a murderer. Bouwer is serving his sentence in a new prison about an hour south of Dunedin, near Milton, known locally as the Milton Hilton, for its luxurious fa- cilities. He was given a life sentence in November, 2001, with a minimum of thirteen years to be served before he would become eligible for parole. He appealed the decision, but so did the Crown, and his sentence was increased to a minimum of fifteen years. Last year, I wrote to him in Milton, asking if he would be willing to meet with me. He declined, referring to the shame and re- morse he felt about his past, and to a wish to avoid causing his children any further pain or embarrassment. He seemed skeptical, too, that his explana- tions would be heard with any sympa- thy. He wrote, “I have learnt that the pain of people like me with personality disorders is intense, and not easily ver- balised. I do not believe the medical profession, nor the general public will

ever understand the pain that ‘psycho- paths’ endure.” He also told me that, in order to make amends for his wrongdoing, he had be- come a Messianic Jew—a Jew who be- lieves that Jesus is the resurrected Jewish Messiah. Later, he sent me some thoughts on religion, some of which took the form of meditations. They were dated and signed with his name. One medita- tion, titled “Suffering and Divine Worth,” begins with the sentence “There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of suffering.” Another read, “I often feel that everyone else has advanced so far into holiness that I am isolated and alone in my sin.” I was struck by the style in which these meditations were written, which seemed quite different from the rest of his correspondence. A little research revealed that the first passage is often attributed to Dostoyevsky, and that the second is by the Quaker theologian Richard Foster. Several other passages turned out to be from still other writers. It soon became apparent that Bouwer’s personal medita- tions about confession, suffering, and sin had been plagiarized.

THE NEW YORKER, SEPTEMBER 6, 2010

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