Why did Jeff stab Christopher?

This is one part of Jeff’s account that many people have difficulty understanding because it is way beyond their own experience.

Many people have said, “I would have put out the fire” or “I would have checked if they were alive and called the police“. They say that because Jeff did not do these things that his account is unbelievable.

All of the “logical” responses are of course obvious with the benefit of hindsight. Jeff himself has conceded with deep regret that he did the wrong thing.  But the reality is, unless we are faced with a sudden and personally devastating situation ourselves, none of us can say with any certainty how we’d react.

Should we be so surprised at this reaction from a 23 year old male, woken from his sleep by the screams of his mother over the intercom and moments later confronted by the shock of seeing his parents’ bloodied bodies being set alight in front of him?

In situations of extreme and sudden stress, the body is known to react in certain ways. Like the “fight or flight” response, some types of reactions are intense and even overwhelming. Young men are especially renowned for their volatile and instinctive reactions.
A number of psychiatrists who examined Jeff concluded that he suffered a ‘catastrophic reaction’ at the sight of his parents being set alight and that he had an undeniable impulse ‘to get’ his brother.

Thankfully, most of us will never be faced with a horror so extreme. To anyone sitting safe and with time to consider their options, Jeff’s behaviour in that moment seems unreasonable, irrational and horrifying. Perhaps it was it was all of those things. But it is not outside the range of possible reactions.

(Back to FAQ)

Comments are closed.