Toxic by Lindy Cameron and Fin J Ross

‘Because no-one stopped him.’

Most people murdered in Australia are killed by someone they know: a partner, a child, a friend. Many of the murderers claim to love those they have killed. Why, then, do they kill?

In their introduction, Ms Cameron and Ms Ross identify toxic personality traits which, broadly speaking, are about control and entitlement. There’s discussion of toxic masculinity (most murders are committed by men) but recognition that women (with toxic personality traits) also kill.

Over thirteen chapters, a series of murders are discussed. Each of these murders, except one, was committed by a family member. The exception was ‘a murder among friends’.

I confess. I am a true crime aficionado, so I recognised quite a few of the cases. Even so, I shuddered as I read about the cold-blooded killing of partners and children, and the steps taken (in some cases) to hide the crime. In other cases, the murder was public.

The female murderers in this book wanted something: usually money or freedom. Some of the male murderers killed because of a toxic sense of entitlement: that someone who had chosen to leave them did not deserve to live, or that they would ‘get back at them’ by killing a child (or children). And sometimes we can only speculate about ‘why’ because the murderer maintains that they are innocent.

Toxic masculinity is certainly an important factor in many family murders: physical strength and a sense of entitlement can be dangerous weapons. Especially when family violence is ignored or hidden, and then escalates.

Two things will stay with me from reading this book. Firstly, the inspiration provided to many by Arman Abrahimzadeh:

‘So traumatised by his mother’s brutal murder and a lifetime of family abuse from his father, Arman, now 33, has made it his life’s work to fight against domestic violence.’

And the second? The tragedy of four-year-old Darcey Freeman being thrown from the West Gate Bridge by her father. I have no words.

I finished this book with more questions than answers.

‘Regardless of the motive or the identity of the victim or offender, or whether the crime is ultimately deemed murder or manslaughter, there is always one word for it: homicide.’

Jennifer Cameron-Smith