Boxing day, 2011. Student Anuj Bivde walks to Manchester centre with friends, visiting the sales. As he walks down Ordsall Lane, a local in a white hooded top walks up to the group. A wave of anxiety passes over them. The man asks for the time. As the group turns, there's a flash of something metal in the street light and a deafening bang.
In the middle of the group, Anuj falls to the floor, dying. The local turns and runs, laughing.
Days later, the police arrest and charge Keiran Stapleton, 21, with the murder of Anuj. The officers call him “Psycho Stapleton”, a nickname he uses to address himself on the first day of his trial. The psychiatrist who interviews him says Stapleton “worried” him. Stapleton had been disruptive in school and “was diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder (ASPD) – a recognised medical condition.”
This may be true, but these conditions tend to come from somewhere- events in people's lives tend to form these supposed disorders as opposed to genetics or chemical influences, for example.
Keiran Stapleton is your typical nobody. He was raised in a rough part of town in Salford, on the outskirts of Manchester. The Salford averageof violence against another person is 27.2 compared to the national average of 16.7. I've grown up in Oldham myself, which you might have noticed is a choice location for Cops With Cameras and similar TV programmes. I can assert that you develop a certain numbness to your surroundings- you try not to think about the idiots, the shit buildings, the lack of jobs, the unplanned children, the friends on the dole who can't afford to socialise, the people you've seen get beat up, the beatings you've taken yourself and the general air of defeatism that everyone seems to have. You try not to let things bother you. You become apathetic. Not only that, during times when I was unemployed I felt worthless, like I wouldn't be an advantage to any employer. I also felt like whatever I did didn't matter, that my opinions were generally invalid and I had no influence over anybody in any context. I felt that way despite having a degree, a loving family, a decent amount of intelligence and a network of friends.
I have no idea how many of these things Stapleton had. He's lost the vast majority of that now, though, and he probably will be locked up for a lengthy time like he himself suggests he should be. For all his bravado, his welcoming of a long prison sentence backs up the idea that nothing in his world matters- not even his own situation.
Bivde was killed on impulse by a man who could offer nothing to society. There are thousands just like his killer. Most of them might only beat up a stranger or rob them, under the impression that nothing will happen because they are, in effect, nobody. If they ever think of shooting a man dead, however, they would probably think of the consequences of that action and realise that it's not worth it. Stapleton, on impulse, did not.
If people don't recognise their own worth- their strengths, their talents- if people don't have something to work towards, they'll feel insignificant. That feeling of insignificance, as we've seen, can lead to murder.