The Face of Evil

What’s the face of evil: a paedophile? A murderer?

Is it –


Ronnie Kray. Notorious East End killer.

Peter Sutcliffe,  who murdered 13 women and attacked 7 more.

Kenneth Erskine, aka,  The ‘Stockwell Strangler’.

Charles Bronson – the ‘most violent man in Britain’,

Robert Maudsley or ‘Hannibal the Cannibal’.


All these men have served time in Broadmoor, the highest security hospital in the world.

They’re not your average patients.  But then, Dr Gwen Adshead isn’t your average GP either.


Dr Adshead has worked as a consultant forensic psychotherapist at Broadmoor for almost 20 years.  If anyone can identify the face of evil, surely it’s her. So what does she have to say about humanity and the monsters she cares for? Speaking in an interview with the Evening Standard earlier this week, she says this:

‘I think evil is a state of mind into which pretty much anybody could get…It is often used socially – I think – to label a group of people as inhuman…but it is not a word that means much to us here at Broadmoor.’

She continues;

‘There’s nothing about killing someone or doing something violent that means you’re mad. It appears to be something that all human beings can do in certain circumstances.  It is easier to concentrate on the people who look and sound a bit strange – the person with the funny stare and the too-short trousers – rather than think that the man you’re sleeping with could kill you, in the right circumstances…What is painful about the stereotypes is that the majority of the violence that is carried out in our society is carried out by well people.

…Nobody ever believes it will happen to them.  We’ve had people admitted to this hospital who are from jolly middle-class backgrounds. (Their parents) didn’t think their child was going to develop schizophrenia or going to run amok and kill six people.

It is about getting away from the simplistic “He is bad and evil and there is nothing more to be done about this”.  But also challenging the idea that revenge is the only option after you have been injured or violated.’

Adshead has worked with some of society’s most terrible criminals.  Yet her hope and belief is that everyone is capable of evil – and everyone is capable of redemption.


Matthew 15:19: (Jesus said)”For out of a man’s heart come evil thoughts (reasonings and disputings and designs) such as murder, adultery, sexual vice, theft, false witnessing, slander, and irreverent speech”.

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst”. (1 Tim 1:15)



3 thoughts on “The Face of Evil

  1. It’s pretty amazing, when you begin to consider just how twisted our race is , how ‘settled’, even navigable the human world is much of the time (which brings us right back to God continually bestowing His abundant mercy on us all), but when our real natures are unrestrained, it’s a very different story. Our personal ‘civility’ is often no more than a guise for depravity, and anyone who has truly encountered themselves ‘in the mirror’ know the piercing truth of Jesus’ assessment of what we are.

  2. Thanks Howard, our culture and manners mask a deeper reality!

    Hi Phil, well call it “original sin” or call it “our human condition” we all share a broken human nature which can’t just be educated away. When I do (or say or think) something awful I can’t just say “that wasn’t really me.” It’s not All of me, but it is a deep part of me and I need to admit that there’s something wrong, deep down.

    What do you think?

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