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Crimes of passion on the rise

TOBY brought financial papers to his ex-wife’s home for her to sign. He took offence when she started to question him.

By Phyllis Mbanje

They quarrelled, and he followed her into the kitchen, whereupon Toby snatched a carving knife and stabbed her repeatedly. This appeared to fit the definition of a “crime of passion.”

When his ex-wife admitted Toby into her home, he had not the slightest intention of inflicting any bodily harm on her. All he wanted was for the forms to be signed.

Before they separated, this couple’s marriage had been fraught with conflict. Verbal arguments had escalated into yelling, cursing, hurling objects, and then turned physical with the couple pushing and shoving each other.

On one occasion, Toby was so enraged that he entered his wife’s closet and slashed her clothing.

Adopted from psychologist Stanton E. Samenow’s book Inside the Criminal Mind, the above excerpt (which is a true story) describes typical scenes of crimes of passion.

According to Stanton, any of us is capable of committing a “crime of passion”.

From time to time, we learn about the unassuming, well-reputed individual who suddenly grabs a kitchen knife and slaughters his spouse. Or the husband who finds his adulterous spouse in bed with her paramour and shoots both.

Toby’s crime occurred thousands of miles away from Zimbabwe but right here in our backyard, a similar incident played itself out in Unit L Seke, Chitungwiza.

Fortunate Nsoro (36) had stabbed her husband Petros Mutasa with three kitchen knives that up until that moment had innocently and harmlessly occupied a space among other utensils in the kitchen. Described by neighbours as jovial and likeable, Nsoro is now in the dock facing a possible charge of murder.

The bloodied scene in the couple’s bedroom resembled a scene from the horror movie of all times, Jack the Ripper. Mutasa lay with his eyes frozen in shock and surprise. He most probably did not expect the magnitude of harm that his wife inflicted on him.

Although details of what really transpired will only be known during her trial and only from Nsoro’s version, initial indications are that the argument was sparked by some text message in the late Mutasa’s phone.

When the story broke along with the grisly pictures, the comments from the public were surprisingly neither vicious nor judgmental.

Although saddened by the event, many were willing to hear the side of the story from the killer wife. Some even suggested that she might have been going through a very tough marriage.

But Stanton believes that before anyone attempts to kill someone, they fantasise about it, even for years.

Describing his client’s situation, he said both before and after the marital separation, Toby had many times fantasised killing her.

“On the day that he actually murdered her, he was already ‘programmed’ to kill and proceeded to enact that which he had fantasised about repeatedly over a long period of time,” he explained.

In his submissions, he said the “crime of passion” is a misconception but concedes that at times crimes occur that are not premeditated or planned in advance.

He said while it would be understandable to become enraged upon discovering that one’s spouse had been unfaithful, people still had the power to rein in their anger.

“The person who commits a crime of passion has at least in his thinking resorted to extreme measures in response to other disturbing, threatening situations,” he said.

However, German psychiatrist Melitha Shmideberg in her article published in the Journal of criminal law and criminology says children’s tantrums help in understanding crimes of passion in adult life.

“In bad tantrum the child loses contact with reality and enters a state of temporary madness in which he attacks others not so much from hostility as from fear,” she reasons.

She said while people feel too guilty to express their hostility in cold blood, sometimes they can work themselves into a state where they no longer feel responsible.

Practicing psychologist Sarah Rugwanehama who operates from Eastlea says people react when they feel they have been mistreated or betrayed especially by their loved ones.

“Whenever a relationship becomes violent there is need for therapy and counseling.

“A single slap can ignite such a rage that over the years builds up into a serious problem,” she said.

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