Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN
There are good people and, unfortunately, there is a good deal of wicked perpetrators who can do anything any time. Especially, when high on drugs or under the influence of booze.
When heinous crimes occur, we tend to console ourselves believing it was a once-in-the-blue-moon shed of blood. But in the past two months, with a series of unrelated savage murders in the country, many are wondering now: what is going on?
Matas law outlaws violence against children
First there was a four-year-old boy, Matas, who had sustained more than 70 blows from his parents before succumbing in his hospital cot a few days later.
Although the police had been called to calm down the toddler’s abusive parents two years before the lethal beating, neither the local social workers nor the kindergarten carers or the local child welfare specialists stepped in then.
«Indeed, we’d often see bruises on his frail body and Matas has confessed to us several times that the dad would beat him savagely sometimes, but we chalked it up to the parent’s tempestuous temper. No one ever thought it would lead to that end,» one of the kindergarten teachers admitted belatedly.
Matas’ death has churned up a major swirl in the country, with the Lithuanian Parliament hastening to outlaw all violence against children, including corporal punishments. The legislative act is dubbed as Matas law.
Then, in mid-March, entire Lithuania was rattled by the horrendous murder of Ieva Strazdauskaitė, a 24-year-old aspiring student and a loving girlfriend and daughter, who disappeared on her way from her parents’ home in the Plunge district to Vilnius, the capital city.
Once already eluded justice
With seemingly entire Lithuania involved in the search of the missing girl, the news at the end of the week since the frantic bid to locate her could not have been any more tragic: Sandra was found dead in a hurriedly dug ditch in a forest in the Kėdainiai district.
A bunch of young Roma men belonging to the same kin has confessed to the murder. The motif for taking the life away appeared to be insanely vain – Sandra’s luxurious car, a gift of her entrepreneur father.
On the highway Klaipėda- Vilnius, which due to the heavy traffic and the abundance of all-seeing video cams seems to be a place where nothing can go unnoticed, her car was intentionally bumped in by the assailants’ vehicle, the girl was forced to pull up and when, unsuspicious, stepped out from the car to check what was going on, she was snatched and shoved in the boot…
No need to tell the rest of the story…
Although with the history of delinquencies in the past, the murderers, otherwise, were normal people – like most young men, as some neighbour described them – yet with the affinity for affluence and a good life.
However, the investigators were quick after Sandra murder to pull out from the dusty drawers a criminal case in which some of the men had been implicated in the murder of an octogenarian man in 2007. As the investigators had failed to incriminate them, the case was closed and the men were set free.
Now, Sandra’s death has prompted the prosecutors to look at it anew.
Approached by a journalist, a relative of the old man recalled that she had warned all during the trial then that it was just a matter of time when the names of the Roma men will pop up again.
«I was bewildered that they escaped prison then. They did do claiming that the investigators had gotten their confessions forcefully. If then justice had been served, Sandra would have still been alive,» the middle-age woman lamented.
She recalled that the young men toted luxurious jewellery and cars, but none of them worked.
A total of four men aged 23-26 were detained in connection to Sandra murder.
Another nice guy and brutal killer
With Lithuania reeling off from the tragedy, news broke on the trial of a 20-year-old who raped and then slain a 91-year-old woman in Vilnius last year.
As somebody noticed in the zingers under the report, the assailant has an «incredibly beautiful face…»
With just a month after Matas death, another case of infanticide shook up Lithuania. Local investigators were able to announce they had gathered enough evidence to accuse a pair of young parents in the rural Šalčininkai district in eastern Lithuania of having slain their newborn daughter last fall. The infant had been thrown into the river nearby before the corpse was found, investigators claim now.
And with March about to expire, the brutal killing of an entire family in the Kaunas district has sent shivers across many spines in Lithuania.
Egidijus Anupraitis, the apparent murderer of his own parents, his disabled brother and his grandmother could be otherwise your poster boy. As a chemistry student at a UK college, he was thought to be diligent and goal-oriented, also well-mannered, quiet and, well, type of person that is a far-cry from any troublemaker.
Lately, Egidijus was working, however, as a security guard for the reasons unknown to the prosecutors and carried Makarov pistol, legally.
Nabbed 60 kilometres away from the crime scene with the ready-to-leave luggage beside him, he did not show any resistance, the news reports say. The prosecutors raise doubts whether the fellow is sane.
But as an online commentator quipped, how on earth can someone who kills his entire family be sane?
Indeed, what is it going on in a country which, with the population of less than three million, is like one huge extended family?
Bad guys are always nearby
«Indeed, in recent months, we’ve been hearing many superlative adjectives depicting the atrocities- «horrendous», «heinous», «savage», «violent», «vicious» or «eerie», says Jelena Šalaj, a social science scholar and psychologist. «The wave of cruelty against own family members has caught many off guard, making many to struggle to find an explanation for it.»
According to Šalaj, what links all the cases of the mentioned slayings is perception that they were executed by the dregs of society, with which most not just disassociates, but finds it hard to believe they are out there.
«In other words, we tend to push out even the remote possibility of existence of such persons from our consciousness and the environment, too,» claims the psychologist.
In her article following the slaying of Sandra, she contemplated mostly about the young Roma men who committed the crime.
«As the ethnic minority they stand a slim chance of breaking away from their own environment. In other words, they feel good only in it, but outside it, they feel feeble and vulnerable, which is a step away from rage under certain circumstances,» the scholar pondered.
She said she had dealt in her life herself with awkward situations stemming from the fact that, ethnically, she is Russian.
«The first-generation newcomers in a county are usually economic emigrants or political refugees and they are usually very meek and subservient in order to make it through in the beginning. Although the emigrants of the second generation feel being equal to the majority, yet the parity is often just an illusion, as many of their parents stand on the lower ring of the social ladder, earn less than most and feel lasting frustration,» Šalaj emphasised, referring to the Roma people, too.
But does it suffice to explain the crimes?
Anders Brevik was a nice guy too
For Olegas Lapinas, a prominent Lithuanian psychologist, the series of brutal murders is also about rage that spurts up under certain circumstances.
«There have always been murderers and psychopaths, everywhere. So from that standpoint, we are not different in any way,» he says.
Yet, he claims, the guilt for the tragedies does fall on the society to some extent.
«We are too much focused on success, preponderance and singling out ourselves. That way we create conditions to form what I call «reptile brains», especially in the young people. What is characteristic to the burst of the killings is that, during them, the emotions were in a «sign-off» mode, to say it illustratively, and rage was seething…Usually such state of mind does not trigger an impulse to kill, as the emotions- fear, compassion or anger- take over, but in certain situations, say, in a time of war, inebriation or in case of cruel behaviour against the otherwise nice guy, the «reptile» self-defence kicks in,» Lapinas explained.
The best remedy to rein in the «reptile» in ourselves is through nurturing emotional intellect, he says.
The psychologist is not surprised that E. Anupraitis, who is charged of aggravated multiple murder, appeared to be a guy-next-door type of person.
«Anders Brevik, a Norwegian who shot to death over 80 youngsters on an island off Oslo in 2011, was described exactly in the same way: a quiet and polite introvert,» Lapinas noted.