Education IS What Matters
Mary Turner Thomson
A couple of decades ago I met my perfect partner, Will Jordan. An American businessman living in Scotland, who was charming, funny, intelligent, seemingly kind and generous, and appeared to love me unconditionally. After a two-year engagement we got married and – even though he (and his parents) told me it was a medical impossibility – we had two children together.
The next four years life became very dangerous and scary. When we were engaged, Will had explained to me that he worked for the intelligence services – not as a spy but as an IT guy, the kind of man-in-the-van person you see in films. As time went on, he told me about some of his missions. One was to infiltrate a paedophile ring by posing as one of them and using software to track all the contacts he made online back to the source. Another was an in-person undercover operation to gather information on a group of ‘unsavouries’–the same type of people that brought down the twin towers. They had to meet a disenfranchised son of a particularly nasty character and ‘turn’ him to gather information. Jordan was chosen to be the contact, as his looks allowed him to blend in. The mission, he said, had been a success at the time.
After our first child was born in 2002, Will said he finally had the family he never thought he could have, and wanted to get out of the service and have a normal life. Initially it was great – he had a high-paying job with a big software company and for a little while we had a very comfortable lifestyle. Our second child was born in 2005.
And that is when it all got very real.
At Will’s new job it turned out that the ‘disenfranchised son’ was working for the same software company as Will, and reported this information back to these same ‘unsavouries’. Although Will quit the job upon recognising this co-worker, he soon found out that his own records – our home address, details about our family, etc – had been looked up. Then they contacted him with a very nasty threat.
I found all this out when he told me people were now threatening our children with kidnap and torture if we didn’t come up with money to keep them safe. I was terrified. I didn’t sleep. I hardly ate. I heard noises in the house and would jump, believing that they had arrived to hurt us. In a frenzy of sleep-deprived panic over the next year, I sold everything I had, and handed over all the money to the man who I thought was just trying to keep his loving family alive. Meanwhile he was constantly on the move trying to get help and raise money of his own by working other IT jobs. I ended up homeless with my young children and having to ask my parents to take me back in.
It will be no surprise to anyone visiting Psychopathy Is that Will turned out not to be the man he said was.
I found out the reality when his other wife called me and told me about the numerous children Will had fathered with several other women. She told me he actually impregnates women to rip them off for money. I now know of 14 children at least. Not only was he a bigamist and a con man but a sex offender as well. He took me for just under £200,000 (about $270,000) and left me in £56,000 ($75,000) of debt on credit cards he had taken out in my name. And that is just a small sliver of the whole story.
In some strange way it was a relief to get that phone call from the other Mrs. Jordan, I had nothing left to lose, but at least my children and I were not in any danger from the shadowy ‘unsavouries’ who I had imagined around every corner.
I get asked a lot why I was not destroyed by the situation and my answer is simple: It was not personal. I believe William Jordan is a psychopath – if the PCL-R were administered to him I believe that he would score 40 out of 40 – and to him I was simply a plaything. I was a toy to be used and manipulated, love-bombed and gaslit, then ultimately milked for any money I could raise. It is similar to a cat playing with a mouse. The cat doesn’t choose the mouse because it is pretty or rich or kind or has children – it is simply that the mouse crossed the cat’s path. The only thing I did wrong was not to know and understand about psychopaths – not to see the red flags because I had never been presented with them before. I see myself like the mouse that got away from the predator. I won’t spend the rest of my life licking my wounds and bemoaning the fact that I got caught. I am going to spend the rest of my life celebrating the fact that I got away – AND try to educate others so that they don’t get caught in the same way.
For the past 15 years I have been fascinated with psychopathy and have read articles and books on the subject almost daily. I have no qualifications but have a good understanding of the condition.
Psychopaths aren’t monsters. They are people without empathy, conscience, or remorse – which means that they have the capacity to do monstrous things without emotional consequence for themselves. This can make them very dangerous and manipulative – especially to those who don’t recognise the signs. However, with the right education and support, the empathic members of society can learn how not to become their victims. Also, with the right education and support, particularly for parents, = children born with a predisposition to psychopathy can be treated and become productive members of society. But to do that we have to be able to identify them better early on.
In Scotland (for the moment at least) you are not allowed to diagnose a child as psychopathic – but without a diagnosis the parent cannot get help. If a child is on the spectrum for autism they will get financial assistance, counselling and support to bring up the child in the best way they can. But if a parent identifies that their child is on the psychopathy spectrum, there is nothing but accusatory finger wagging at their parenting skills.
We in Scotland saw an example of the results of this approach in 2018. Aaron Campbell, a 15-year-old boy who had been known to skin cats, start fires, and hurt other children, posted a recording on YouTube in which he said he ‘might kill 1 day for the lifetime experience’. His mother was concerned about him but had no control over his actions, and she had nowhere to turn to ask for help – doctors diagnosed him as depressed and the police would do nothing until a crime was committed.
A year later Campbell did just that. He abducted Elisha Macphail, a 6-year-old girl, from her bed and took her to the woods, where he raped and brutally murdered her. He left her little body with 117 injuries, some of them ‘catastrophic’. It is one of the most repulsive crimes Scotland has ever known. When he was found guilty, Campbell confessed, impassively telling a psychologist the details of the crime and said he was ‘quite satisfied with the murder’. He also stated that it had taken him ‘everything to stop from laughing’ during points at the trial.
Aaron Campbell got a minimum term of 24 years – so he cannot apply for parole until he is 40, but will most likely remain in jail for life. The judge described the boy as a ‘cold, calculating, remorseless and dangerous individual … completely lacking in victim empathy’, and yet he still couldn’t be diagnosed as ‘psychopathic’ because he was not yet 18 years old. The psychologist, John Marshall, to whom the boy had confessed his crimes, argued that young children should be tested for psychopathic traits so that interventions can start early, but it was a suggestion that caused controversy in child psychology circles.
Because of my own experiences, I agree with John Marshall. Imagine if we could screen for psychopathy in children, and identify them at a younger age – while there was still time to take action. What if we could offer advice and counselling to parents in order to bring up their child with scientifically supported and researched techniques – ones that taught their non-empathic offspring a solid moral code, rather than depending on the child’s own conscience to guide them? If Aaron Campbell’s mother had found support, and her son had been diagnosed as being on the psychopathy spectrum, might Elisha Macphail be now enjoying her 10th birthday party? We owe it to all future victims of those afflicted with psychopathy to do better.
The solution to psychopathy in our society is not to shame the victims, or to vilify the people with psychopathy, nor it is to blame the parents or just put it all down to an accident of birth. The solution is education. First, we need to educate empathic people what to look out for: the signs, the red flags, and how to counteract them. And second we need to learn and understand what psychopathy is, how to diagnose it, and how to treat it, as early as we can – so that we, as a society, are able to counteract their actions.
This is why this organization is so important, and why we really do have to concentrate on what Psychopathy IS.
Mary Turner Thomson lives in Edinburgh, Scotland (UK). She is the international best-selling author of two memoirs, ‘The Bigamist’ (2008) and ‘The Psychopath’ (2021), as well as a motivational speaker on surviving adversity.