Obituary: Dr Murray Cox

Murray Cox was the consultant psychotherapist at Broadmoor high security hospital from 1970 until his death.

He helped to transform the treatment of patients as well as staff training and support, and was, in the words of a colleague there, "an immensely civilising and humane influence on the culture of the hospital". During the time in Broadmoor, he became a leading authority on forensic psychotherapy and wrote widely influential books which helped shape the young sub-discipline. He edited (with Christopher Cordess) a basic two-volume textbook, Forensic Psychotherapy: Crime, Psychodynamics and the Offender Patient (1996) and played a formative role in the International Association in Forensic Psychotherapy - he himself was especially influential in Scandinavia.

How can the story of 25 years in Broadmoor be told? The title of one of his articles was a quotation from a patient: "I took a life because I needed one". His writings are shot through with such quotations from "therapeutic space": "The knife speaks for itself", "We come here to find a struggle that replaces our earlier struggles", "I have met people who walk off the edge of language - and then they DO THINGS."

They point to the astonishing simplicity at the heart of Cox's practice: he listened, took patients at their word, and really noticed what they said - not just in words, but in emphasis, expression and gesture. Perhaps the most distinctive thing about him was his respect for the dignity of patients who had been doubly written off as "mad and bad". He risked disappointment again and again and had said once about his Broadmoor work: "There is nobody I can't have hope about".

If that was the simplicity, the complexity of what he brought to bear on his therapy was dazzling. He was superbly well-read in his own field and many others, had intensive friendships with a wide range of people, loved music, and was a Christian who knew much of the Bible by heart and had a profound, well- considered theology.

The most striking of his therapeutic resources was Shakespeare. Not that he just "used" Shakespeare. Rather he revelled in those dramas, knew large parts of them by heart, lectured on them and savoured their "paraclinical precision" about the sorts of extremes of evil, madness, horror and death with which he dealt daily. He was an honorary research fellow of The Shakespeare Institute in Birmingham University, and from 1989 an adviser to the Royal Shakespeare Company.

With the director Mark Rylance, he began an extraordinary tradition of having RSC productions performed in Broadmoor, and later edited Shake- speare Comes to Broadmoor (1992), describing the effects on patients, staff and actors.

"What seest thou else?" was a favourite quotation, and he excelled at seeing more, deeper, wider, from new angles. His Danish co-author of two books on therapy, Mutative Metaphors in Psychotherapy (1987) and Shakespeare as Prompter (1994), the psychologist Alice Theilgaard, has used the Danish word "musisk" of him, meaning "a man of all the muses". It was this multifaceted, imaginative profundity, energised by huge enthusiasm, which let him constantly make new connections, cross boundaries, explore the many layers of a good metaphor, and improvise gloriously in conversation, lecturing or at the piano. The eyes twinkled, the humour danced and played with words, and the timing was always superb.

Cox was born in Birmingham in 1931. He was educated at Kingswood School and St Catharine's College, Cambridge, and began his training as a doctor at the London Hospital. He spent ten years in general practice before becoming a psychiatrist and psychotherapist. His interest in forensic psychotherapy began at Pentonville Prison, before his appointment to Broadmoor in 1970.

There were two other vital dimensions to his life which were somewhat less visible. The first was his Christian faith. In his 1990 Foulkes Lecture he requested for his desert island one luxury: a serious debate between those representing theology and the world of psychotherapy. Recently he helped initiate a series of conferences between psychotherapy, spirituality and literature. Among the last things he wrote was an article called "A Good Enough God? Some Psychology-Theology Crossing Places", and when he died he was working on a collaborative book on "the secret self" in theology, psychology and psychotherapy.

The second dimension was his close family life with children, grandchildren and above all his wife Caroline (Baroness Cox). He had a heart bypass operation 14 years ago, and he and Caroline saw the time since then as a gift of "golden years", culminating in the celebration for family and friends for his 65th birthday - suitably called a "Festsprach". At the heart of those years were weekends in their Dorset home, where there was time to catch up on two very busy lives and walk through the countryside, where his ashes have now been scattered.

David F. Ford

Murray Newell Cox, psychotherapist: born Birmingham 22 July 1931; married 1959 Caroline McNeill Love (two sons, one daughter); died 28 June 1997.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions