Charlie Richardson - not a Prince of darkness, just a bully

Dead or alive, the sad or sadistic are glamorised. The reality is that of those who endure the lingering consequences of evil's  reckless actions.

Share

They call him Charlie. Even when they are recounting horror stories about how he snapped people's fingers off with bolt-cutters or nailed his victims' limbs to the floor, they call him Charlie. Not Richardson. No, they refer to him with an affectionate diminutive – as they do with those other Sixties gangsters Reggie Kray or Ronnie Biggs.

One minute the media are reporting in tones of sombre horror the murder of two policewomen and grenade-and-gun lawlessness on the streets of Manchester; the next, the BBC is recalling how Richardson gave his victims a clean shirt to go home in, as if that were quaint rather than sick. Huge obituaries in papers like The Daily Telegraph end with the sepulchral conclusion: "Charles Richardson, born January 18 1934, died September 19 2012", as though he were someone who achieved something.

There has been a Hammer-horror indulgence about the lurid detail of his crimes. But, added to that, there has been a terrible false romanticism about much of the reaction to the death of the 1960s gangster Cockney boy made bad.

In part this is to do with a distinctly British tendency to allow the passing of the years to soften and sentimentalise our view. Enoch Powell went from being a chilling racist to a great parliamentarian, Tony Benn from a dangerous revolutionary to a national and constitutional treasure.

Evil is routinely glamorised and romanticised in cinema; in the 2004 film Charlie, Richardson is portrayed as both likeable and charismatic. It is part of the individualist Hollywood myth of "one man against the world".

The same perverted impulse is there in the adulatory Facebook sites which sprang up about Dale Cregan, the man charged with the two Manchester police murders. Posters praised him as a "hero", a "cop-killer" and "the greatest legend since Raoul Moat". Nearly 30,000 joined an internet tribute group to Moat who died in 2010 following a police hunt which 24-hour television news reported as though it were a live action movie.

Criminals become legends only if popular psychology makes them so. There is an Anglo-Saxon tradition in Robin Hood and Dick Turpin of the outlaw as folk hero, an anti-authority symbol of hope for a people who can do little to change their lot. But, in reality, Raoul Moat was a pathetic, washed-up loser.

Yet the devil gets the best tunes. The phrase "the glamour of evil" comes from the Catholic baptism service, which also refers to Satan as "the prince of darkness". The elevation of evil to princely status goes well beyond gun-toting Hollywood anti-heroes. The human fascination with the excitement of the transgressive rule-breaker is lauded by Nietzsche's notion that we can love life in its entirety and reach a sort of bliss only when we are in danger. Freud understood this. Bad people make better stories than the unresolved messiness of everyday life. But it is all bogus.

The reality is that of those who endure the lingering consequences of evil's moments of reckless action. PC David Rathband, who was blinded by Moat, struggled to cope, with unimaginable courage, for two long years before giving up. He posted a message that he had "lost my sight, my job, my wife and my marriage" and committed suicide.

Reality is the feeling that creeps across the families and fiancée of a dead policewoman each morning as they wake and the slow, leaden realisation of their loss seeps once again into their consciousness. It is a world of dark days because the narrative simplicity of evil does not tell the real truth about life where, in the end, ordinariness may be our strongest resource.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Science versus religion in the three-parent baby debate

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Kylie has helped to boost viewing figures for the talent show  

When an Aussie calls you a ‘bastard’, you know you’ve arrived

Howard Jacobson
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee