Sophie Morris: Stop. Money never matters more than life

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The Independent Online

Of the many sad stories generated by the spluttering economy – and if you think you are already sated on this front, there will be much more in the months to come – I find the tale of Karthik Rajaram the most tragic to date.

At some point between last Saturday evening and early on Tuesday morning, Rajaram chose to shoot his wife, three children and mother-in-law before turning the gun on himself at the family home in Los Angeles. The 45-year-old American financier left a suicide note blaming his actions on the collapse in share prices.

Rajaram had made almost £900,000 from his small stake in an internet company floated on the London Stock Exchange. His final words told of the dilemma he faced in the weeks leading up to the killings. Should he take his own life and leave his family to face penury without a father, figurehead and financial provider? Or should he release the entire family from the shame of poverty by killing them? "He talked himself into the second strategy," said deputy Los Angeles police chief Michael Moore. "[He thought] that would be the honourable thing to do."

Is there a tipping point at which having or not having becomes a justification for taking the lives of one's entire family? The Rajaram family were originally from India, though the police described them as "the perfect American family". Whether Rajaram followed the societal mores of America or India is of no matter. There are instances of men killing their families in every culture, and one culprit rears its twisted head with invariable frequency: money.

When, in Jude the Obscure, Little Father Time realises his own father's struggle to provide for his family, the child assumes the role of head of the family, killing his siblings before hanging himself. His note, "done because we are too menny", resonates through the story of the Rajaram family in two ways: it mistakenly linked riches with survival, and preceded a naïve and irresponsible act.

Christopher Foster, who shot his wife and 15-year-old daughter to death in their Shropshire mansion in August, had debts of £1.8m. At the time, one forensic psychologist said that Foster may well have believed he was doing his family a favour in sparing them from a penniless future, calling it a "very perverted sense of altruism". However, another said that high achievers who lose it all often operate a dog in the manger policy. If they can't have what they once did, they will make damned sure no one else can either.

We all know that money can ease the passing of many ills, while not being the route to happiness in itself. But, ultimately, it does not overcome any of these ills, nor should a lack of it ever be considered the end of the road. That goes for anyone thinking that crashing markets, in themselves, constitute a worthy suicide prompt. Kirk Stephenson thought it did last month, and the 47-year-old multi-millionaire dived in front of a train travelling at 100mph. At least he left his wife and child intact.

Clearly the stress of being the family breadwinner, and of not being able to live up to the requirements of this role, can manifest itself in horrific consequences. This is down to a universal conflation of the roles of a parent as "carer" and as "provider".

Providing care is the chief responsibility of any parent, and confusing that with financial provision was the downfall of Rajaram and Foster. Considering themselves holders of the casting vote over the future of each member of their family is megalomaniacal. Was this because they paid for the upkeep of their wives and children, and therefore assumed some warped sense of ownership over their lives? How far have we come since the days of Thomas Hardy?

By Gord! It must've been the quietest meal he ever cooked

I'm not sure how much it would cost to hire Gordon Ramsay to cook a private dinner, but we can safely say I couldn't afford it. So, imagine my glee when I found him studiously preparing sushi at Aaya earlier this week, the new-ish Japanese restaurant owned by Gary Yau, brother to Alan, of Hakkasan and Wagamama fame and fortune.

I say "private" because – as we went for a very early lunch – the place was deserted save for the camera crew filming a segment for Gordon's Cookalong, and silent apart from the sound of intense chopping as he sliced my sashimi.

The oddest part of the whole experience was not our private dinner, but the lack of shouting, swearing or stamping of feet. Gordon had become a lamb under the tutelage of his learned Japanese masters.

Judo tough guy Putin has me all in a clinch

Dare I say this? Vladimir Putin is hot. As if his pedigree as a fearless former KGB warrior wasn't enough, the Russian prime minister is a strategic masseur of his action man image. Pilot a fighter jet? Check. Pose topless on a fishing trip? No problem. Face up to a rare tiger in the jungle? Consider it done.

Next stop: Let's Learn Judo with Vladimir Putin, a dvd showing wannabe tough guys how to fight like a real man. No complaints this end.

* At last: an online fairy godmother for those of us now too old to have child locks on our laptops. Google's new Mail Goggles feature is designed to prevent drunken late-night emailers from sending messages they will regret come the morning.

The system cannot help you decide whether it is wise or otherwise to tell your best friend you're in love with him, or your ex that he's a bore and you want your toaster back. That would be spooky. It works by dissuading you from emailing anything at all when under the influence, by posing a few mathematical teasers.

If you fail these, you should think twice about firing off a missive written with the same haste you drank that third large glass of wine.

How long do we have to wait for similar safeguards on mobiles and Facebook?