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Eric Edgar Cooke


Eric Edgar Cooke was an Australian famous for being a serial killer as identified by several criminal profilers. He lived his life craving for attention that let to many break-ins, violence, arson, and killings. These behaviors are attributed to his troublesome childhood and abusive parents, particularly his father who made his family suffer because of alcoholism. The problems in his family made Cooke to move out of his family home to the streets to search for a better living. His view of better living included breaking in to people’s homes, arson, and killings. He had many altercations with law enforcement officers that sometimes led to incarceration. These altercations did not hinder him from continuing with his violent behavior. Cooke married his girlfriend Sally, kept appearances, and worked as a truck driver to take care of his society. This paper will provide Cooke’s experience from childhood to adulthood including the psychological research and theory that might explain why Cooke offended.

Eric Edgar Cooke

Criminal profilers identified Eric Edgar Cooke as an ideal example of a serial killer. Cooke was born in February 1931 to an unhappy family whereby his father was violent due to his alcoholic tendencies (Books LLC and General Books LLC, 2010). His father hated him since the first day he saw Edgar as an infant because of his cleft lip and cleft palate deformity. Cooke had a bad murmur and distorted mouth that speech therapy and surgery could not treat in those days. This subjected him to daily thrashings from his father who used sticks, belts, fists. His father also neglected him and subjected him to psychological cruelty resulting to a sense of hatred in Edgar’s mind (Genoni, 2013).

Edgar’s mother suffered brutality from her husband too. She also lived in abject poverty, lived in fear of her husband, but managed to take care of Edgar and his other two siblings through her meager wages from cleaning and kitchenhand (Estelle, 2005). Her husband failed to provide for the family as he drank all his earnings from selling motor spare parts.

Edgar matured viewing himself as the family freak, but later decided to leave home in order to escape his father’s mistreatment (Geoffrey, 2008). He went to the streets where he would steal food and other basic requirements. School was no different from his home as children mocked him by mimicking his speech. Edgar was ejected from Subiaco Primary School after stealing for his first time. He was canned subsequently in his consequent schools because of his notoriety.

Edgar was accepted at the Scarborough Junior Surf Lifesaving Club at age 14. His desperation for admiration and inclusion brought him to pilfer a watch that he later engraved to appear like a present from the club (Jenny, 2003). The club ejected Edgar after learning of this incident. This added the list of his numerous crimes that made him to suffer regularly.

Edgar fainted regularly and spent most of his time in the infirmary because of seizures (Robert, 2006). He also suffered from frequent headaches, sinus problems, and many injuries and illnesses although most of these accidents occurred while performing his notoriety acts. These accidents did not deter his attention-seeking ways as he matured into an adroit and cunning criminal. He became a dexterous car criminal who passed through high and narrow windows without getting caught. Additionally, he broke into other people’s houses even in their presence.

Edgar absconded school at the age of 14 and started his first occupation as a delivery boy in North Perth (Geoffrey, 2008). He continued with his stealing ways whereby he stole money to supplement his meager wages to support his fraught mother. He also stole money from his employer to make acquaintances and astound women.

Profilers portrayed Edgar as an arsonist. As young as 17 years, Edgar had set fire to most flats and houses he burglarized after pilfering money and provisions, as well as slashing bedding and clothing (Estelle, 2005). Cunningly, he shattered a window in one of the houses he had pilfered to make it appear like a burglary. This occurred when the owner had given him a key to guard while on holiday.

Law enforcement officers arrested Edgar for arson and break-ins. They examined his background and described him as ‘one of life’s unfortunes’ (Genoni, 2013). These problems prompted his family to seek intervention to help Edgar stop his bad behavior. He was paroled after a three-year sentence in order to save him from early schizophrenia symptoms and criminal life (Books LLC and General Books LLC, 2010). The judge gave him a lighter sentence to prevent him from thinking that he escaped punishment and to prevent him from being contaminated by cynical criminals.

Parole officers watched Edgar’s behavior closely throughout his parole and obtained later gave him an outstanding report. Alternatively, Robert (2006) reports that the psychiatrist assigned to his case at the mental hospital where Edgar attended labeled him a superb liar. He received help from Reverend George Jenkins who welcomed him to the South Methodist Church (Geoffrey, 2008). Edgar became active socially as he started playing hockey with other Youth Methodists. He also positively attended bible classes despite being beyond any help. Edgar stole from his Youth Methodist acquaintances even after attending bible classes with them. Finally, Reverend Jenkins escorted him to his execution for murder.

The Methodist Church as cited by Jenny (2003) involuntarily introduced Edgar to the wealthy western suburbs where he began to attend the Nedlands Methodist Church where he received a warm welcome from the parishioners. The CMF (currently the Reserve Army) rejected Edgar even though he received care and rehabilitation from the Methodist church. This act of rejection drove Edgar into his serial killer ways.

Edgar received weaponry training from Lance Corporal because of his swift and perfect shooting (Genoni, 2013). His rejection in the army occurred because of his previous run-ins with the law. He enjoyed the regimentation and fellowship in the army. Criminal profilers believe that this enjoyment and a feeling of denunciation when told that his murmuring would hinder him from being an army officer could have triggered the trauma that made him to become an arsonist.

Edgar desperately attempted to join the army again when he went to Melbourne at 21 years (Robert, 2006). His run-ins with the law were identified and he was later expelled but he had further gained weaponry training. He went back to Perth and lied about being in the Korean War in an effort to gain respect.

Edgar married Sally whom he met at the Metropolitan markets in 1953 (Estelle, 2005). They later had two sons and a daughter but having a family did not save Edgar from his wayward ways. His charming behavior later transformed into violence after the delivery of their first son. Sally was trapped by an unkind, womanizing, and aggressive husband.

Edgar dressed elegantly to counter his low-esteem, went bowling with friends in town, searched for girlfriends, and frequently visited town cinemas (Genoni, 2013). He maintained the appearance of a respectable and good man though he continued neglecting his family. He used his meager wages to maintain his friends and girlfriends while his wife back at home was very faithful to leave him. Sally could not leave him even after being advised to when Edgar received a two-year jail sentence for crashing a stolen vehicle during his spree with friends.

According to Books LLC and General Books LLC (2010), the birth of his twins could not prevent Edgar from yearning for attention, acquaintances, stealing, and arson. He audaciously invaded people’s residences and stole in their presence. His theft complemented his small wages obtained from different truck driving and laboring jobs.

Edgar spent most weekends subtly reading wedding notices placed in the West Australian notice boards whereby he planned to break into the brides’ residences after the wedding ceremonies (Genoni, 2013). He learned the floor designs of huge homes from the West’s weekly residence architecture publications to understand their designs. Edgar frequently wore a hat to hide his disfigured face and wore leather gloves to conceal his fingerprints. He cunningly left few coins in his victims’ purses to avoid being noticed.

Edgar had developed another trait viewed to indicate prospective violence of sexual perversion, together with voyeurism whereby he watched lovers through car and house windows and took their inner wears from clothing lines (Jenny, 2003). He committed his first violent act in September 1958 when a woman rejected him. He then followed her from the bus stop and watched her from behind a tree in the nearby street.

Edgar then stole the woman’s vehicle and ran-down her mother. He later confessed saying that “I just wanted to hurt someone, and she was it for the night” (Genoni, 2013). He cited his first murder occurred in 1959 where by he stabbed Pnina Berkman in South Perth. He also strangled another sleeping victim, controlling her further through abuse with a bottle and necrophilia. He later admitted to committing eight other murders whereby other young men had been convicted for. According to Genoni (2013), The Director of Mental Health Services deemed that Edgar was sane which led to his hanging. While waiting for his death sentence, Edgar talked a lot about his family and regretted having caused the incarceration of two innocent people; Darrryl Beamish and John Button. He believed that his death would show that he had paid his debt to the society.

The life of Eric Edgar Cooke portrays a very disturbed mind. Serial killing is regarded as a baffling offense because it is hard to understand individuals who enjoy murdering other human beings (Vronsky, 2004). This form of abnormal behavior is very disturbing because it underlines a diminutive but troublesome faction of individuals in the community who take part in acts of terrorism and insanity. Serial killers often select unsuspecting and innocent individuals.

As portrayed in Edgar’s childhood, most serial killers display a particular type of cynical psychic organization, which hides a “flawed self” that shows as a “pathological deficiency in self-esteem” (Schlesinger, 2008). The object relationship theory understands that the well-defended self-esteem deficiency originates from inadequate or poor preoedipal childhood experiences. These inadequate preoedipal experiences are poor self-object idealization and mirroring experiences. In other words, the child lacked responsive care or its caretakers failed to encourage or motivate him/her to utilize them to find his/her own emotional organization.

Such experience is evident in Edgar’s childhood where his father hated him at his first glance because of his deformity (Ronald and Holmes, 2010). The father spent most of his time working, looking for friends, and performing crime rather than motivating Edgar and his siblings to become contributing individuals in the society. Just like most serial killers, Edgar’s early relationship with his father was dysfunctional.

Psychologists believe that serial killers come from controlling and domineering, rejecting and punitive, seductive and overprotective mothers, as well as absent fathers (Curt and Bartol, 2004). In this case, Edgar was raised by a rejecting, punitive, controlling, domineering, and absent father. He watched his father beat his mother everyday and neglect. He also watched his father’s inability to provide adequate idealization and mirroring, including lack of recognition of his emerging needs for idealization and grandiosity. This could have disconfirmed Edgar’s rising sense of reality and self.

Most serial killers failed to discover their ability to make their parents’ happy, therefore lack a sense of visibility and appreciation in other people’s eyes (Keppel and Birnes, 2010). Most of these children experience a profound sense of low-esteem and rejection just like Edgar. This dysfunctional object relationship can result to repression of the need for grandiosity only to reflexively surface as a negative behavior. The importance of attention and mirroring may clarify why most serial killers prefer most of their victims to stay fully conscious and awake throughout the torture because this consciousness ensures a reaction that offers fantasy. Additionally, Edgar experienced the lack of a loving father therefore attaching himself to other people, especially his victims like most serial killers do.

Early infancy experiences of rejection and abuse also contribute to serial killing behaviors (Miller, 2007). Most serial killers suffered physical, sexual, and emotional mistreatment as children. Studies regarding the effects of childhood neglect and mistreatment on violent conducts of serial killers stipulate that the number of emotionally and physically abused adults who became serial killers was higher than adults who were not abused as children. Serial killers then respond to these abuses through homicidal envy or rage and later end in sexualized and brutal murders just like in Edgar’s case. The violence and brutality are measures of the internal conflict of serial killers, such as repressed sexual helplessness and humiliation. Research by Ronald and Holmes (2010) suggest that serial killers internalize and interject hate, rejection, and powerlessness explaining why they loath themselves.

Object relations theorists recommend that parents and guardians should take up the important role of providing child support when their children experience negative affects (Schlesinger, 2008). Most of the times people expected to take care of children are the ones who abuse them. These incidents make the children to lack a sense of ability to impact the environment. It also explains who most serial killers unconsciously seek to reclaim their misplaced power through murders. Killing is a symbol of their dominance to the world.

Edgar’s addictive behavior to friends and other members of the society could have been to block his feelings of low-esteem and rejection (Vronsky, 2004). It is likely that his repeated killings characterized his unconscious yearning for his own death, non- existence, self-loathing, and self-hatred. Nevertheless, most people experience negative childhoods but decide to change their lives to be better members of the society rather than become serial killers, arsonists, or thieves. Edgar’s serial murders may have been caused by a blend of negative babyhood experiences and preoedipal dysfunction.

Object relations theorists state that aggression conveyed as homicidal rage is portrayed through the murder scenes of serial killers (Ronald and Holmes, 2010). Their compulsion to execute is deemed as the work of the death intuition that gets its full expression in death or destruction. Serial killers then direct this death intuition through homicidal aggression or rage outwardly. Therefore, it is important for parents to observe their children and ensure that they grow up in positive environments.

In conclusion, Australia was hit by a series of murders in the 1960s carried out by a man named Eric Edgar Cooke. Edgar’s father was abusive to his wife and children, which created a sense of hatred in the family. In addition to being an absent father to his children, Edgar stole from other people to maintain his purported lifestyle. The sense of hatred and rejection created a sense of revenge in Edgar’s mind. He alleged to have killed more than ten people prior to his hanging. Research indicates a direct relationship between violence and personal, biological, and environmental traits as a base for criminal behaviors. Serial killers expel their envy and rage of a rejecting and hateful world by assaulting and abusing other people. Object relation theories stipulate that serial killers obtain their behaviors from dysfunctional and foster senses of pathological inadequacy, shame, and low self-esteem. These feelings result from previous violence and revenge. Pathological maltreatment and preoedipal insensitive parenting produces uncontrollable homicidal rage and aggression in male children that finds an outlet through sadism, delinquency, cruelty, addiction, and ultimately serial killing. Additionally, childhood mistreatments contribute to the feeling of rage and helplessness that are later directed at people who symbolically symbolize early tormentors. The psychological theory’s view of childhood abuse as the main source of comprehending serial killers remains shortsighted because most people undergo abuse while young but fail to become serial murderers. Therefore, an object relations theory to interpreting serial killers’ behaviors is very important because it appends a preoedipal dimension to the origin of serial killing psychology, instead of concentrating only on psychoanalytical values of oedipal growth that present only a part of the theoretical picture.


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