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Daniel Bartlam was only 14 years old when he joined the ranks of child killers. His crime was devastating to a family, and an entire community was left wondering what went wrong.
Easter Sunday of 2011 was filled with shock and horror instead of bunnies and candy for the Arnold area in Nottingham, United Kingdom. 14-year-old Daniel Bartlam had murdered his mother with a lump hammer, wrapped her body with newspaper, and then set her body and the family home on fire. Daniel took his six-year-old brother, Dominic, by the hand and walked him outside, then returned for the family dog. The kids stood and watched as the house, with their mother in it, went up in flames. Emergency services responded and took both boys into protective custody. Daniel explained that a burglar broke into the home, killed his mother, and set the house on fire to cover his tracks. During the next two weeks, investigators searched the home and Daniel's computers. Questions about just how much Daniel knew began to arise quickly.
Investigators found that Daniel used Google quite often and some of his searches indicated that he knew more than what he was saying. Subjects like "how to get away with murder" and "how to chloroform your little sister" were found among the online searches on Daniel's computer. Investigators were shocked to find frequently visited sites that included images and stories of incest and rape. Detectives found that Daniel was using his computer for more than watching pornography when they came across a screenplay Daniel had written on his iMac. All of the pieces came together when they read the screenplay, wherein Daniel was the main character. Fed up with his mother, he beats her to death with a hammer and sets her body on fire.
Detectives brought Daniel back in for questioning and he decided to tell his first version of the truth. He explained that in a moment of rage, he grabbed the hammer and beat his mother to death. He was afraid he would be caught, so he set the house on fire. Investigators knew this wasn't the whole truth and pressed Daniel harder. He broke pretty quickly and explained what had happened in his mother's bedroom that April day.
Daniel had armed himself with two claw hammers and approached Jacqui while she was asleep in her bed. He woke her to ask where his new sneakers were and was told she didn't know. He began to beat her with one of the hammers, striking his mother seven times in the head. He then set about ridding himself of the evidence that would tie him to the cold blooded murder of the woman who had given him life. He covered his dead mother with newspaper and petrol, then set her on fire. He immediately went to his little brother, Dominic, and took him outside the house. Daniel instructed Dominic to wait there while he went back in the house and rescued the family dog.
Although Daniel appeared to be a normal and rational child in public, it was quite the opposite within the confines of their own home. Simon Matters was Jacqui's long-time boyfriend, having entered the picture when Daniel was 11 years old. Things, he explained, were quite odd inside the house. Daniel had a horrid habit of defecating and urinating within the confines of his own bedroom. Boxes containing clothing and towels Daniel had used to wipe himself when he was finished defecating on the floor or in one of the boxes were laying all over his room. Simon was very concerned when he found a bag of Jacqui's underwear hidden in Daniel's room. He brought it to Jacqui's attention, and she brushed it off, thinking it harmless in the big picture. Daniel also had taken to torturing Dominic with over the top sibling antics. Pinching and hitting him, just generally exercising his strength and control over someone that was younger, smaller, and weaker than he. Simon believed that Daniel was heavily effected by the divorce of his parents, more specifically the results of the life changes the divorce brought about. Daniel attended a private school until the divorce, and when Jacqui could no longer afford the tuition, she moved him to the public school system. It was then that Daniel's negative behavior began to really amp up. Simon also believes that his stepson had an unnatural obsession with gore and slasher films.
Though Daniel enjoyed Saw, Friday the 13th, and Nightmare on Elm Street, he also watched a television show, Coronation Street, regularly. One of the main characters is a gentleman named John Stape. In one episode, a female stalker finds him and tries to attack him with a hammer. He takes the hammer from her in his defense and beat her to death with it. He threw her body on a vehicle that happened to be burning in the area. The parallel was astonishing. He did discuss his fascination with killers and his own misgivings about whom he was and what was happening to him with a school counselor, who referred him for a psychological evaluation. He told his counselor that he heard voices in his head that told him to stab and kill people. Despite all the evidence as to Daniel's mental proclivities, clearly belonging to the Cluster B Personality Disorder spectrum, he was sentenced to 16 years for the murder of his mother.
What happened to Daniel Bartlam? Serial killer Ted Bundy said that pornography was the leading reason his brain went awry. Was an underdeveloped brain damaged by being fed images of graphic violence, torture, and rape to blame? Was this just a spoiled child with no remorse who wanted his way and killed when he didn't get it? I doubt Daniel will ever be truly honest about what happened that April day, and the only other witness can't speak from beyond the grave.