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Brian Blackwell

Crime Files
Boston Strangler

Pathological lies

Brian Blackwell was born in 1986, an only child, to Sydney, a retired accountant and Jacqueline, an antiques dealer. When Blackwell was two-years-old, his parents, described as respectable and ‘a nice, solid couple’, moved to the affluent village of Melling in Merseyside, where they bought a three-bedroom bungalow. Blackwell was seen as a gentle boy but a bit of a loner, not easily disposed to making friends, either at school or in the home environment.

At school he was an exemplary student and in his teens was nicknamed ‘The Brains’ by his friends. He studied for his A–Levels at Liverpool College and had decided to become a medical surgeon. Blackwell’s doting and supportive parents had high hopes for their son, believing he had the potential to become a great surgeon.Blackwell was a pathological liar and a tendency towards the grandiose. He liked people to believe he had accomplished things, which in fact he had not. His girlfriend, Amal Saba, was the daughter of Jordanian physicians and a fellow student at Liverpool College. She had succumbed to Blackwell’s extravagant lies about his lifestyle and, although he could play tennis fairly well, he had convinced her that he was a professional tennis player, with a Nike sponsorship deal worth £70,000 and a place in the French Open. He had even asked her to be his manager and in April 2004 had written her a salary cheque for £39,000 despite only having 9p in his account at the time.

The cheque to Saba bounced due to lack of funds and desperate to keep up appearances, Blackwell went to the bank in May 2004 and withdrew £9,000 from an investment account his parents had set up to pay for his university education. He convinced the bank to give him the money, telling them his father had died and that he needed to buy a car for himself.

In fact, he used the money to buy Saba a new Ford Ka car for £6,500

Upon discovering what Blackwell had done, his shocked and distressed parents demanded that Saba return the car. After much argument, it was decided that she would keep the car but pay back the money. Blackwell said that this would only insult him.

Needing money to further back his lavish lies, Blackwell made numerous applications for credit cards and bank loans. In June 2004, Mrs Blackwell discovered this deceit and went to the bank manager to explain about her son and his worrying behaviour regarding finances. His parents would never trust him with money again.Despite his parents’ knowledge of his fraudulent handling of their money, on 24 July 2004, Blackwell used his father’s credit card to make first class flight bookings from Manchester to New York for himself and Saba.

The following day, he accompanied his father to a sports centre in Kirby, where Mr Blackwell spoke to friends with pride about his son’s hard work and studious determination to achieve good results in his A-Levels.


Born: 1986

The Victims:

  • 25 July 2004 – Sydney Blackwell, 72

  • 25 July 2004 – Jacqueline Blackwell, 61


  • 8 September 2004 – Brian Blackwell, 19


  • June 2005 - Liverpool Crown Court


  • 29 June 2005 - Manslaughter with diminished responsibility


  • 29 June 2005 – Life imprisonment

The Aftermath

Will We ever find a motive?

No one will truly know what drove Blackwell to murder his parents but, thanks to his case, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is now considered under British law to be a serious mitigating circumstance in murder cases.Little is known about NPD. Psychiatrists do not know what causes it and have very little idea of how to treat it. All they can really do is diagnose it.Blackwell had no evidence of a troubled background, which confused most people trying to find motives for his heinous and seemingly unprovoked actions. For the most part, there was an overwhelming sense of sadness felt for the entire Blackwell family and their dismal fate.

The Trial

"A Narcissist"

Nine months after his arrest, Blackwell’s trial began in June 2005 at the Liverpool Crown Court, presided over by judge Mr Justice Royce, with prosecutor David Steer QC.A team of five psychiatrists examined Blackwell and unanimously agreed that he had Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). People with this disorder typically fantasise about unlimited brilliance, power and success and often fly into an inappropriate rage if their fantasies are challenged or threatened. They are very selfish, with a strong sense of entitlement, needing constantly to be praised and treated like royalty by everyone. The reason NPD sufferers are so convincing to others is that part of them believes their inflated fantasies themselves.Steer described Blackwell as “a highly abnormal young man”, adding that an NPD diagnosis was unusual for someone of his age. He also stated that there was nothing to indicate that the murders were premeditated.

In a letter that was read out in court, Blackwell had written, “For every moment of every day I wish I could turn back the hands of time. I eternally long to be a little boy again at a time when everyone really loved each other, when we could have a happy time and be a family once more…I miss them more than anything in the world. The guilt will punish and haunt me for 24 hours a day for the rest of my life.”In an attempt to find a motive for the killings, Steer suggested Blackwell’s parents may have discovered his plans to holiday in America with his girlfriend and tried to stop him. This may have induced a rage that drove him to murder. However, there was only evidence to attest to the fact that Blackwell’s parents were loving and supportive of him.Due to Blackwell suffering from severe NPD, and despite the fact that, these days, cases of ‘diminished responsibility’ are extremely rare, Judge Royce accepted the plea to drop the charges of murder in favour of manslaughter.Blackwell admitted manslaughter with diminished responsibility and on 29 June 2005 was sentenced to life imprisonment. The Judge added that, in his opinion, Blackwell would never be fit for release.

The Arrest

The admittance of guilt

Due to the fact that immediate family members are always considered suspects in crime cases, Blackwell was needed for questioning. On 8 September 2004, police arrested Blackwell at his girlfriend’s house in Childwall, Liverpool and took him into custody for interrogation.During police interviews, a sobbing Blackwell admitted killing his parents but said it was “a split second thing” and, “I just couldn’t believe what I’d done”. He told investigators that before his father died, he went over and held his hand and talked to him for a while, telling him he still loved him.Shocked neighbours described Blackwell as a lovely, quiet and clever young man, who played tennis and studied hard. Not one of them could believe such a tragedy had befallen such a seemingly pleasant and normal family.

The Crimes

A few drinks get out of hand

The following day, 25 July 2004, Blackwell was at home hanging pictures in his bedroom. His parents had been out for dinner and when they returned home, the family sat down in the living room for a few drinks. The conversation soon became an argument between Blackwell and his father. It turned nasty and Blackwell flew into a rage and began beating his father with the claw hammer he still held in his hand.His mother, who had been in the kitchen, ran into the room holding a carving knife and witnessed her son brutally bludgeoning her husband. She tried to stop Blackwell but he wrestled the knife from her grasp and stabbed her up to 30 times, principally in the chest, killing her. He then returned to his father who was not yet dead and, after holding his hand and telling him he was sorry, stabbed him to death.

After the brutal attack, Blackwell took himself and his girlfriend off on his planned holiday to the United States. The couple stayed for three nights in the presidential suite of The Plaza hotel in New York, dining on truffles and champagne, at a cost of around £2,200. They then travelled to Miami, San Francisco and Barbados. Blackwell spent a total of £30,000 on his father’s credit cards and his behaviour throughout the trip was upbeat and normal. Saba had no inkling that her boyfriend was a murderer and that his victims, his own parents, were lying in pools of blood in their home, as yet undiscovered.Returning to England on 12 August 2004, Blackwell stayed with Saba and her parents, telling them he had been locked out of his own home until his parents returned from their holiday in Majorca. A week later he received his A-Level results from Liverpool College, which included A-grades for mathematics, biology, chemistry and Spanish. He had also been accepted into Nottingham University, to start his course in medicine in October. After receiving his results, Blackwell bumped into his head teacher and they had a lively discussion about Blackwell’s excellent results and his rosy future as a doctor. Once again, there was nothing in Blackwell’s demeanour or behaviour that indicated anything was amiss.Neighbours had not initially missed the Blackwells, as the couple holidayed in Spain on a regular basis. However, on 5th September 2004, a neighbour went to visit and noticed an unpleasant smell emanating from the Blackwell house and notified the police. They arrived immediately and discovered the seriously injured and decomposing bodies. Due to the state of the bodies, police initially believed the couple had been shot. Mr Blackwell was in an armchair in the living room, still clutching his spectacles and Mrs Blackwell’s body had been dragged to the bathroom and left lying face down. The post-mortem examination revealed the Blackwells had been killed sometime in July 2004.