Forensic psychiatrist Tim McInerny has stared into the eyes of many killers… but the exchange with one still chills him to the bone.
He was called to a London hospital where Lee Rigby’s killer – jihadist Michael Adebolajo – lay bloodied and under police guard.
But contrary to his expectations, he found the bullet-riddled Islamic State extremist to be “polite, courteous and intelligent”.
And it was the most haunting encounter of a 30-year career which also brought him face-to-face with Moors Murderer Ian Brady.
In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Mirror, Dr McInerny says Brady – who tortured and killed five children in the 1960s – seemed to think HE was victim of a conspiracy led by evil accomplice Myra Hindley.
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But even meeting Brady could not match the disturbing experience of analysing Fusilier Rigby’s killer.
Dr McInerny recalled the day he was asked to assess Adebolajo at King’s College Hospital, South London.
It was May 14, 2013 – the day after Lee, 26, from Crumpsall, Manchester, was mown down and hacked to death.
The killing, in daylight and when the dad of one was off duty, shocked Britain.
Dr McInerny says: “Looking at the news reports I assumed Adebolajo was unwell.
“He had been shot a number of times by police and I was asked to assess him. I had not done an interview before with a patient with six officers pointing guns at me. I was there to see if he was mentally sick but what was unexpected was that he was entirely well.
“He was polite and courteous, intelligent, clearly from a middle-class background, well-spoken, very grateful for the care and treatment he had received and grateful to the police. It was unsettling in a way.
“When someone has been in such a terrible, grave, brutal, cruel offence and they’re mentally unwell it makes it more bearable. But to have someone healthy talking about it was a lot more unsettling.”
During three sessions in hospital – at Adebolajo’s request – Dr McInerny said the extremist, now 36, boasted he was on a “military operation” when he and Michael Adebowale, 29, slaughtered Lee.
They drove a car into their victim before mercilessly attacking him with knives and a meat cleaver near Woolwich Barracks, South London.
Dr McInerny built a psychological profile on Adebolajo, who was later sent to prison for the rest of his life. Adebowale was given a 45-year term.
Dr McInerny goes on: “Adebolajo was trying to refer to the fact that he was on a ‘military operation’.
“I had to explore that a bit more because he’s not actually a soldier.
“Just to make sure that wasn’t an expression of some sort of delusional belief system. But what was ultimately disturbing about it was you had a university-educated, polite, rather charming man in front of you, thankful for all the care and treatment, involved in the most brutal attack just a day before.”
Dr McInerny now sits on Parole Board panels and studies huge dossiers – some up to 1,300 pages – to help assess whether hardened offenders are safe for release.
For more than nine years he worked at high-security Broadmoor Hospital, Berks. In the late 1990s he was called to Merseyside’s Ashworth Hospital to interview Brady as he fought to be released from the psychiatric unit back into prison.
Dr McInerny says: “He was very paranoid, a very disturbed man.
“He was not a straightforward patient – he challenged his detention and challenged his diagnosis.
“Brady was extremely unwell, it was very difficult to understand what he said, he was ‘thought disordered’. His language didn’t follow grammatical sense. He kept talking about Myra and believed there was a conspiracy by her against him.
“He spoke in very derogatory terms about Myra as though she was behind things that were happening to him at Ashworth. There was anger with Myra.
“Brady was demanding to be returned to prison and was very high-risk because of the notoriety of his offences.
“He’d need very careful monitoring in any unit. He was at risk of attacks and had been attacked many times. He wouldn’t talk about any of the offences. He would only talk about the cruelty of his treatment and about Myra and how she was conspiring against him. I certainly thought he was psychotic and had no insight into his condition. He needed to stay in the hospital.
“He was also extremely frail. He looked very sick, wearing dark glasses. He refused medicine and looked as though he was going to have a stroke or a heart attack at any time.”
In his role with the Parole Board, Dr McInerny sits on a three-strong panel, often alongside a judge.
They sift through vast swathes of information often dating back decades. Around 25,000 hearings are held each year – with a release rate of around one in four.
But the organisation has faced criticism following some recent decisions – like the release of double child killer Colin Pitchfork, 61. The board is braced for fresh attention after Britain’s most notorious prisoner, Charles Bronson, 69, won a High Court bid to have his next parole hearing in public.
Dr McInerny fears inmates like Bronson risk turning the process into “show hearings”. He says inmates who “feed on narcissism” could use them for “theatre and media attention”.
He draws comparisons between Bronson and Brady, who in 2013 had a public mental health tribunal, demanding to be transferred back to jail.
He lost and died in Ashworth four years later, aged 79.
Dr McInerny says: “If people sat in these hearings they would understand how very carefully the Parole Board and other agencies consider release. There are mounds of information and even if they are deemed suitable for release, the level of control is so carefully thought through.”