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The unseen violence of divorce


Trying to explain an unexplainable murder in Leeds, England Photo: Leeds, Tubblesnap/Foter/CC BY-NC-SA

Trying to explain an unexplainable murder in Leeds, England Photo: Leeds, Tubblesnap/Foter/CC BY-NC-SA

[by Dean Smith] A brutal murder which took place on April 28, 2014 was one of the most disturbing in England that year. It caught the media and public’s attention like no other.

Ann Maguire, 61, a school teacher at Corpus Christi Catholic College in Leeds, England was teaching a Spanish class at the school. It was supposed to be her last year as she was looking forward to retirement in the fall.

She bent down for a moment to talk to one of the students in the class.

William Cornick, 15 at the time, was sitting at his desk. He turned to a fellow student, winked and then he stood up. He pulled out a knife, walked up behind Ann and violently stabbed her seven times in the neck and back in front of his horrified classmates. A medical attendant would later describe it as one of the most brutal stabbings he had ever seen.

This was the first time in Britain’s history a student had killed a teacher in class.

As his terrified classmates fled the room, Cornick uttered the words “good times” and casually walked back to his desk, sat down and waited for the police to show up.

In an interview with a psychiatrist after the murder, Cornick said:

“I wasn’t in shock, I was happy. I had a sense of pride. I still do.”

Will Cornick -- Yorkshire Police photo

Will Cornick — Yorkshire Police photo

It was later discovered he had told a number of students he wanted to kill Ann and even posted his desire to kill her on Facebook. Nobody took it seriously, because William wasn’t the type. He had an innocent, almost cherubic-look to him.

When he arrived at school the day of the murder Will brought with him a bottle of Jack Daniels to celebrate his preplanned slaughter. He even showed a few students the knife he eventually used. Still nobody believed he would actually go through with it and nothing was said. Cornick threatened the few that showed any concern.

Police couldn’t find any legitimate explanation for the utter hatred William had for his teacher. She had disallowed him from going on a school outing because he failed to hand in a Spanish assignment. He went anyway resulting in a meeting with his parents.

But that was not a reason to murder someone.  Other than this incident, he had been a good student and was even considered one of the brightest at the school. The investigators said there was no way anyone in authority could have predicted this murder based on Cornick’s outward actions.

At trial, Cornick pled guilty and the judge sentenced Will to 20 years for murder.

But through the murder investigation, the police tried to find out why he did it. They investigated his family and found Cornick’s to be loving and caring and both actively involved in William’s life.  There was no indications of a dysfunctional home. The government prosecutor described his parents as “decent and responsible.”

The judge who sentenced Cornick described his parents this way:

“responsible and caring parents and his family life was marked by love and support.”

The murder didn’t make sense. As they looked through William’s computer they discovered his dark interest in ultra-violent games including Dark Souls II — nominated as one of the ten most violent games in 2014. William was drawn to blood and gore.

But I was looking for something else. And it took a few articles, but I finally tracked down a telling incident that may explain Cornick’s rage. I am not saying dogmatically this is the reason, just that it might possibly be the root of a young boy’s anger, who police discovered had been plotting to kill his teacher since he was about 12.

William’s parent’s had divorced when he was six.

Ben Carson, the almost murderer

I recently posted an article on retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who is considering seeking the Republican nomination for the US presidential election in 2016. He came from a Christian family.

However, as a young teenager he almost ended up like Cornick — a murderer. In a story, which he tells in his book Gifted Hands, Carson said he had such a violent temper as a young teenager, he almost killed his best friend over an argument about a radio station. How could you kill someone over a radio station?

The only reason Carson failed is because his knife broke.

But Carson had another similarity to young Will, Carson’s parents had divorced when he was eight.

After the violent attack, Ben read the book of Proverbs and took every verse that talked about anger and applied it to his life. He said this helped him deal with his rage.

The violence of divorce

In Malachi 2:16, God says “I hate divorce.” But as we read this passage we gain an understanding on why God hates it.

For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the Lord of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.” (Malachi 2:16 NASV)

In this passage, God was specifically addressing men who were divorcing their wives. He calls it an act of treachery, but God describes a second thing that occurs. In divorce, man “covers his garment with wrong.”

The Hebrew word for “wrong” is “hamas.” Translated it means violence. In the Old Testament it is used exclusively to describe sinful violence. When God judged the world with a flood we are told it was filled with “hamas” (Genesis 6:11, 13).

In Psalm 25:19, the word “hamas” is also used. The context of the verse implies hatred which is another way the word can be translated, because hatred and violence are identical twins.

19 Consider mine enemies; for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred (hamas). (Psalm 25:19 NASV)

Back to Malachi, we read through the act of divorce a spirit of violence literally covers a person. It is not that the people involved in the divorce are necessarily violent, but rather the divorce itself is a violent act — as two people who had become one flesh are torn apart.

And it seems when divorce occurs that something unseen, a violent mantle — like a garment — is thrown on the family. It appears almost spiritual in nature.

Again it is important that I re-emphasize this one point — it is not the parents, but the act of the divorce itself, that causes this to happen.

It doesn’t necessarily affect everyone, but some are more vulnerable to its influence than others. We see this violence impacting both Cornick and Carson. Fortunately, Carson had faith and the Word of God to pull him out of his black abyss of rage.

When people divorce there is always a reason, but as we understand divorce’s impact on children the reasons had better be good. And for those who are divorced know that faith and the Word of God can make a difference in your children’s lives.

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