Who cares about Ian Huntley?
Ian Huntley tried to end his own life last night. He was found unconscious in his cell this morning, having apparently swallowed an overdose of anti-depressants. Having taken the place of Myra Hindley as the most hated person in Britain, an icon of evil, it is extremely unlikely that Huntley, who is 32-years old, will ever be released. The High Court ruled last September that he will serve a minimum of 40 years before he can even be considered for parole. I can frankly understand why he would wish to end what must be a thoroughy miserable life -- serving a sentence without any realistic hope of parole, facing assaults from other inmates, re-living forever (one must imagine) the moment when he crushed two young lives and destroyed his own.
One listener texted our programme today to say, "Let him die. He's scum. That's what he deserves." Others were similarly less than sympathetic. One can understand the rawness of those reactions to his suicide attempt: Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman would be celebrating their 14th birthdays this year had Huntley not murdered them in cold blood and burned their bodies in an attempt to destroy forensic evidence.
There weren't many voices today ready to quote Donne: "Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." There won't be much tolling when Huntley dies; whether that is through natural causes or at his own hands.
And yet if human life is valuable, all lives are surely valuable. It may require a superhuman effort for some of us to see Huntley as human, but that is what he is. Someone loved him once, someone cries for him still. Don't we lower ourselves to the level of those willing to erase a human life when we forget that he, too, is a human being?