UK businessman decapitates self with Aston Martin DB7

I’ve often said that the British are the most suicidal of all Western peoples, and I’ve also been saying this past week that beheading seems to be “in the air” of our culture. Well, here is a story, reported at the American website Jalopnik, “Obsessed with the Cult of Cars,” in which the two themes are, so to speak, combined into one. A well-to-do Welsh gym owner named Gerald Mellin, after an argument with his estranged wife,

tied one end of a rope to a tree, climbed into his DB7 and wrapped the other end around his neck. Mellin then jammed the pedal down on the $173,000 car, driving into a busy main road, forcing other drivers to watch his horrific death. Police found his headless body still in the driving seat and his head on the back seat.

The story, like most journalism today, leaves us with more questions than answers. In particular, how long was the rope? It seems to me that it would have to be very long, at the very least a couple of hundred feet, to allow Mellin both to build up enough speed to decapitate himself, and to get onto the “busy main road” from his starting point somewhere off the main road. He would have to choose a spot that was right next to the main road, and that had no obstructions between the tree where the rope was tied and the main road. Otherwise the rope would get caught on something, which would prevent him from getting onto the road, and also from building up enough speed to snap his head off. These are the deep thoughts that come to my mind.

The Jalopnik story is evidently copied from the Mail, since it follows its account word for word but provides no further details on the suicide, though the Mail give some further personal details. Mellon was 54, his wife 33, and she had left him, and he had canceled his life insurance before the suicide so that she would get nothing. Also, neither story tells when or where the suicide occurred. You know, the old Who, What, When, Where, and How, which journalists today only intermittently condescend to tell us.

However, thanks to the BBC, which gives the When, the Where, and also enough detail to understand the How:

Early on 14 September 2007, Mr Mellin tied one end of a rope to a tree in a car park on Mumbles Road in Swansea.

He wrapped the other end around his neck and accelerated away in his Aston Martin DB7.

Ok. Now it’s easier to picture. It was probably a car parking area immediately off the road, so the car didn’t have to go very far at all. Mellin just pointed the car at the highway, put petal to the metal, and that was it. He might not have needed more than a hundred feet of rope.

- end of initial entry -

James M2, who sent the story, writes:

They do at least mention that his car was a convertible, which makes the process easier to visualize. When I read the story my mind saw him either (a) tying the rope to a tree in his own yard, and then driving down a long straight driveway directly into “a busy main road” in front of his house, the rope being measured to kill him right as his car entered perpendicular to traffic, blocking the road and causing a scene, or more likely (b) his car is parked on the side of the “busy main road,” the rope is tied to a tree next to the curb, and then he simply accelerates forward and into the street.

Reporters have no curiosity, but apparently, neither does the readership. It seems that every article is written like this, but is there a flood of complaining letters demanding otherwise?

I was a student for a couple years at Mizzou, which is supposed to be one of the premier journalism schools in America. I spent a lot of time with a lot of journalism majors, and I don’t remember any of them professing a desire to dig into a newsworthy event, find the truth behind it, and accurately communicate it to the populace; none of them actually wanted to do journalism. What they dreamed about and talked about was “exerting influence” and “changing things.” Well, most people don’t have a lot of aptitude for changing the world. After those that do are siphoned off, we are left with a bunch of self-involved newspeople who never actually learned their trade, are enabled by a readership that doesn’t care, and who don’t even have objectivity enough to ask themselves: “Does this story make sense to someone who wasn’t there?”

Also, you write:

“He might not have needed more than a hundred feet of rope.”

It’s a very fast car, after all.

LA replies:

I am so glad to hear this from you, it makes me feel that I’m not the only person in the world who cares strongly about this. Most people just read news stories, particularly stories about crimes or accidents, quickly and “impressionistically,” they get a rough idea what happened, and that’s enough for them.

I have sometimes been horrified when the paper would tell about some terrible accident, say, a pedestrian is run down and killed while crossing a street in New York City, and the reporter didn’t say HOW this happened. Did the car turn into the pedestrian from a side street as he was properly crossing? Did the pedestrian himself do something wrong? A human being’s life was wiped out, just like that, and no one cares HOW it happened.

Samuel Johnson said: “To think reasonably is to think morally.” If there is no objective moral truth, then human life really doesn’t matter, and so the “how” of the accidental killing of a person doesn’t matter either. For the world to be interesting to our reason, it must matter morally. If there is no inherent morality in the universe, if the universe isn’t interesting to us morally, then the universe also ceases to be interesting to our reason.

The same is true from the other direction. If we are trained never to think about things reasonably, as happens in liberal society (because to think reasonably would reveal truths that liberalism requires be concealed), then we’re also going to be uninterested in the moral content of things, because thinking about the moral content of things requires thinking reasonably.

Hannon writes:

I share your view of the superficiality of mainstream media reporting. This field has been largely reduced to a fluid and rootless market commodity. The editors are under the aegis of shareholders or owners ultimately, and profitability must take priority to keep the organism alive. Television is so much worse of course. Someone once took down some measurements of the half hour evening news programs and discovered that it was something like 30% ads, 25% sports and weather, 35% fluff pieces and 10% actual news.

It seems to me that the media is in the business of attracting people’s attention but not getting them unduly upset or agitated—just enough information to satiate curiosity and no more. A sort of pacifying mechanism, powerful and carefully orchestrated. But why such a paucity of real coherence? In the case of the car wreck fatalities we hear about on a constant basis, would it not serve the public interest to relate if the deceased or survivors was wearing a seat belt? Surely the officials on scene could make this information available immediately.

LA writes:

And, something I haven’t said yet, what a monstrous way of committing suicide. This man couldn’t just remove himself from the world, he had to do it in a way to shock and traumatize total strangers driving on a busy road.

It’s similar to what Ryder says in the thread on Thomas Fleming’s publication of an article in Spanish. If you’ve given up, then go quietly away; don’t seek to impose your defeatism and despair on other people.

Michael D. writes:

Unintentional decapitation during a hanging execution, from a drop as short as 10 feet, can and has occurred. This recently happened to Saddam’s half-brother in early 2007, and the video of his hanging had to be shown to allay Sunni suspicions of mutilation after the fact. Executioners now take height, weight, and muscularity into account when setting drop length to ensure cervical fracture while avoiding decapitation. In 1930, the accidental decapitation of a female was what prompted Arizona to switch to the gas chamber.

When you consider the above, and how just 4 horses easily separate 4 limbs from a torso during a drawing and quartering, it’s not at all surprising that, when floored, a high powered sports car could decapitate a driver strapped in with seat and shoulder restraints in a very, very, short distance from its dead start. We could work out the math in light of what a 10 foot drop can do, but I’d be very surprised if more than 20 feet of (strong and properly tied) rope would be required. The car need only accelerate to the speed a body reaches at the end of free-fall of 10 to 15 feet.

Jonathan Silber writes:

A good liberal and citizen of the world would drive a hybrid car to do the deed, so as both to decapitate himself AND reduce his carbon footprint.

David H. from Oregon writes (August 10):

With this beheading thing I think your talents deserve a wider audience. You should make your writings available to the National Enquirer, I think you have a definite flair for the genre. It might possibly be more lucrative than blogging!

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 09, 2008 01:43 PM | Send

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