It would be useful to study the original note to determine a few basics: the overall length. The type of paper used and where he got it. The pen used, and where he got that [and where the pen is now]. Also, the fingerprints on the note. And finally, to have a look at Minnie’s habit – was he in the habit of writing notes [by hand], and if so, what did that look like? That can be compared to other post-its, if available. Also, did he write letters to his children? How did he usually communicate?
Then there’s the broader question. It addresses the entire hypothesis.
Do you think it’s the realm of conspiracy theory that suicide notes aren’t staged – or can’t be? In the archive of high profile true crime cases, there are countless examples of writing masquerading as something that it isn’t: fake diary entries [Jodi Arias], bogus Ransom Notes [JonBenet Ramsey], counterfeit prison diaries [Amanda Knox, Casey Anthony], a fake suicide message painted on a door [Rebecca Zahau].
Below is an excerpt of the alleged suicide note of Bird Island co-author Mark Minnie. Do you think it’s genuine?
“The pitiful cries of the lost boys of Bird Island have haunted me for the past 31 years. At last their story is out. Chrissy, don’t give up now. You are almost home. No government officials preventing you from investigating this time round.”
And here’s the alleged suicide note of Dave Allen from 1987:
“I have committed suicide. There is no one to blame for this. I have suffered incredible back problems since a motor accident many years ago and I have decided to end things.”
If you’re unfamiliar with this story, and want to find out how Allen’s alleged suicide and Mark Minnie’s alleged suicide are related to one another, read this article.
- Indirect despair. In the Minnie note, a reason is given for committing suicide. Minnie is “haunted” by the suffering for others. He’s not haunted by his own experience of childhood rape. Anyone who doesn’t understand true crime will fail to see the difference, but there’s a big difference in being in a car accident, and being aware of someone else being in one. The trauma is completely different. Imagine saying you were scared to drive because you read in a newspaper about a car accident? Compare that to being injured in a car accident, and then being too afraid to drive. In the Allen note it’s the same. Incredible back problems are given as a reason for despair. An authentic reason would cite pain and difficulty moving around, the actual experience of it.
- Indirect timing. Suicide is premeditated murder. There may be a precipitating tension, a driving force, but also a trigger. One is emotionally compromised, one is vulnerable, and then something pushes one over the edge. So what’s the trigger here? Both the Minnie Note and the Allen note reference the same word: years. But what’s changed in all this time? Surely the best time to commit suicide is right in the beginning, not after years of recovery, and in Minnie’s case, even recovering enough to write a book, which in itself requires enormous willpower and resilience.
- “Many Years.” Both notes invoke long periods of time. Suicidal people are caught in a bubble. A precipitating event causes them to despair, and to lose hope in dealing with their problems. They’re overwhelmed. Just as suicidal people can’t imagine suffering in any other way besides being interminable , they can’t look beyond the moment that’s consuming them either into the future, or into the past. In short, there’s too much savvy perspective for someone at the end of their rope.
- Handwritten. The Allen suicide note can be forgiven for being written by hand, seeing it was the late 1980’s. Even so, why write I note by hand and then head outdoors and risk the note being lost or soiled by weather? If you don’t want to kill yourself at home, why not in your car? Why outside? The handwritten note and the outside element are a mismatch. Ditto the Minnie note. It’s even less likely that someone who has written a book, and has the use of a smartphone and email in the early 21st century, wouldn’t make use of these tools. If he’d written a book, and a note, and fielded dozens of interviews just prior to the “suicide”, then you can be sure it would have been uppermost in his mind that the note would be scrutinized, and could help get the message out regarding the book he’d toiled on. So why not do that? Why not send a group email to friends and a group email to the media [Minnie’s note is separated into a message to his co-author] and a message to family? Why not communicate directly to his family? Why not communicate directly to his partner?
- Too self-evident, and probably not true. In the Minnie note the words “you are almost home” are too self-evident, ditto “I have decided to end things” in the Allen note.
- Hinging. Both notes have a hinge where something is set up, and then dramatically relieved. In Minnie’s, he’s haunted, he’s struggled, but that’s okay, Chrissy – it’s up to you now. The problem is stated. The problem is solved. In Allen’s, no one is to blame and that’s hinged on himself who has decided to end things.
- Have. Without seeing the full Minnie note, it’s difficult to make an accurate call on this. The word have is often used in bogus 911 calls. Patsy Ramsey: We have a kidnapping. It’s the wrong word for an emergency situation, because it suggests the situation is under control, especially in the mind of the person reporting it. The Minnie note is just too clear on how haunted he is. It’s not the boys haunting him either, or his own suffering, it’s the pitiful cries. In the Allen note the word features three times. I have committed/I have suffered/I have decided. Compare that tohave haunted me.
- Similar cadence. Consider these two sentences. I have committed suicide. There is no one to blame for this. It could also be written: I have committed suicide, there is no one to blame for this. Compare that to: Chrissy, don’t give up now. You are almost home and Chrissy, don’t give up now, you are almost home.
- Wrong Tense for a Suicide Note. I have committed suicide, there is no one to blame for this. As soon as it’s one sentence, what feels glaringly wrong is he hasn’t committed suicide yet. The letter’s already written in the past tense. Wow. That’s a lot of perspective for a suicide note, thinking about how the reader will be seeing it when he reads it. Chrissy, don’t give up now, you are almost home is less on the chin, except it’s also intuiting Chrissy’s response, and soothing her.
- Veiled threat. If both these notes are staged, then someone has gone to a lot of effort. Staging involves sadism. The Ramsey Ransom Note is replete with a taunting tone. There may not be explicit taunting here, because the priority is to pass the note off as a suicide note. But there does seem to be subconscious taunting. Think of these words: Pitiless cries…their story is out…don’t give up now…you are almost home. No government officials preventing you from investigating this time round…In the Allen note There is no one to blame for this is just as ironic as don’t give up now. Seen otherwise, of course someone is to blame for Allen’s death, whether it is Allen himself or someone else. Ditto, of course Chris Steyn should consider giving up, irrespective of whether Minnie has really committed suicide or not.
- An Afrikaans Speaker? The entire Minnie note just feels slightly stilted. Pitiful cries...It’s not a word that’s commonly used, except to express contempt. [That’s pitiful! That’s a pitiful attempt!]. I know what is trying to be communicated, but if these boys were abused and tortured, then something more personal, more intimate, more charged would be more appropriate. But Minnie was never there to hear them? A stronger way of communicating it would be to leave out the pitiful cries completely and simply say I’m tortured by their suffering… In Allen’s note he refers to a motor accident. Perhaps he spoke that way in general. Most of us would say a car accident, or a car crash. There’s also this in the Minnie note: You are almost home. No government officials preventing you from investigating this time round. Would English-speakers say: You are almost home. Imagine someone running the Comrades and at the finish line, with seconds left on the clock, a slow, staccato: YOU ARE ALMOST HOME. It’s a colloquial expression, and Minnie’s a colloquial, rough-around-the-edges guy: You’re almost home! No government officials preventing you from investigating this time round. It should read: No government officials are preventing you from investigating this time round. The fact that the are is missing elevates the are, and turns it into a question: Are government officials preventing you from investigating…? The word “preventing” is also very formal for an ex-cop. Why not just say: No one can stop you now! That’s how you would say it, but when you do, it doesn’t like that’s really the case, does it, even if Minnie did kill himself.
- Minimum Safe Distance. The biggest giveaway in both notes is the inherent distancing. It’s not just the words, many of them self-evident, it’s what’s not there. There’s no emotion. In the Minnie note the only hint of an emotion in terms of himself is in the word haunted. There’s residue in him telling his partner not to give up. Haunted is hardly a motion driving one to despair. In the Allen note the back problems are elevated to “suffered incredible back problems”, because the author knows back problems on their own won’t cut it, they need to be incredible, and saying where they came from also helps. In the Minnie note, the author is just as explicit saying where his suffering and problems came from: The pitiful cries of the lost boys of Bird Island have haunted me…
Ironically I think there is a kernel of truth in both notes that the writer perhaps didn’t intend to leave. Both these statements, I believe, are true and remain in effect:
The pitiful cries of the lost boys of Bird Island have haunted me…
There is no one to blame for this.