Malta has a cat killer. His name is Nicholas Grech. The 44-year-old engineer from Mosta was charged with killing and crucifying 11 cats and three dogs, and was sentenced to be held at Mount Carmel Hospital ‘for as long as necessary’ back in 2014.
It was said Grech was suffering from impaired judgement due to his mental condition, schizophrenia, so he was declared insane and therefore not criminally liable for his actions.
Ever since, he has been held at psychiatric institution Mount Carmel Hospital. But yesterday, he challenged his seven-year detention inside the facility.
Grech's website, smashyouagainstthewall.com, says it tells “the true story behind the Mosta crucifixions”. It reads:
“If you find the name of this website offensive, imagine how much more it is to be threatened in this way in no other than a Courtroom, by no other than the Magistrate himself.
For all these years I was held hostage by Psychiatrist David Cassar. If I dare reveal any of the many abuses, he will instantly turn them as me suffering from delusions of persecution, as me deteriorating in health, and an excuse to keep me locked, to issue the umpteenth restriction of communication order, and to drug/destroy me further with pills and injections and their so dreadful side effects.”
His website is an incredibly detailed account and timeline of his experiences with psychiatrists, the police, the courts and the media. He claims to have been framed as the ‘cat killer’, which is how he is referred to in the media, although he pledged to never have killed any cats.
At the end of his introduction, he mentions me:
“In corrupt Malta, psychiatrists sought the services of a freelance writer, Belle de Jong, to write fake articles promoting psychiatry. Really incredible. So much psychiatry is totally fake, our local media puppets on a string, and money speaks.”
I’m sure Nicholas hasn’t read everything I wrote, as I myself am not the biggest fan of treating mental health issues with merely medication.
Having written about how bipolar disorder changed my life for the better, I can imagine where Grech is coming from. As an advocate for mental health, I write about it to help break the stigma and improve psychiatric care.
Mental health is something close to my heart, and I truly believe in spreading the word and raising awareness about it. I can swear on oath that I did not get paid for any of those articles.
But I know that just because my low dose of medication helps me live a stable life, doesn’t make it the best solution for everyone. And I, too, have experienced the dreadful side effects of medication.
In Mount Carmel I was put on 400mg of antipsychotics. I sat in a wheelchair for a day because my muscles were twitching uncontrollably and I could no longer stand on my legs.
For weeks after my hospitalisation, I wasn’t able to stand up without going blind, and I stayed nauseous for months after leaving the hospital.
I see where Grech’s hatred of psychiatry comes from. I spent eight days in Mount Carmel, which was traumatising. He has been locked up there for seven years. Anyone would go mad.
There are two sides to every story. The media mainly reported that Malta’s infamous cat killer was locked up in Mount Carmel. People were happy that Malta's 'public enemy number one' ended up where he deserved to be.
But Grech claims he never killed the animals. He said he would find dead animals and crucify those, in order to raise awareness about animal cruelty. (In a way, he did.)
Grech said he loves animals, and even had three (wrongly reported by the media as two) cats himself.
Even Daphne Caruana Galizia, Malta's legendary investigative journalist, wrote that the police didn’t believe he killed any cats, but he was prosecuted anyway.
To be insane
Some say the writing on his website is fantastical. That he must be so detached from reality that he should remain locked up. The court has declared him insane, and apparently hasn’t changed their judgement in the past seven years.
He might be truly delusional. For all I know, he's a cat killer with a shabbily designed website. But I wonder: could the words he wrote have a hint of truth?
Living with schizophrenia does not make someone insane. Declaring someone insane simply takes away their responsibility and credibility. You can declare someone insane and frame them in any way you want - they’re crazy anyways.
More often than not, the genius and the madness are connected. People living with mental illness can be brilliant, they can be intelligent, they can be sane.
I am on an incredibly low dose of medication, and a year and a half after my psychotic episode I am thriving in more ways than one. Mental health advocate Matthew Paris is another brilliant example of someone living with schizophrenia while turning trauma into a strength.
Yes, killing cats is insane. If that truly is what happened, I will in no way defend or pretend to understand this man’s actions.
But schizophrenia doesn’t equal insanity. It is, however, an easy way to frame someone and a great reason to lock them up in a hellish psychiatric institution - which might just drive them mad.
If you have thoughts about this, let me know. I love hearing from you.