Pick Me Up! magazine asked for my professional opinion on Donato Bilancia, a serial killer who murdered 17 people (9 women and 8 men) on the Italian Riviera over a 7-month period in 1197-1998. I provided the following professional opinion, published on 13th September 2012.
Bilancia didn’t have an easy childhood, with much of it being spent watching his family deteriorate before his young eyes. Children do not understand the complex dynamics of adult relationships and, often, their only way to make sense of the break-up of their parents relationship is through blaming themselves. They feel they must have done something wrong or there must be something wrong with them. For Bilancia, beatings from his father would have supported his belief that he was to blame. The guilt, low self-esteem, and the fear associated with the beatings would have culminated into a living hell for a young child. It is therefore not surprising that this would manifest itself physically, for Balancia through bed wetting. While bed wetting can be an inevitable part of growing up, for Bilancio it was more likely the result of excessive stress, which was made worse by the shame experienced by having his bed wetting displayed for all to see. This shame was exacerbated further by his aunts cruel and belittling actions – showing his under-developed penis to his cousins. This was to continue into adulthood when prostitutes would ridicule him for the size of his penis. The impact such constant experiences of shame can have on the developing psyche are immense. Not only did Bilancia hate himself, hence his name change, but it is also likely that he started to hate those around him who made him feel this way. It is a culmination of years of shame, ridicule, guilt, fear, and anger that contributed to the making of a monster. In particular, Bilancia had something to prove – that he was a man. This is when petty crime, leading on to more severe criminal activity play a role in helping Bilancia to develop a sense of masculinity in the face of the many experiences that demasculinised him.
Bilancia, despite his anger at the world, was in need of friendship and it was the betrayal of a friend that was the last straw – the act that led to a murder spree. The revenge exacted through murdering the man who betrayed him would have felt good to Bilancio, hence his desire to continue getting that good feeling – a feeling he had not experienced before. It is likely that the release of years of pent up anger came out in that first killing, giving Bilancia a massive feeling of relief that would become difficult for him to not want to experience again and again. Murder became a kind of ‘therapy’ for Bilancia in a way that it finally allowed him to express himself, albeit in a devastating way.
Bilancia’s modus operandi (MO): Unlike most serial killers, Bilancia was ‘messy’ and unorganised. He didn’t have any clear ‘rule book,’ so to speak. This suggests that he was merely out to take lives – there was no underlying motive, such as a particular hate for women, or a need to destroy childhood innocence – Biliancia wanted to kill whoever and however. This could also indicate that Bilancia lacked the intelligence that is so characteristic of many serial killers, the latter being intelligent enough to provide themselves with a rationale for their crimes; even if that rationale is beyond comprehension to us, it does require a level of intellect. This does, in part, explain Bilancia’s claim that he didn’t know why he was doing it. The fact that he had no MO suggests he was probably telling the truth here. He wanted to kill and had no particular reason (that he could identify) for doing so. If he had delved further into his own psyche, which again takes a level of intelligence I don’t feel he has, he would have come across a whole host of mixed emotions related to his past that might have, at least, explained his hate of human life.
Bilancia refers to a ‘programme’ Bilancia, which is indicative of psychotism, again explaining his very sporadic nature of his crimes and the lack of pattern behind them. It also explains Bilancia’s reference to B1 and B2 – a split personality – the more power he gave to B2, the angry part that he had repressed and that held all of those childhood experiences that contributed to the man he became, the larger this aspect of his personality became.