Pick Me Up! magazine asked for my professional opinion on Ryan Henyansyah (Verry Idham Henyansyah) – The Singing Serial Killer – an Indonesian convicted serial killer who confessed to 11 murders. I provided the following psychological insight into Ryan, which was published in the 11th October 2012 edition.
How would a man like Ryan have come to terms with his homosexuality within the framework of his Islamic beliefs? And what effect would being gay have had on someone like him in such a conservative society?
The Islamic view on homosexuality is that it is both a sin and crime. This would have caused an internal conflict for Ryan, where he would have been faced with the necessity to choose between being himself versus following his religion. While many people would have chosen one or the other, Ryan chose both, despite the two not being compatible. This ultimately led to anger and frustration when his sexual needs surfaced, which he then took out on other homosexuals. Indeed, the fact that he skewered some of his victims through the anus indicates that homosexuality was on his mind during the bludgeoning’s.
What significance for Ryan was there in choosing to be a model?
Ryan wanted to be the centre of the attention, choosing occupations such as modelling and serial killing to quench his thirst for admiration and attention. Modelling can be viewed as a somewhat narcissistic and self-obsessed occupation, with narcissism being a trait often found in serial killers. Ryan’s behaviour both before and after his arrest show some unprecedented narcissism.
He seems to have had a troubled relationship with his mother. He claimed she had affairs during his childhood and even had sex with her daughter’s husband, a middle-aged policeman. And yet he donated the proceeds from sales of his autobiography to her. How did this strange relationship affect him and his actions?
This is where Ryan was like the rest of the human race – regardless of the turbulent relationship he had with his mother, there was an innate bond there. Ryan clearly wanted to please his mother and be accepted by her. This is indicated not only by him donating the proceeds of his autobiography but also in his intention to marry a woman to fulfil his mother’s wishes.
Ryan’s relationship with his mother is extremely complex and is likely to have contributed to the man we see today. Ryan mixed sex with pain in his killings, just as sex and pain was linked in his childhood when he likely felt pain as a result of his mother’s promiscuity. Sex and pain merged for Ryan, which had drastic consequences.
Sex seems to have had a very real presence in his family life – when he was young, he caught his dad having sex with his mum’s sister. How does exposure to sex and infidelity like this effect young people and Ryan in particular?
It has become more widely accepted that exposing children to sex is, in effect, child sexual abuse. Just as being sexually abused physically in childhood has a lasting psychological impact, so does exposure to adult sexual behaviour. Indeed, research has found that it can even have similar effects to more severe sexual abuse, including depression, fearfulness, and nightmares. Ryan grew up where infidelity was the norm, as was the pain that often comes with infedility.
Ryan would meet men in bars, etc. and invite them home. But when they made a move on him, he’d fly into a rage and kill them. How can we understand this sequence of events? Why would he pick someone up only to kill them when things got too intimate?
Ryan wanted to be the one in control, the one to make the move. It is likely that he had a very clear plan in his mind of how the evening would unravel, and when these men made the first intimate move, they destroyed his vision. This ultimately sent Ryan into an uncontrollable rage which would become the downfall of these men.
He skewered some of male victims anally with a crow bar. Why would he have chosen this way to kill people?
Ryan’s aggressive and sexual feelings were entangled to the extent that they merged into one. It is likely that he needed aggression to feel sexual and that when he felt sexual this would trigger his aggression. This could also be related to his religion and the fact that homosexuality is seen as a sin and a crime in Islam. Ryan was easing himself of his own sins by punishing the area of homosexual pleasure.
Since being in prison, he’s written an autobiography and released albums of pop songs. What does this say about Ryan?
Just as Ryan wanted to be the centre of attention when he was not in prison, hence his modelling, even in prison he continues his pursuit for fame. Ryan takes narcissism to a new level – he doesn’t want to just be known, but he wants to be loved as well – whether that be for his writing, his music, or his looks.
And why do members of the public buy his records and his books? What does it say about them?
We are naturally fascinated by people like Ryan and any insight at all into their mind is difficult to resist. By buying Ryan’s book and music, the public are giving Ryan exactly what he wants, but the public don’t see this in their desperate efforts to understand Ryan through his writing and music.