Welcome to “What the Killer Sees”, a new fortnightly column for Back to Frank Black. Each instalment will consider one of the antagonists from a Millennium storyline and offer a brief exploration of their psychology. Part profile, part examination of the investigation and wider story told involving that character, it will delve into the disturbing details of the crimes that Frank Black investigates and the very insights into their grisly detail that are his defining gift and curse.
Be sure to check the blog on alternate Fridays from now on for a new profile, and please feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions in the comments section.
This opening profile is perhaps an apt one for the column’s premiere as we explore the very genesis of a killer…
Killer: Willi Borgsen (Van Quattro)
Episode: “Broken World” (2 May 1997)
Writers: Robert Moresco & Patrick Harbinson
Director: Winrich Kolbe
Quote: “His only source of feeling alive is his urge for sexual pleasure. His paraphilia has now defined it. It intoxicates and terrifies him. He’s standing at an abyss and he’s hesitating.” –Frank Black
Profile: Willi Borgsen becomes a psychosexually motivated killer before our eyes. We quickly learn that he has killed over twenty horses in the space of two-and-a-half years. It is a well-established pattern that many killers will have abused or killed animals in their formative years; this displays characteristics such as a lack of empathy or remorse that form part of a cluster of traits that define their psychopathology. We will begin to understand, though, that Willi Borgsen’s repeat attacks upon horses hold a far deeper significance.
Borgsen’s assault on Sally Dumont represents an escalation in his activities, since for the first time he has held a person within his power. He chooses not to kill her, but writes “HELP” at the scene in blood, plus semen is found in a nearby stable stall. Frank and Peter Watts explain that he would have been both excited and terrified by this encounter, hence these contrasting reactions. He also takes Sally’s bridle from the scene and Frank surmises that he fantasises using it on her. As such the removal of the bridle represents a souvenir to Borgsen: a reminder of the experience and a signature element of behaviour that hints at his motivation. A souvenir of this kind is distinct from a trophy, which is more of a symbol of true victory or conquest.
It is also noted that this close call will act to expand the sexual fantasy of Borgsen. His first kill, though, is borne more out of necessity to prevent his detection, which then turns to frustration and rage; his victim is of the “wrong” gender and there are no horses involved and hence it does not satisfy him. It is not uncommon for serial killers to refine their methods and explore their own desires in this way through their early kills. The next time, though, Borgsen gets it “right”.
His victim is Mary Ann Wright, a local woman known to him. Here he finally gets to act out his fantasy, recognising his paraphilia – a term for an obsessive mode of sexual expression dependent upon a socially unacceptable stimulus – for what it is in the process. Borgsen this time scrawls the words “THANK YOU” on a wall at the scene and goes on to contact Frank Black by phone. He asks him what may happen next, signifying both a growing confidence as a killer and yet a lack of full understanding of quite who he is and of what he is capable.
The link to horses seems to be one of jealousy of the attention that women bestow upon them. The suggestion is that horses are a girl’s “first love” and that they have thus cut him off from sexual intimacy with women, however we never come to know for certain the full details that might explain the genesis of Borgsen’s psychopathology and thus drive his behaviour.
Investigation: Frank Black first becomes involved in the case due to concern that this criminal has moved from solely hurting animals to injuring a person and will escalate further from there. He sees this as a unique opportunity to prevent the killings before they start. The spate of horse killings are soon linked by their geographical spread and a common modus operandi.
Frank attempts to reach out to Borgsen, hoping that the revulsion that he still feels at this stage towards his own actions and desires will prompt him to make contact. Peter Watts’ fears are borne out, however, since the ensuing phone conversations ultimately serve only to validate and empower Borgsen and he soon kills twice.
From an examination of certain aspects of his modus operandi, Frank determines a likelihood that the killer works in a slaughterhouse and used to live on a farm that bred horses. Cross-referencing the first horse killings with the closure of the Borgsen farm leads the investigation to Willi, narrowly preventing him from killing a third time and an extended career of sadistically motivated murders.