On 20 February 2015, teenager Becky Watts went missing from her home in Bristol, south-west England. While her father and stepmother issued appeals on Facebook and carried out press-conferences appealing for any information, the country prayed this young girl would be found safe and well. Twelve days later, after a confession by her own stepbrother, the dismembered body of 16-year-old Becky was found hidden in a garden shed just miles from her home.
Becky Watts had been brutally murdered by her stepbrother Nathan Matthews and his girlfriend, Shauna Hoare, inside her bedroom the night before she was reported missing. Two individuals who then went to extreme lengths to conceal their crime and their guilt in trying to ensure her body would never be found.
Both Becky’s stepbrother and his girlfriend went on trial for murder with the nation asking how two young adults who appeared so normal and ordinary could conspire together to carry out such a brutal killing. While Nathan Matthews quickly admitted he had killed his sister, Shauna Hoare denied any knowledge of the murder or the gruesome aftermath.
Their six-year relationship on the surface appeared to be a healthy connection between two people who had chosen to spend their lives together. In reality, bubbling under the radar, 28-year old Nathan Matthews, who had a history of depression and anxiety, had an obsession with teenage schoolgirls, spending hours watching graphic videos and looking at images all depicting teenage girls being kidnapped, assaulted, and engaging in sexual activity with men.
Shauna Hoare was 21 years old and had been dating Nathan Matthews since she was 15. She not only knew about his obsession but actively discussed it with him, sending him messages about spotting the ‘perfect school girl’ they could kidnap, watching equally graphic footage on her own mobile phone. These were two individuals who shared a sinister interest, and their fantasies were evolving.
Becky Watts lived with her father, Darren Galsworthy, and her stepmother, Angie Galsworthy, Nathan Mathew’s mother, who had been together since Becky was three years old. Nathan Matthews no longer lived in the family home but had moved into a flat a few miles away with Shauna Hoare. Nathan had expressed anger towards Becky at how he felt she treated his mother and didn’t respect the rules of the household.
On that fateful day, while Becky’s father and stepmother were out, Matthews and Hoare arrived at Becky’s home. With them they brought a stun gun, handcuffs, masks and tape and ensured they reversed their car into the driveway, placing the boot of the car next to the front door. In between Becky texting her boyfriend just after 11 am that morning and her stepmother arriving home 12.45pm, Becky was murdered inside her bedroom. Becky Watts fought for her life as she was strangled. Her body battered and bruised as she was stripped naked after her death and repeatedly stabbed, sustaining up to 40 separate injuries.
Matthews then took her body down the stairs and out into his car. Angie Galsworthy returned to her home unaware of the horror that had gone on in her absence, oblivious to the fact that her son had just murdered her step-daughter and her body was lying just feet away outside the front door in the boot of his car.
Although Matthews claims Hoare had nothing to do with the murder, she was at the house that morning and remained there with Matthews for the rest of the afternoon. The next day as Becky was reported missing, Matthews took the day off work, and as CCTV footage shows, he purchased a circular saw from a local hardware store. Evidence suggests that Becky’s body was dismembered using that saw in Matthews and Hoare’s bathroom over that weekend. Matthews severed Becky’s head, her limbs and her torso, wrapping each part up in plastic bags and cling film before putting them into suitcases and rucksacks.
On the evening of 23 February, Matthews asked his friend, Karl Demetrius, to help him move suitcases and black bags from his home and into Demetrius’s garden shed. Demetrius and his girlfriend insist they had no idea these items contained body parts of Matthew’s missing stepsister.
Matthews and Hoare were the last ones to see Becky Watts alive, and their evasion of police and suspicious behaviour led to their arrest on 28 February 2015 for kidnapping Becky. Hoare told police Becky had left the family home on the day she disappeared while Matthews simply replied no comment to all questions.
While they were in custody, police forensic teams found Becky’s blood on the door frame of her bedroom mixed in with Nathan Matthews fingerprints. Three days later, both Matthews and Hoare were rearrested, this time on charges of murder.
“When I close my eyes to sleep I see Becky’s death over and over again. I hear her cry and see her terror, and then her realisation they are not going to stop. I feel her heart racing and I am all too powerless to help her. Becky never stood a chance.” – Darren Galsworthy
Folie à deux
There have been many high profile cases of criminal duos including Fred and Rose West, a married couple from Herefordshire in the West Midlands who kidnapped, tortured and killed ten women and girls, two of which were their own daughters, from the early 70’s to late 80’s. Canadian couple Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka were another couple who first drugged, raped and killed Karla’s younger sister before killing up to four other young women before they were caught in 1993. In both of these cases, a couple turned to murder, feeding off each other as they identified victims and carried out their torturous acts. Both Fred West and Paul Bernardo had been active sexual predators before they found their perfect partners in Rose West and Karla Homolka. Partners who would not only join their fantasies but enjoy pushing them forward and playing their own roles in these women’s subsequent deaths.
In the case of Nathan Matthews and Shauna Hoare, leading Criminologist Professor David Wilson has suggested the pair may have a been suffering from ‘Folie à deux’, otherwise known as shared psychotic disorder, a very rare condition where a delusional belief is transferred from one individual to one or more others. For such a disorder to exist between two people, there must be an ‘intimate emotional association’ between them in the first place, and therefore it is commonly seen in husband-wife relationships.
One individual has the delusion originally, and this is then shared with another person, either in its entirely or only in part. The pair then operates together within this delusion, both believing the same things. Social isolation felt by the primary person is thought to be a key factor in such a disorder developing. It has also been seen within parent and child relationships and between siblings, although research on the condition is scarce due to its rarity.
Once arrested for murder, Matthews quickly confessed to killing Becky. He claimed he had intended only to ‘teach her a lesson’, frighten her to make her realise her behaviour towards his mother and stepfather was not acceptable. It was a kidnap plan which went too far he claims, saying he had no intention of killing her. Throughout his confessions, he repeatedly argued that Shauna Hoare was not part of the kidnap plot or the murder that resulted and she ‘had nothing to do with it’.
Shauna Hoare stuck with her statement that she believed Becky Watts had left the house that morning. When told of Matthew’s confession she said she was ‘shocked and sickened’, and she had no idea he had murdered Becky while she was downstairs or that he had dismembered her body in the bathroom of their home. These are claims which the jury did not believe during her trial.
“The pair carried out their macabre plan which resulted in the murder of Becky. They took her body back to their home and began the horrific and grotesque task of dismembering her. It is virtually impossible to comprehend this level of depravity.” – Det Supt Mike Courtiour
Shauna Hoare suggests that Matthews was domineering in the relationship often resulting in domestic violence. Hoare testified that Matthews was both verbally and physically abusive to her and she was often scared of him. How true these details are is questionable considering this is Hoare’s testimony, and defence, after she has been arrested for murder. Through these statements she is blaming Matthews for the killing and the gruesome aftermath, suggesting any involvement that people may think she had was due to his controlling behaviour and that she really had no choice in the matter. A defence of Folie à deux or similar was not put forward in her trial.
The prosecution argued that it was Hoare in fact who was the controlling one in the relationship taking advantage of Matthews fragile state of mental health. They claimed she was the ‘mastermind’ behind Becky’s murder and covering it up and was far from the innocent unwilling participant in which she claimed.
Folie à deux came up in the trial of Brian Mitchell and Wanda Barzee, the married couple who kidnapped Elizabeth Smart from Utah in 2002. Mitchell thought he was a prophet from God and his wife believed this was true. Mitchells writings suggest Smart was abducted to be his second wife.
Barzee was repeatedly found incompetent to stand trial and was diagnosed with Folie à deux on her relationship with her husband. Although she did not pursue an insanity defence using this diagnosis as would be expected, instead she pleaded guilty in 2009 to kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines to engage in sexual activity. Brian Mitchell was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole and Wanda Barzee to 15 years behind bars for their crimes.
For Folie à deux to be in place, the second individual needs to be susceptible to the suggestions of the first, and be a personality which tends to follow others and be quite suggestible. Hoare claims she was intimidated, frightened and controlled by Matthews as he had a temper, was very jealous and could be unpredictable. Is this a person who has been swept up in the delusion of her partner or a battered woman who goes along with Matthews as that is her role in the relationship?
Matthew’s obsession with sex and teenage school-girls was indeed picked up and embraced by Hoare in some form. Whether these were disturbed fantasies or a psychotic delusion, they were clearly shared between the two quite openly, rolling over into reality when Matthews wanted to take his thoughts out of his imagination and into real life. His preparation for kidnapping Becky, the stun gun, the tape, the handcuffs matches the graphic videos and images he and Hoare were regularly viewing. In a murder which he claims was an accident, they are a pair who remained very calm and composed after it happened. They stayed in the house with Becky’s stepmother giving nothing away, they planned and carried out a gruesome attempt to hide her body and ensure her murder would not be traced back to them.
The trial of Nathan Matthews and Shauna Hoare lasted for six weeks. Considered a sexually motivated crime, Mathews was found guilty of murder and jailed for life with a minimum of 33 years. Hoare was convicted of manslaughter and jailed for 17 years. A further two individuals were acquitted of any involvement hiding Becky’s body, while Karl Demetrius (30) and his girlfriend Jaydene Parsons were both jailed for assisting an offender by hiding Becky’s remains in their garden shed.
Whether the relationship between Nathan Matthews and Shauna Hoare can be considered as Folie à deux or not, it is clear that while Nathan Matthews may have taken the primary role in this horrific murder, Shauna Hoare is not entirely innocent of the crime. Both individuals who will now spend many years behind bars for brutally murdering a young woman who should have had her whole life ahead of her. Furthermore, they have left in their wake a mother and father who have to try and deal with their actions and somehow come to terms with the fact their son killed their daughter.