Timid gardener dogged by years of mental turmoil
SUSPECTED gunman Thomas Mair confessed to feeling ‘socially isolated and disconnected from society’ as a result of long-term mental illness, it emerged last night.
Finding solace through volunteer work as a gardener, he was regarded as a quiet but friendly loner by neighbours on the estate on a hill above the murder scene where he had lived since childhood.
Best-known for cutting his elderly residents’ lawns, there was shock at his arrest yesterday among relatives and neighbours of the ‘timid’ 52-year- old they called Tommy or Tom.
Friends said Mair had never shown any interest in politics or the EU referendum. But he regularly helped his mother Mary, 69, who last night told friends she feels responsible for what he is alleged to have done. ‘She’s blaming herself,’ one said. ‘I told her she can’t blame herself, she can’t be responsible for other people’s actions, but she is. She’s devastated.’ At home last night, Mrs Mair said: ‘I don’t understand it, I just don’t understand.’
Duane St Louis, age 41, the suspect’s half-brother, said Mair had obsessive compulsive disorder and cleaned himself with Brillo pads because he was ‘obsessed with his personal hygiene’. Speaking from his home in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, he added: ‘He’s never expressed any views about Britain, or politics or racist tendencies. I’m mixed race and I’m his half-brother, we got on well. He never married. The only time I remember him having a girlfriend was as a young man, but a mate stole her off him. He said that put him off [women] for life.’
He added: ‘It feels like a dream that I want to wake up from. I couldn’t believe it when I saw a picture of him on the news in handcuffs.’
Mair’s brother Scott said: ‘He has a history of mental illness, but he has had help. My brother is not violent and is not all that political. I don’t even know who he votes for.’
The only possible clue to Mair’s political leanings yesterday was that his name and address appear on a list of former subscribers to an anti-ANC pro-white South African magazine.
Otherwise the focus appeared to be on his lengthy struggle with mental illness.
In 2010 the alleged gunman had spoken to a local newspaper of how volunteering at a park near his home on the Fieldhouse estate in Birstall had helped improve his mental health.
‘I can honestly say it has done me more good than all the psychotherapy and medication in the world,’ he told The Huddersfield Daily Examiner.
‘Many people who suffer from mental illness are socially isolated and disconnected from society, feelings of worthlessness are also common mainly caused by long-term unemployment. All these problems are alleviated by doing voluntary work.’
Mair also volunteered several times a week at a special school in Dewsbury.
Neighbours at the semidetached council house that has been his home since childhood said he had lived there alone since his grandmother died about 20 years ago. David Pickles, 62, said: ‘ He would cut a lot of the older residents’ grass around here or tend their gardens. He never mentioned politics. He’s a man of few words. The only things he ever spoke to me about were gardening and the weather. He keeps himself to himself.’
Fellow neighbour Katherine Cooke, 62, said Mair had walked past her house at 12.20pm yesterday. ‘He looked same as he always does,’ she said. ‘The only difference was, he had a rucksack on.’
Mair regularly helped his mother bringing shopping to her Batley home and helping in the garden.
One neighbour said: ‘He doted on his mum, he was round here twice a week bringing her shopping and things. He was devoted to her.’ Another added: ‘He was a lovely lad. This is completely out of character.’
‘He only ever spoke about gardening’