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Monday, 11 June, 2001, 09:51 GMT 10:51 UK
Inside McVeigh's mind
Waco, Texas. 1993
The storming of Waco was a turning point for McVeigh
By the BBC's Robin Aitken

Timothy McVeigh saw himself as someone who struck a blow for freedom, according to the psychiatrist appointed by the court to evaluate his psychological state.


I'd say you'd like him - he's pleasant

Dr John Smith
And in the psychiatrist's opinion McVeigh could have been suffering a form of post traumatic stress disorder.

Dr John R Smith, an Oklahoma psychiatrist who has interviewed many murder suspects for the courts, spent more than 20 hours talking to McVeigh after his arrest in 1995. He gave an exclusive interview to the BBC in which he shared his insights.

Dr Smith said McVeigh was in many ways surprisingly normal - of above average intelligence and with good social skills.

"I'd say you'd like him," said Dr Smith. "He's pleasant.

"He's a real human being. He feels love. He feels anger.

"He's a young man capable of feeling great anger particularly at people or institutions that he considers to be bullies."

War

This hatred of bullies stemmed from an unhappy childhood. McVeigh's parents often argued violently which frightened the boy. In addition he was bullied at school.

Timothy McVeigh
McVeigh: Affected by Gulf War
Dr Smith said McVeigh took refuge in a fantasy world where he, as hero, would vanquish the bullies. When he was 20 McVeigh joined the army and was a successful recruit, an expert marksman and was rapidly promoted to sergeant.

He saw action in the Gulf War and on one occasion killed some Iraqi soldiers manning a machine gun.

Dr Smith told of the impact the combat had on him.

"They later went over and of course he saw the Iraqis he had killed and it was very moving to him," said Dr Smith. "Other Iraqis were coming out and surrendering.

"He went back to his armoured vehicle, sat alone, and started crying."

McVeigh discharged himself from the army and started drifting. At one point he sought help from an army veterans' mental health clinic - but they turned him down because he wanted to be counselled under an assumed name.

Revenge

In Dr Smith's opinion it was events at Waco in Texas in 1993 that were a critical turning point for the young ex-soldier. Federal agents surrounded and eventually stormed the compound of an obscure religious sect - the Branch Davidians.

About 80 people - 17 of them children - died during the confrontation.

Timothy McVeigh, 1995
McVeigh was a likeable person to meet, says Dr Smith
McVeigh, who was also deeply concerned by federal government attempts to restrict gun ownership, strongly identified with the victims at Waco. said Dr Smith. To McVeigh, the federal government became "the ultimate bully".

It was then that McVeigh conceived the plan to bomb the federal building in Oklahoma in revenge for Waco. The attack - which took place exactly two years after Waco - killed 168 people, 20 of them children.

Dr Smith said McVeigh admitted to him that he knew there were children in the building but decided to go ahead with the attack anyway because the date was too important to miss. He later described the children as "collateral damage".

While most Americans saw McVeigh as a heartless mass murderer, Dr Smith said his own self-image was that of a just warrior.

"Tim wants to be known in history as a young man who struck a blow for freedom," said Dr Smith. "I don't think his story would be complete if he did not die."

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