Charles Manson: Old and grey but the eyes betray a mass killer

Californian prison authorities yesterday released this picture of Charles Manson. Picture: AP Photos
Californian prison authorities yesterday released this picture of Charles Manson. Picture: AP Photos
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HIS grey hair is long and unkempt and deep furrows punctuate the weary visage of an old man. But behind the cold eyes and swastika tattoo on the forehead there is no mistaking one of America’s most notorious serial killers.

This new photograph of Charles Manson offers a rare glimpse at the face of the mass-murderer more than four decades after he led a band of Satanist followers on a bloody rampage that killed at least nine people. Now 77, Manson remains in jail in California, with little hope of release at a parole board hearing scheduled for next Wednesday.

Yet the new picture, released by prison authorities in California ahead of the hearing, shows a markedly changed Manson from the last image of him from 2009, in which the top of his head was shaved and he appeared much less dishevelled.

“He looks a lot different,” said Terry Thornton, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections.

Manson has been turned down for parole 11 times since he was given the death penalty in 1971, a sentence later commuted to life in prison.

The most famous victim of the Manson “family” was actress Sharon Tate, the wife of Hollywood director Roman Polanski, who was eight-and-a-half months pregnant when she was hacked and stabbed to death along with several friends at a Los Angeles mansion in summer 1969.

Manson has never expressed any remorse for the killings, which were followed the next night by another murderous rampage to the Los Angeles home of supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife, who were slaughtered with a bayonet, carving fork and a steak knife.

Five years ago, Manson refused to attend his most recent parole hearing, claiming that he was “a prisoner of the political system” and spurned psychological evaluations to determine his state of mental health.

In a unanimous decision that was almost a formality, the parole board rejected his application. “[Manson] continues to pose an unreasonable danger to others and may still bring harm to anyone he would come in contact with,” the board wrote.

Patrick Sequeira, the Los Angeles deputy district attorney, said that Manson had also rejected all of the rehabilitation programmes offered to him.

“He refused to co-operate, so the conclusion they drew from the reports is he still remains a danger to the public,” Mr Sequeira said in an interview at the time. “He was convicted of nine horrible murders. He has expressed no remorse or empathy for any of the victims.”

Since that 2007 hearing, Manson has been far from a model prisoner. Prison officials described “a laundry list of violations,” including threatening an officer, having a sharpened pen as a weapon and possession of two smuggled mobile phones.

The brutality of the Manson family murders shocked the nation and at his trial it was revealed that he had also personally killed musician Gary Hinman and actor and stuntman Donald Shea, two former followers, slicing off the ear of one with a sword.

A religious fanatic, Manson exerted total control over his rag-tag collection of hippies, extremists and dropouts whom he organised at a commune in the Los Angeles hills into an armed and dangerous cult.

The killings were part of the group’s plan for “Helter Skelter”, which they believed was an inevitable and apocalyptic race war between blacks and whites. The name came from a track on The Beatles’ recently released White Album, by which Manson was heavily influenced.