Ryan Henyansyah confessed to the murders of eleven people. And then recorded an album of pop music while on death row.
His autobiography, The Untold Story of Ryan, caused a media sensation when it was published. Impromptu a cappella performances of the songs from his debut album draw cheers and applause. He has his own action doll.
But even in the crazy world of celebrity, Ryan Henyansyah’s story is unusual.
He didn’t won the X Factor or Big Brother…he’s not a Hollywood star.
He’s a convicted murderer.
To catch a glimpse of him, his fans have to queue up outside the Kesambi Penitentiary in Indonesia where he’s being kept on death row. Most of his victims were gay men. Stabbed, bludgeoned, cut up, even skewered anally with a crowbar. He also confessed to the murder of a young woman he thought fancied him, and her toddler.
All of them buried hurriedly in his parents’ back garden.
Ryan Henyansyah was born in 1978, in a rural part of Indonesia.
Throughout his school years was committed to Islam, Indonesia’s main religion. He even taught the Koran to younger boys at a Sunday school.
But Ryan was living a lie. He was having a sexual relationship with his own Koran teacher.
His home life was just as complicated.
In his autobiography, Ryan describes how his mother had many affairs during his childhood, and even had sex with her daughter’s husband.
His mother’s prominent sexuality may have had a major impact on the young man. As did the fact he caught his father having relations with his mother’s sister.
From an early age, sex and emotional pain were linked in Ryan’s mind.
And by his early twenties, Ryan was struggling to come to terms with being gay.
He decided to stop teaching the Koran.
He stated modelling instead. And he started visiting gay bars.
But underneath the good-looking, confident smile, he was still a young man who couldn’t reconcile his sexuality with his firm religious beliefs.
‘They made me feel cheap,’ he said of his gay victims. ‘I hated their acts.’
It is that hatred that led him to murder.
Some of his victims he’d met through the gay scene. When these men made a move on him, or on his boyfriend at the time, Ryan would see red.
Of eleven victims, one was a woman. She, too, had made the mistake of trying to seduce Ryan. Ryan killed her toddler, too.
The more he killed, the more violent he became.
His later victims suffered the agony and indignity of Ryan buggering them with a crowbar.
The last was cut into seven pieces and left along a busy roadside.
When the police found the dismembered body parts, their investigations led them to Ryan. And to the remains of ten other people he’d buried in his parents’ garden under the cover of darkness.
Ryan Henyansyah was found guilty of that last murder in 2008 and sentenced to death.
He soon confessed to the ten other killings.
But Ryan’s story wasn’t over yet.
While in prison, he wrote his autobiography.
‘I don’t want people to know only my bad side,’ he explained to interviewers when the book was released.
For many, Ryan Henyansyah is a narcissist, driven solely by his need for attention.
But no one can deny he’s achieved fame. His book and his pop album, My Last Performance, have seen to that.
Many ordinary people buy his books and listen to his music.
Ryan is in prison to this day, awaiting execution.
Is it possible to ever really understand a man like Ryan Henyansyah?
Are his book and CD a way for him to reach out to us and to be understood? Or is he a man desperate to understand himself?
And will that understanding come before it’s too late?
For his victims and their families, it already is.