But at what price? Some people will stop at nothing... No-one likes to feel wronged. But, for some, the desire for payback ends in sickening violence. Here we examine three of the most shocking revenge crimes ever...
UK: Cumbra killing spree
On a sunny summer’s morning in June 2010, the usually mild- mannered Derrick Bird went on a gun rampage in Cumbria, killing 12 people, injuring 11 others and, finally, shooting himself. Some of the 52-year-old taxi driver’s victims were innocent bystanders. Others were targets.
Bird had set out from his house with a double-barrelled, sawn-off shotgun and a .22 rifle. His first victims were his twin brother, David, and their family solicitor, Kevin Commons, 60, who he wrongly believed were plotting to send him to prison for tax evasion.
Next were fellow taxi drivers who’d taunted him over his bald head and dishevelled clothes.
Just days before the killing spree, Bird had warned another cabbie that the lads who’d been insulting him were going to ‘get it big-style’. Darren Rewcastle, 43, was the first. Bird pulled up at the taxi rank in Whitehaven, beckoned him over, then shot him in the face and stomach.
He died where he fell.
Bird also shot and injured three other cabbies – Donald Reid, Terence Kennedy and Paul Wilson. After that, Bird began firing indiscriminately at passers-by before finally driving to nearby woods and shooting himself in the head.
At an inquest into the deaths, psychologist Dr Adrian West said that the ‘bitter and resentful’ Bird blamed society for his own shortcomings, and took revenge rather than just killing himself.
Switzerland: Grief-crazed murderer
When his wife, Svetlana, 42, and two children, Konstantin, 10, and Diana, 4, died in a plane crash, Vitaly Kaloyev’s world fell apart.
They were among the 71 people killed in July 2002, when a Russian charter plane ploughed into a cargo plane over the Swiss-German border.
Kaloyev was the first relative at the scene, and found his daughter’s body in trees. Konstantin’s body was found in front of a bus shelter, and Svetlana’s, days later, in a field of maize.
Speaking just after the tragedy, he said: ‘I cannot live any more. I simply cannot exist.’
Grief-stricken, Kaloyev stopped work, and turned the family home into a shrine.
Crash investigators found that Peter Nielsen, an air-traffic controller on duty that night, hadn’t been told the collision- avoidance system was faulty. He’d only managed to give the pilots 43 seconds warning before they collided mid-air.
But Kaloyev blamed Nielsen, and, on 24 February 2004, he turned up at Nielsen’s house in Zurich. After a brief argument, Kaloyev pulled out a knife and stabbed Nielsen repeatedly in the chest in front of his family before running away. Nielsen died within minutes.
In court, Kaloyev insisted he hadn’t intended to kill Nielsen. His lawyer claimed he’d had an emotional blackout. But he was found guilty of premeditated killing, and sentenced to eight years in prison, later reduced to five-and-a-quarter after a ruling of diminished responsibility.
USA: Avenger with a makeshift tattoo gun
Anthony Stockelman arrived at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility in Sullivan County, Indiana in 2005. After pleading guilty to abducting, molesting and drowning 10-year- old Katie Collman, he was the lowest of the low in the prison hierarchy.
What Stockelman didn’t know was that he was locked up with Katie’s cousin, Jared Harris, 22, who was himself serving 20 years for burglary.
When Harris was moved to the same wing as Stockelman in September 2006, he seized his chance to avenge his cousin’s murder.
Slipping into Stockelman’s cell, he put his right hand around his throat and warned: ‘I’m either gonna stick you… or I’m going to tattoo you.’
Using a makeshift tattoo gun fashioned from a cassette deck motor and a guitar string, he inked the words ‘Katie’s revenge’ in large letters right across Stockelman’s forehead.
Harris admitted the attack without remorse, telling prison officers he thought the tattoo was a ‘good job’. He had seven years added to his original sentence.
Stockelman was removed from the general prison population for his own safety, and had treatment to remove the tattoo.
But, for Katie’s family, the horror of what he did will never be erased.
So what drives some people to exact their revenge? Consultant forensic psychologist, Dr Ruth Tully, explains…
‘Many people who feel wronged in some way have thoughts of revenge, but most people don’t act these out. For those who cause serious harm, the need to “get back” at someone can be a powerful and personal motivator. The perceived need for revenge can magnify emotions so that the violence becomes gratuitous or sadistic, with the perpetrator more easily able to overlook victim distress. Revenge violence can be an act of emotional expression, or the perpetrator seeking to restore balance or justice to the world.’