A Mother’s Seduction of Her Gay Son Killed Her
The dark reality behind the glamorous facade of socialite and model Barbara Daly Baekeland
There are a plethora of true crime cases depicted in blogs, films and documentaries. As a society, we have allowed this obsession with the macabre to blossom, which has caused mass desensitization to crime in general. Stories of murder, kidnapping and assault have become so normalised that we no longer become shocked by them. However, there are some stories that are so obscene that they stick in your mind and this is one of them.
Barbara Daly Baekeland was born in 1921, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. When she was 11-years-old, her father committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning, yet he tried to make this look like an accident so his family could benefit from his life insurance money. After they successfully obtained the money, Barbara and her mother moved to New York City, where they took up residence in a hotel.
Already, Barbara had experienced a traumatic event very early on in life, which was catalysed by her mother’s mental instability and tendency to experience mental breakdowns. Similar to her mother, Barbara exhibited erratic behaviour herself, which would only increase later in life.
Barbara grew up to be a beautiful young woman, being labelled as one of New York’s top ten most beautiful women at the time. A socialite and model for both Vogue and Harpers Bazaar, Barbara was living a glamorous and exciting lifestyle.
After being invited for a screen test in Hollywood, she befriended Cornelia Baekeland, who introduced Barbara to her younger brother Brooks, the grandson of Leo Baekeland, the inventor of Bakelite plastic.
The two instantly hit it off, yet in her efforts to lock down the relationship and marry him, she pretended to be pregnant with Brooks’ son. The deception worked, and the two married, making Barbara the heir to the Bakelite plastics fortune. Her marriage only increased her social status, and the two, living on the New York Upper East Side, arranged magnificent parties and dinners, which hosted guests such as Tennesee Williams and Greta Garbo.
In 1946, the pair gave birth to a son, Anthony.
From then onwards, as Anthony was growing up, the family maintained their apartment in New York, whilst mostly living in Europe. Still living a wildly luxurious lifestyle, the family rented villas in London, Paris and Italy where they hosted parties and both engaged in affairs.
At one party in Paris, Brooks met a diplomat’s daughter who was fifteen years younger, which caused him to ask his wife for a divorce. Completely distraught with her husband’s request, Barbara attempted to commit suicide, which made Brooks end the affair and stay with her.
In 1967, Anthony now 20-years-old, who was residing in both Switzerland and Spain, met Jake Cooper, a bisexual man. The pair began an affair, where Cooper introduced young Anthony to drugs. Hearing of this affair and her son’s debaucherous lifestyle, Barbara drove to Spain to bring her son back to Switzerland under her watch, yet at the French border, Anthony was found not to have a passport, which caused both him and his mother to end up in jail.
Both returned to Spain, and Anthony began another affair with a girl Sylvie, which pleased his mother who was uncomfortable with his homosexuality. In fitting with his adulterous behaviour, Brooks began an affair with Sylvie, which caused Barbara to once again attempt suicide.
Fed up with her mental instability, Brooks divorced Barbara and married young Sylvie with whom he had a child.
This caused Barbara to decline into a deep depression and tried yet another suicide attempt.
Living with her son in London, she became increasingly unhappy with his sexuality and attempted to ‘fix’ him by forcing him to have sex with female prostitutes. Barbara allegedly said to her sister-in-law “you know, I could get Tony over his homosexuality if I just took him to bed.”
After many attempts at matching Anthony with various women in her desperation to see him married, she began seducing him in the hopes that he would become heterosexual.
Perhaps being plagued with loneliness and the trauma of her own mental decline, caused Barbara to repeatedly force her son into having sexual relations with herself. Anthony, who showed schizophrenic and paranoid behaviours, spiralled out of control under the toxic conditions in which he lived.
In 1972, he finally snapped and tried to push her into traffic outside of their Chelsea penthouse. He failed in his attempt to kill her, as he was too physically weak to overpower her. He was subsequently arrested, yet his mother refused to press charges. Anthony was admitted to the Priory psychiatric hospital, however, was released shortly after.
He continued to have sessions with a psychiatrist at home and the doctor became increasingly worried for his mental state and became concerned that he may attempt to harm his mother again. He told Barbara of his concerns, yet she dismissed them.
Dismissing the doctor’s concerns became a grave error for Barbara, when two weeks later, Anthony stabbed her to death with a kitchen knife. When the police arrived, Anthony was seemingly unphased, ordering a Chinese takeaway at the time.
He confessed to the murder and was imprisoned in Broadmoor, a high-security psychiatric institution in Berkshire, England.
The most troubling part of this case is what led Anthony to the murder. He was tormented through his life, being raised by parents who had no respect for each other or him. Beneath the glamour and wealth, there was a family who was deeply destructive, and toxic.
His mother’s attempts to curb his homosexuality went way beyond what normally occurred. Not only did she openly disagree with his lifestyle and identity, yet she forced him to have sex with women, which is very much classed as sexual assault.
A young man, struggling to accept who he was, must have been emotionally scarred by the sexual experiences which he was forced into by his own mother, a woman expected to protect and care for him.
However, this only got worse, when the forced sexual encounters were with his own mother.
Struggling with mental health issues and the harmful environment that he was living in, it is no shock that Anthony finally snapped. His first attempt at trying to rid himself of his abuser should have caused him to be institutionalised for much longer, yet the lack of help he received ensured that he would act again.
It is important to note, that this case was not simply a young man who killed his mother, it was someone who saw no way out from his abuse other than to kill the woman who had repeatedly raped him.
Anthony’s trauma is not a justification for murder, yet it makes his actions understandable. He was living in a family that was expected to adhere to a certain image, and his homosexuality meant that he deviated from expectation. His mother’s mental instability coupled with her depraved incestuous abuse ensured that Anthony grew up to be greatly troubled young man, who murdered his mother as a way out of his detrimental situation.
This case proves the harmful effects of a cycle of mental disorders that were left untreated, and how this trauma can be passed down through a family. Had Barbara not experienced her father’s suicide and the instability of her mother, she may not have acted the way she did with her own son.
Unfortunately, Anthony was at the bottom of the chain of untreated mental illness and capricious family environments which caused him to break down and succumb to murder.