Lamb: From Psycho to Hero (Part 2 of 3)
Upon trial, Mathew Charles Lamb was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He was committed for six years at the Penetanguishene Mental Health Centre’s Oak Ridge facility. Elliot Barker, the head of Oak Ridge’s therapeutic division, had already interviewed Lamb in 1966 and spoken on his behalf at his trial. Following his arrival in January 1967, Lamb enthusiastically took part and thrived in Barker’s new programmes, becoming, the Montreal Gazette writes, “a model inmate”.
Lamb made exponential progress, having positive interactions among other inmates, being helpful, and eventually being someone the other patients looked up to. Barker elaborated on this subject in an interview with the Windsor Star, telling them that during 1972 Lamb had been “one of the most respected therapists in the hospital”. Lamb started his own newspaper at Oak Ridge, and was over time allowed to accompany Barker and his colleagues to lectures at Ontario Police College in Aylmer, where they introduced him as evidence of rehabilitation’s potential.
After about five years, he issue of Lamb’s liberty became the decision of a five-man Advisory Review Board. The advisory board’s recommendation that Lamb be released was approved by the Ontario Executive Council in early 1973; the board gave him a clean bill of health and said he was no longer dangerous.
The conditions of Lamb’s release were that he must spend a year living with the Barker family on their 200-acre farm, under the doctor’s observation. The former inmate proved to be an industrious labourer, helping to fence the property and becoming one of the farm’s best workers. Barker and his wife came to trust Lamb so closely that he was allowed to babysit their three-year-old daughter, who became very attached to the young man. He told the doctor that he had come to terms with his condition as a psychopath and that he wished to go overseas and do something purposeful with his life. At the same time, he considered a career in the military, which Barker supported. When Egypt and Syria attacked Israel on 6 October 1973, starting the Yom Kippur War, Lamb thought he had found his calling – using money he had saved from his labourer’s salary and gifts from his grandmother, he bought Israel Bonds and, with Barker’s encouragement, travelled to Israel to volunteer for the front. However, after hitch-hiking to the Israeli lines, Lamb became disillusioned by conversations he had with the soldiers there, many of whom were loath to fight and wanted to go home.He applied anyway, but was turned down because of his psychiatric history.He resolved to instead tour the world, and to that end left Israel days after arriving, intending to travel to Australia.
See how this turn-around story ends in the final installment.