As soon as I read of the case of Sami Salem, who last year was jailed for murdering his wife and two children in a state of extreme paranoia, I knew there would be cannabis involved, and that I would probably find it mentioned not in the reports of his conviction or sentencing, but in earlier reports in the local newspaper, in this case the Liverpool Echo, of the trial itself. I was right on both counts.
Anyone who browsed the news on or around 20 April last year may have read of Mr Salem’s conviction for suffocating his wife, drowning their two children and attempting to commit suicide at their Liverpool flat on 30 May 2017: the BBC mentioned in its headline that the flat was once inhabited by John Lennon; the Daily Mail also noted the famous flat, and that the ‘schizophrenic’ Mr Salem saw ‘a black entity and tall chimpanzees’; the Daily Mirror quoted Mr Salem’s brother, who said that he had been paranoid “for weeks” before the murders; and the Liverpool Echo reported Mr Salem’s claim that an ‘evil midget’ told him to slaughter his family. None of them, though, cited Mr Salem’s consumption of cannabis, despite the fact that this featured at least 15 times in the trial, including in such statements as, “When he [Salem] was at that health unit he indicated that he drank alcohol and he indicated he used cannabis, and he was told using cannabis could affect how he felt and his mental health”, ‘Salem told him [his GP] he had been smoking one and a half grams of cannabis a day until a couple of days previously, when he attended the Royal Liverpool Hospital to see the crisis team’ and, from GP Dr Oliver Lutte, “I believed Salem’s cannabis intake was the main source of his symptoms.” In addition, it was also noted during the trial that Mr Salem once received a caution for possession of cannabis and a knife.
To be fair to the aforementioned news outlets, they may have been influenced by Dr Mohammad Rahman, a consultant forensic psychiatrist, who when asked during the trial if alcohol or cannabis had any part to play in the murder said, “Not in my opinion”. Then again, they may simply be indifferent to the possibility that there is a link between Mr Salem’s many years of regular cannabis consumption and his act of psychopathic violence, and that this is much more relevant than the fact that the murder took place in the former flat of a famous pop star, who, as it happens, strongly supported the decriminalisation of marijuana and once, with his fellow band members, financed a full-page ad in the Times calling for this to happen.
The account of the trial can be found here: Sami Salem who suffocated wife and drowned kids to be sentenced for murder – updates from court