child killer | 

Boy convicted of Urantsetseg Tserendorj stab murder was a ‘ticking time bomb’

By age 13, the child was spending up to €500 a week on cocaine and cannabis

Urantsetseg Tserendorj

Clinical and Forensic Psychologist Dr Kevin Lambe. Photo: Mark Condren

Niamh HoranSunday Independent

The room was clinical white and sparse except for a small round table and heavy duty plastic chairs. On either side, there was a two-way mirror built into the wall.

Dr Kevin Lambe waited, and when the 14-year-old boy was brought in, he looked skinny and small in stature. He was dressed in high-end designer clothes, and his demeanour was “both anxious and self-assured,” according to the forensic psychologist.

“He could hold eye contact in a way that is unusual for 14-year-olds talking to an adult with authority.”

It was their first face-to-face meeting, weeks after the boy had been accused of murdering Urantsetseg Tserendorj near the IFSC, Dublin in January 2021. Dr Lambe had been hired by the boy’s defence team to carry out an psychological assessment.

By age 13 he was spending upwards of €100 a week on cannabis and €400 a week on cocaine

He met the boy met on five occasions and says “the boy took a considerable stretch and grew into a tall young man — taller than me — by our final meeting. He had his growth spurt during his period of detention in Oberstown.”

Last week the boy, now 17, received a life sentence for the murder, with a review after 13 years.

Today, Dr Lambe wants to give some understanding as to how a child can become a killer. And give his opinion on whether or not there is anything the State can do to prevent a crime like this from happening again.​

He says the boy had been a “ticking time bomb” prior to the murder. His parents were both heroin addicts. The boy was born addicted to heroin and had to be detoxed.

Clinical and Forensic Psychologist Dr Kevin Lambe. Photo: Mark Condren

His paternal grandmother decided to raise the boy as her own. She told the boy she was his mother and his granddad was his father. The boy’s biological father lived with the family, was using drugs, and was in and out of prison. The boy grew up believing this man was his brother.

When he was four years old, the boy’s grandmother let him spend the day with his real mother in order to form an emotional bond.

“Their time together ended abruptly when she was caught shop-lifting,” explains Dr Lambe.

“He was robbed of the joy and excitement of what could have been a special experience.”

Despite the setbacks, the boy “appeared to be getting on fine until age 10 or 11”. He was interested in hurling and boxing. However school was an issue.

“The first time an intellectual disability was confirmed was when I did my testing with him. This is important, because a person’s capacity to process and reason about the events of their life depends on strong cognitive abilities.”

When he was 11, he was told by other children from his local community that his mother was a “junkie” who they had seen “digging in bins”.

When she said she didn’t have any money, he stabbed her

The boy was upset and confused. He ran home and asked his grandmother if it was true — but she insisted she was his real mother.

Some time later the boy was leaving a local sports ground with friends, when his biological mother approached him and asked him for a hug.

When he refused, she slit her wrists.

“This was a significant event, as he was humiliated by the experience. Friends pulled away and he began smoking more and more cannabis.”

He stopped playing sports and began stealing bicycles and handbags to feed his habit.

By age 13 “he was spending upwards of €100 a week on cannabis and €400 a week on cocaine”.

By May 2019, his grandmother was telling Tusla she “couldn’t cope”. He began attending a community counselling centre.

In March and July 2020, he was committed to Oberstown prison for short periods.

“In order to get money for drugs sometimes he was aggressive and violent,” explains Dr Lambe. Leading up to the killing he says “he had only attended school for three days”.

On those days he fought with pupils and teachers, and was on drugs in class.

The year before the murder, Dr Lambe says, the boy cut his arms and presented as “out of control” at Temple Street children’s hospital. By the time of the murder the boy, then 14, had more than 30 convictions.

On January 20, 2021, Ms Tserendorj, a mother of two, was making her way home on foot when she was approached by the teenager who asked for money. When she said she didn’t have any, he stabbed her. She died nine days later.

Urantsetseg Tserendorj

In a victim impact statement Ms Tserendorj’s husband Ulambayer Surenkhor said “I lost my beloved wife and our children lost their mother. My health has been affected by severe mental difficulties and I have heart problems. I get unstable, lose my temper, and I just want to scream.

"She was kind and soft like my mother, and we were each other’s first loves.”

Today Dr Lambe questions whether lessons can be learned so that another family doesn’t have to go through the pain that Ms Tserendorj’s family now have to endure.

“I sometimes wonder if a ‘children’s czar’ could be appointed in these types of cases. Perhaps there could be one office to bring the different parties together, to help devise a solution and strategy as soon as violence becomes part of the picture.

"I also think early juvenile prison sentences should be longer, so a full risk-assessment of violent offenders can take place.

“When someone is sent to Oberstown, it takes a week or 10 days to settle in — then their referral might go to the team of psychologists and social workers. By the time the case is discussed and someone is appointed, it could be weeks later, and then a person has been released.

"So in cases where a young person shows any signs of violence I believe there needs to be a longer period of detention so that a full risk assessment can take place.”​

When contacted by the Sunday Independentabout the process for risk assessment of violent offenders, Oberstown said they had no comment to make.

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