November 17

This Day in History

Crime

Nov 17, 1972:

A wealthy heiress is murdered by her son

Wealthy socialite Barbara Baekeland is stabbed to death with a kitchen knife by her 25-year-old son, Antony, in her London, England, penthouse. When police arrived at the scene, Antony was calmly placing a telephone order for Chinese food.

Antony's great-grandfather, Leo Baekeland, acquired his family's fortune with the creation of Bakelite, an early plastic product. Though financially successful, the family was far from stable. Leo's son Brooks was a decadent adventurer and a self-described writer who rarely put pen to paper. Brooks' wife Barbara, a model and would-be Hollywood starlet, had her own problems: she attempted suicide several times and was reportedly so deeply distressed by her son Antony's homosexuality that she attempted to seduce him as a "cure." Though Antony displayed signs of schizophrenia, his father called psychiatry "professionally amoral" and refused to pay for treatment.

Barbara and Antony's tempestuous mother-son relationship worried her friends. Indeed, Antony's erratic behavior was cause for concern, and over the years the two had several threatening arguments involving knives.

After the murder, Antony was institutionalized at Broadmoor until a bureaucratic mistake resulted in his release in July 1980. He then relocated to New York City, where he lived with his grandmother for a short time until he beat and stabbed her in 1980; she survived. Antony was sent to Riker's Island, where he killed himself by suffocation on March 21, 1981.

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