In Depth

Why cannibalism was a turn-on for Dale Bolinger and ‘Eva’

Analyst’s view: was he identifying with his mother, hoping to seduce his prey into total submission?

It was September 2012 and Dale Bolinger, a 56-year-old NHS nurse and father of three, was waiting for a Eurostar train at Ashford international train station to meet ‘Eva’, the 14-year-old chat-room girl who had agreed to meet him for sex – and then to be eaten by him.

‘Eva’, who claimed to be Mexican and living with a cousin in Germany, never turned up and we still don’t know her true identity. But thanks to leads from the FBI, Bolinger was arrested in February 2013.

On his arrest, Bolinger admitted possession of indecent images of children and assured the police that if ‘Eva’ had arrived, he would have gone to the police fearing for her safety.

Among the images in his collection was one of a young girl, between the ages of six and nine, lying naked on a serving platter with an apple in her mouth. Bolinger explained: “I do not find children sexually attractive but I do find them interesting as a food source.”

Yesterday, at Canterbury Crown Court, Bolinger was found guilty of sexually grooming a minor and he will be sentenced in September once a psychiatric report has evaluated how dangerous he is to society.

One thing that is clear is that Bolinger had found in ‘Eva’ a willing partner. Their online chats via the Dark Fantasy Network intensified until Bolinger expressed his wish ultimately to eat her – every bit of her. He wrote to her: “I don’t like waste and I’ll eat everything from your feet to your face. Roasts, sausages, even your offal. I’ve a great recipe for Haggis and black pudding. You’ll be completely consumed.” Bolinger had bought a cleaver the day before and had sent ‘Eva’ a selfie to show he was excited and prepared.

In court, the prosecution described Bolinger as “far more Walter Mitty than Hannibal Lecter. He is a fantasist and sometimes he goes too far and sometimes he stops, and sometimes – when the person encourages him – the fantasy continues.”

This assessment rings true because there is little evidence that Bolinger enacted his fantasies. He had bragged about eating a 39-year-old woman and a five-year-old child, claiming that children were more “tender”, and in 2010 he admitted to putting a cloth soaked in dry cleaning fluid over a woman friend’s mouth. She seems to have quickly pushed him aside, asking what he was doing, and that was the end of it.

We don’t know whether, if ‘Eva’ had shown up, Bolinger would have pursued his fantasy; perhaps the balance would have been tipped if ‘Eva’ had encouraged it. Having had fantasies of cannibalism since the age of six, he certainly seemed to be getting precariously close to enacting them.

Curiously, Bolinger himself makes a clear distinction between people who fantasise about eating others and those that actually do it. He explained to police: “It was less to do with sexual gratification and more to do with anger… The people that do it [cannibalism] are seriously deranged, and I may be many things but I am not deranged.”

Bolinger links his fantasies and “weird” behaviour to his “very domineering” mother. By the time Bolinger turned 14, he confessed, “I turned into the villain of the piece and I wondered what it would be like to eat a girl.”

This cryptic remark suggests that, prior to this point in Bolinger’s adolescence, he was the one being ‘eaten’. Imagining his mother as the predator who wants to murder and consume him may have been a fairly accurate depiction of what he felt she was doing to him – emotionally – in reality.

Being consumed by her would be a way of being enveloped and incorporated within her body, much as a return to the womb. This would be one way of killing off his anger towards her, becoming the willing victim himself. With such a difficult mother, Bolinger may also have wanted to obliterate any separateness between them.

If, as Bolinger remembers, he became the “villain” in this scenario at the age of 14, does this suggest that he changed roles in order to manage his passage into masculinity and adulthood? By reversing roles, Bolinger would have become the active, powerful one, and no longer the weak and submissive child.

Was he also identifying with his mother and wanting to seduce his prey into complete and total submission? At the crux of the fantasy is the excitement of total submission to the point of death and consumption. Choosing a young female to be his victim may also have been exciting because she may have represented the mother reduced to a helpless, vulnerable state.

In one of his last messages to ‘Eva’, Bolinger writes: “The idea of us making love and then eating you is a VERY great turn on! I have been called a very generous lover and I would be very generous with you before I prepped you for the table.”

The scenario laid out is that of intimate lovers who reach ecstatic orgasm through death and incorporation. It is the ultimate sacrifice and the ultimate fusion. Lovers joined together indissolubly, leaving no trace behind of their crime. Bolinger’s hatred could be both channelled and masked in such a fantasy, taking on the guise of love.

Bolinger never told his wife about his fantasies, admitting that they were too shameful. Yet, however careful Bolinger tried to be in hiding his true identity in the chat-room, did he perhaps unconsciously lay a trail for himself to be found by the police in the knowledge that he might have gone a step too far in the case of ‘Eva’?

Strangely, Bolinger confided to the police that he believed ‘Eva’ was actually a man in his thirties, “surrounded by pizza boxes”, whom he expected would be dead by his forties. Does this mean that Bolinger knew that ‘Eva’ was not who she said she was and was this part of the thrill of this anticipated encounter? Or is the man in Bolinger’s mind also perhaps an image of himself, lonely, empty, and suicidal?

Coline Covington is a Jungian analyst in private practice in London.

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