Like the swastika he carved on his forehead, no other mass killer in modern history has left quite such an indelible mark on America’s soul as Charles Manson.
The mastermind of a chillingly ferocious, macabre and apparently random killing spree in Los Angeles nearly 50 years ago, Manson managed to radiate an evil menace even during his decades behind bars.
Aged 83, he died on Sunday of natural causes in a California hospital where he had been taken on a medical trolley surrounded by five prison guards. His passing is unlikely to end the extraordinary mystique that has surrounded a semi-literate habitual criminal and manipulative conman who revelled in his notoriety.
Charles Manson, pictured left in 1969 when he ordered the murder of seven people, died aged 83. He famously carved a swastika into his forehead while in prison and is picture, right, serving his sentence in 2014
The weekend of violence in August 1969 not only claimed the lives of Hollywood star Sharon Tate and six others, but it also killed off the Sixties as the decade of peace and love.
As the Svengali-like figure who was able to send his harem of drugged-up young women off to murder on little more than the force of his personality and an apocalyptic interpretation of Beatles lyrics, Manson embodied the dark side of the Swinging Sixties.
He and his ‘family’ of followers twisted the decade’s ideals of free love, heavy drug use and anti-establishment resistance against the State to create a hippie death cult of unbelievable viciousness. The resulting trial gripped the world and horrified America, but in many ways it provided an appropriate curtain raiser for the Seventies, a decade of U.S. disillusionment dominated by the Watergate scandal and defeat in Vietnam.
Sharon Tate was murdered in the home she shared with Roman Polanski by followers of Charlie Manson
Manson, who continued to spout hatred in prison, remained an enigma to the end.
Was he a paranoid schizophrenic who genuinely believe the demonic madness he spouted, or was it an act, the perverse showmanship of a sociopath who’d always hungered for fame?
He never showed any sign of