British Seaman Accused of Murder, Also Raps as 'Reggie Moondogg'

Is there a connection? At least one politician thinks so

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This is one of the weirder stories we're seeing this morning. Friday, a fatal shooting aboard the HMS Astute, a British nuclear submarine, left one naval officer dead and another wounded. Now, Able Seaman Ryan Samuel Donovan is to be tried in civilian courts for the murder of the one officer and the attempted murder of three others.

Details of how and why a member of the British navy come to discharge a rifle into his crewmates are hard to come by. The BBC and Sky News offer no clue. Take a look at this Daily Mail writeup, though:

After Donovan was last night charged with the attack, it was revealed a simple Google search would have alerted the Royal Navy that the submariner held led a secret double life as a rapper named Reggie Moondogg.

Details of murderers' lives--their secret sorrows and emotional imbalances--are standard media fare in the wake of an attack. But as other news stories offer scant information as to Seaman Donovan's motivations and mindset, several people in the Daily Mail article actually seem to be suggesting advance warning of the attack lay in Donovan's extracurricular activities (emphasis added below).

Lib Dem MP and defence expert Mike Hancock said: ‘Whatever the outcome of these charges I am surprised that this man was on a nuclear submarine – calling himself Reggie Moondogg, joining the Navy, getting recruited to serve on a submarine and then being given a weapon to guard it.’

Patrick Mercer, chairman of the Commons sub-committee on counter-terrorism, added: ‘It seems unforgivable. Should the fact that he changed his name to Reggie Moondogg not have given cause for concern?’  

Should it? Is this a cultural difference, here? Despite longstanding concerns about the connection between rap and violence, there are many instances of rap as a relatively harmless hobby in the States--not necessarily a step towards opening fire on colleagues. The Daily Mail article doesn't even say that Moondogg's lyrics were particularly violent, though there's some interesting language in this sentence: "Donovan's double life is also evident on Myspace and Twitter," the piece reads, "where he writes in street language about rapping and making money."

Perhaps it's our immersion in the media world, but tweeting hardly seems a serious enough eccentricity to qualify as a "double life," a term usually reserved for anonymous neo-Nazi blogs or secret polygamy. And even the "street language" and rapping seems rather thin evidence: by that standard, National Review's Reihan Salam is going to go postal any second. The Sydney Morning Herald's coverage, leaning heavily on the Daily Mail, also includes that Donovan's songs were "about being a 'serious sinner' and 'big and mean,'" still pretty PG compared to a lot of rap. You can listen to a clip over at The Sun.

There are, however, some other suggestions and rationalizations near the end of the Daily Mail piece: "the investigation is increasingly focusing on claims the gunman was bearing a 'grudge' against his superiors, " the Daily Mail says. In addition, the paper is one of many to point out "quality-of-life issues." Life on a submarine can get quite cramped and bleak. Doubtless further details will emerge as the investigation progresses.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.