The statistic of two women killed by their partners or former partners every week in the UK is almost certainly an underestimation. For example, just recently we have seen the first conviction for manslaughter of a man who pushed his former partner to suicide through stalking and abuse which became intolerable for her and created extreme trauma and fear. Nicholas Allen was jailed for ten years.
We have also seen the case of Robert Trigg who killed two partners five years apart, claiming they both died in their sleep. He was convicted of one murder and one manslaughter.
Trigg was a serial domestic abuser. It was the actions of the family which finally brought Trigg to justice and a long hard campaign to get professionals to listen.
Finally, we have also seen the conviction of Ian Walters for murder after driving his car into a tree at 80mph in order to kill his wife and make it look like an accident.
Unfortunately, these are not isolated cases; the number of hidden homicides, and suicides as a result of abuse, is shocking. We are really reluctant to believe that these things happen, and even when killers confess, we routinely sympathise with them, and mitigate their culpability in court.
Research shows that sentencing for this type of homicide can be lower than we would see in stranger killings. My own research has shown that sentencing for partners who claim they killed out of love, is much lower (Monckton Smith 2012). Domestic homicide is, more often than not, planned. If we don’t start recognising this, recognising the danger signs, and protecting victims of abuse, the number of homicides will never reduce.
We are helping a family right now who believe their daughter was murdered by her husband, and there is a second suspected murder of a former girlfriend. There have been real problems getting professionals to listen and to act, and there will be even bigger problems with the collection of evidence. In these cases, the time between the killing and the investigation often means that vital evidence is lost forever. The police have just started their investigation – in this case a year after the woman died, and we are hopeful that vital forensic evidence still exists. We will post updates on this case over the coming months.
The DART tool gives over 500 pages of information on coercive control, stalking and homicide. There are pages which show the risk markers and there is an interactive risk identification questionnaire. DART is just 99p on the app store on iOs and android, and available free of charge to organisations helping victims.