A six year-old boy has been placed with his aunt and uncle after his mother was murdered by his father.
The case concerned a family of Chinese ethnicity. The father was born in the UK but his family origins lay in Hong Kong. He met the mother on a dating website and she came to Britain to live with him following their marriage in China.
Their only child referred in the judgement as ‘L’, was born in England in December 2008. The parent’s marriage was troubled, with regular arguments and some domestic violence witnessed by the youngster.
The couple separated and finally divorced in 2012, with both going on to form new relationships. They then engaged in “strongly contested” legal disputes regarding residence and contact – i.e. which parent the boy should live with and which should visit.
In early June last year, the mother tried to have the father’s contact reduced.
Sitting in the family court sitting at Birmingham, Mr Justice Holman explained:
“This appears to have been the trigger for the catastrophe, since the judge who presided over the trial and sentenced the father was clear in his sentencing remarks…that the motive was to ‘get the mother out of the way’ so he could resume full-time care of his son ‘without any further trouble from her.”
On June 17, the father “brutally” murdered the mother while L was at school. The Judge described this as “a very premeditated and carefully planned attack”. The father had concocted an alibi and the mother’s new partner was initially suspected.
But the police quickly turned their attention to L’s father and he was arrested. The man was eventually found guilty and sentenced to life in imprisonment, with a recommendation that he serve no less than 28 years.
Mr Justice Holman highlighted the tragic consequences of this for the little boy.
“Within the space of a few days L effectively lost both his parents. His mother was dead. His father was incarcerated, and L has not seen him since.”
L was placed with temporary foster carers and the Judge was asked to rule on whether he should live with his father’s sister and her husband – his paternal aunt and uncle – or with his maternal grandparents in China. The former option was strongly favoured by the local authority.
Mr Justice Holman noted that the grandparents were the boy’s last living link to his mother and they had a sincere wish to care for him. Set against this, however, was the fact they lived in China and could not speak English.
Moving to China to live with them would be a “huge upheaval” for L, said the Judge. He had “suffered an immense emotional and psychological shock already. The period of living with the foster family and the therapy and support given to him have limited the damage. His transition to a new home needs to be as smooth and uncomplicated as it is possible to achieve.”
The grandparents’ stance, in the Judge’s view, seriously underestimated “the bewildering situation that L would be in in China in a strange new culture, knowing no one, unable to communicate with his parenting figures.”
The aunt and uncle were close relatives of the father, but Mr Justice Holman said they had “completely satisfied themselves of the father’s guilt. They do not in any way whatsoever attribute responsibility to the mother. They will not give to L a skewed version of events as he grows up, and indeed they are better placed than the grandparents in this case to enable L to grow up with a fair, true and proper understanding of his tragic history.”
The Judge stressed that he had based his decision on L’s best interests, declaring:
“I will make his welfare the paramount consideration, and take into account all the circumstances of the case.”
Lincolnshire County Council v The Father and Others is available to read here.