Domestic violence-related homicides reach five-year high

Family|Relationships|September 16th 2019

173 homicides in 2018

I’ve written two posts here recently on the subject of family breakdown-related homicides. The first post was prompted by new research into the killing of women by their intimate, or former intimate, partners following a pattern of domestic abuse, and the second post was prompted simply by three headlines that appeared in national newspapers detailing homicides in a family breakdown context that did not necessarily occur in domestic abuse scenarios.

Now, less than a week after I wrote that last post, the subject of family breakdown-related homicides is back in the news. The BBC reports that last year 173 people were killed in domestic violence-related homicides, according to data obtained by the corporation from 43 police forces across the UK, an increase of 32 deaths on 2017. Whilst acknowledging that men can be victims, the BBC states that the vast majority are women, and refer to the Office for National Statistics data for domestic abuse in England and Wales for the year to March 2018, which indicates that between April 2014 and March 2017, around three-quarters of victims of domestic killings by a partner, ex-partner or family member were women.

As the BBC headline states, the number of killings is at a five-year high. However, this is perhaps not quite so concerning when put in context of the figures for the previous four years: 165 in 2014, 160 in 2015, 139 in 2016 and 141 in 2017. It seems that, rather than the figure for 2018 being particularly high, the figures for 2016 and 2017 were particularly low. Certainly, there does not appear to be an obvious upward trend.

That is not, of course, to be complacent. Every one of those figures represents a tragedy, not just for the victim, but for their families and friends. The number of lives devastated is far higher than the figures state.

The BBC report includes a rather chilling animated graphic detailing the first 100 homicides of 2019, of which about a fifth were committed by a partner, an ex-partner or a family member. The graphic shows where the killings took place, and the method of killing. The locations are fairly well spread across the country – these events can happen anywhere – although seeing some appear close to where one lives is a little unsettling. As to the method of killing, the graphic mentions stabbing, assault, gunshot, fire (particularly horrendous, I think) and strangling. The primary method appears to be stabbing. As the report points out, knives are of course a weapon available in every home, where I suspect most of the family breakdown-related killings take place.

Most shocking

Most of the rest of the report is taken up with stories of particular incidents. I will mention just one, described as “one of the most shocking”. It concerned Rodrigo Giraldo -Tascon, a former Colombian police officer, who murdered his wife of seventeen years, Margory Villegas, in January, in the presence of their newly fostered baby. Mr Giraldo -Tascon then drove to a local beauty spot, where he set her body alight, placed the remains into a suitcase, and then buried it in a shallow grave. He denied murder, but was found guilty in July, and sentenced to life imprisonment, with a stipulation that he serve a minimum of nineteen years.

Interestingly, we are told that his son Julian believes that the murder was the culmination

“of lots of little tiny things that over time create the situation.”

Julian says that he is

“on a quest for personal development for myself, for my family, for my community,”, and that he wants “to prevent this moment from occurring to other people.” He said: “We want the government to fix all our problems. But I think realistically, what we actually need to do is work collectively as a community to create better things.”

Indeed.

Obviously, this is a very depressing and worrying subject. Before I go, therefore, I would like to finish on a slightly more positive note. Horrendous though all of these cases are, and troubling though these figures are, thankfully family-breakdown-related homicides in this country are extremely rare. To put things in context, consider that in 2018 there were some 19 million families in the UK. With that in mind, 173 doesn’t seem quite so bad – the chances of being a victim are reassuringly small.

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