I decided to write this piece in response to some of the reactions to Mick and Mairead Philpott’s killing of six of their children, together with their friend Paul Mosley. The Daily Mail, Louise Mensch, George Osborne and others were keen to identify ‘benefits culture’ as the biggest problem, overlooking Michael Philpott’s history of domestic violence which included attempting to kill a previous partner and a predilection for having relationships with vulnerable women who were much younger than him. Partly because the Philpott children were killed in 2012 and also because this is the year that I started recording the names of women killed through male violence, this piece is limited to children who were killed in 2012.
The data that I’ve used is publicly available and yet most of us don’t know it. I think it’s probably incomplete, it’s quite possible there were more children killed than those I have been able to find information about. I’ve included the deaths off all children that I found out about, anyone aged under 16 (except those killed in road traffic or other accidents) whose deaths were not accidental, deaths that happened because of a decision that someone took to do something dangerous, harmful or fatal, or with the potential to be.
46 children were killed in 2012, 28 were boys, 18 were girls. Their causes of death were:
- Fire – 18 children
- Stabbed – 13 children
- Multiple injuries: beaten, kicked, burnt, bitten – 4 children
- Head injuries – 2 children
- Suffocated – 2 children
- Explosion – 1 child
- Fight – 1 child
- Overdose – 1 child
- Undisclosed – 2 children
- Unknown – 2 children
The killers of the 45 children have been reported as:
- Father – 12 children
- Mother – 2 children
- Both parents – 7 children
- Mother/grandmother’s partner -4 children
- Neighbour – 4 children
- Youth violence – 5 children
- Boyfriend – 1 child
- Stranger – 1 child
- Relationship undisclosed – 5 children
- Unknown – 5 children
Records indicate 36 killers. Eight killers are not identified, neither is their sex. These are all youth violence cases, where those held responsible are minors. In cases where the sex and number of the killers has been disclosed 20 child killers were men and seven were women. Child killing is a gendered issue. Perpetrators are overwhelmingly men. Child killing is largely an issue of male violence. Where the sex of the killer is known, 75% are men and 25% are women. In three cases, the child’s mother was killed at the same time as the child/ren, this includes one case where the child’s grandmother was also killed. These were all domestic violence cases. One 15-year-old girl was killed by her boyfriend.
15 children were killed by multiple perpetrators. Of these, three adults were held responsible for the manslaughter of the six Philpott children, two (parents) for the death by methadone overdose of their 2- year-old son and four boys were killed though youth violence incidents, in two cases three young people have been charged(total six), in two cases, two have been charged (total four).
26 children were multiple victims, that is, they were killed through crimes where more than one child died. Of these, 17 were killed in fires, 5 were stabbed by their fathers, two were smothered by their mother and the cause of death of two, killed by their father has not been reported.
Five children, aged between 14 and 16, were killed through youth violence. Four of them were stabbed in incidents which all involved more than one alleged perpetrator. One suffered head injuries as a result of a fight.
21 children were killed by their parents, acting either singularly or together. 12 were killed by their father, two by their mother and both parents have been held jointly responsible for the deaths of seven children (the six Philpott children and the boy who died after ingesting his mother’s methadone). There are differences in the way the children were killed according to the sex of the parent who killed them and whether they were acting alone/together. Of the 12 children killed by their fathers, the death of one child, a six-week old baby, was described by the sentencing judge as a tragic accident when his father, who had learning difficulties, was bouncing him up and down whilst stood up and dropped him. There were no additional injuries inconsistent with this account. The cause of death of Jack and Bryn Anderson has not been disclosed at this time. Their father hanged himself after killing them. He had a history of perpetrating domestic violence against their mother. The remaining nine children were killed through acts of serious violence: seven were stabbed, of these the mothers of eight-year-old Abigail Laycock and two-year-old William Jones were also stabbed to death by the child’s father, Graham Anderson, who stabbed 11-year-old Jack and three-year-old Bryn, had a history of violence against their mother. The inquest into the deaths of Sam, 12, Rebecca, 8 and Charlotte Fuller, 7, who were stabbed by their father, Ceri Fuller before he jumped to his death, is due to start later this year. The press has hinted at at ‘difficulties in the relationship’ between their parents. Two children were killed after serious, sustained and on-going physical violence. Three-year-old Lia Green had a significant number of bruises of varying age to her neck, chest, abdomen, arms, legs, buttocks and back caused by deliberate blows. She died after being hit or kicked so hard that part of her bowel was completely severed. Her father had recently discovered that her mother was in a relationship with someone else. Five-year-old Haroon Bhatti died as a result of injuries to his brain and internal organs. He also had several fractures, bite marks, burns from cigarettes and an iron on his body. The two children killed by their mother, Mason and Sky Boots are understood to have been smothered. There are no reports of additional violence. Two children were killed by partners of their mother, both suffered multiple injuries consistent with being beaten and/or kicked. The boyfriend of the grandmother of one child, 12-year-old Tia Sharpe, is being held for her murder. The details of how she died, if known, have not yet been made public. Stuart Hazell has a long criminal record which includes convictions for violence. There had been reports of domestic violence in the family. Michael Philpott’s history of domestic violence has already been mentioned.
The deaths of at least 13 children then, were either related to acts of abuse and/or revenge against their mothers. Two-year-old Jamie Heaton was killed when next door neighbour Andrew Partington intentionally caused a gas explosion, blowing up his own house, as part of a campaign of violence against his partner. 15-year-old Megan Leigh-Peat was stabbed over 60 times by her 18-year old boyfriend Andrew Hall.
The children killed and their killers come from a variety of racial backgrounds However, there are some patterns. Of the 25 children killed by parents or partners of their mother/grandmother, 20 were killed by white men born in the UK.1 Of the 5 children killed through youth violence, all were boys, four were black and one was white. The socio-economic background of child killers is varied. Those accused include former soldiers, graduates, a company director, an abattoir worker and a plasterer as well as people not in employment and young people still in full-time education.
The welfare state does not cause the death of children. Violence against women was a factor in the deaths of at least 15 children, a third of those killed. 35 people killed 45 children in 2012. Of those 35 people, 14 (40%) killed their own child or child/grandchild of their partner. Of those 35 killers, at least 80% are known to be men. If we want to stop children being killed, the first issue that we need to address is male violence.
1 Felicia Boots, who killed her children Mason and Lily was Canadian born. Two Asian men, at least one UK born killed their children (one accidentally). I have been unable to identify the racial origin of John Miller who stabbed and axed his wife to death and also killed his daughter Abigail Laycock.
2 Updated 26th April to include Roxie Archer