One of the reasons I started counting dead women was hearing a murder of a woman killed referred to as an ‘isolated incident’. Seven women were killed in the first three days of 2012 and yet connections between these occurrences of men’s fatal violence against women were absent. It’s little over two years and 275 dead women later, and police are still describing men’s killings of women as isolated incidents.
On Sunday 23rd February 2014, two women, one in her 60s and one in her 40s, as yet unnamed but believed to be mother and daughter, were shot dead. 82 year-old John Lowe has been arrested for their murders. A Detective Chief Inspector speaking on behalf of Surrey police said:
“We are conducting a full and thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding these two deaths. However, at this time, we believe this is an isolated incident and there is no further risk to the wider community.”
Which aspect of their murders was an isolated incident? That they were killed by a man. Surely not, as stated above 275 women have been killed by men in the last 26 months. That they were shot? No, not that either. At least 15 of the 275 women killed were shot .
Less than two weeks earlier, 20 year-old Hollie Gazzard was stabbed to death. A Police Chief Inspector said
“I would like to reassure members of this community, both residents and local businesses, that this is an isolated incident. These offences don’t happen in Gloucester regularly. This incident was very tragic, however; both victim and suspect knew each other. They were in a previous relationship. That doesn’t lessen this horrific incident but it would be good for us to reassure the local community.”
Again, it’s difficult to see which aspect of Hollie’s murder was isolated. That she was stabbed? Definitely not, already in 2014, 6 women have been stabbed to death by men. In 2013, at least 45 women were stabbed to death and there were 44 in 2012. That’s 95 women stabbed in 26 months. Was it that she was stabbed by someone that she had been in a relationship with? Certainly not that, approximately three-quarters of the UK women killed by men since January 2012 have been killed by a partner or former partner. Perhaps then it’s that Hollie was killed in Gloucestershire. Gloucestershire wouldn’t be described as a femicide hotspot, though it’s only 6 months since the body of Jane Wiggett was found dead, her ex-husband has been charged with murder and remanded in custody. Two women dead in 6 months? Not so isolated then.
Earlier this year, on 24th January, 17 year-old Elizabeth Thomas was stabbed to death in Oxted, Surrey. A 16-year-old male, said to be known to her, has been arrested on suspicion of her murder. The Senior Investigating Officer Detective Chief Inspector said:
“We believe this to be an isolated incident and that there is no risk to the further community.”
It’s difficult to fathom which aspect of Elizabeth’s murder was an isolated incident. That she was killed by a man known to her? No. That she was stabbed? No. That she was a teenager? No, not that either. Of the 275 women killed since January 2012, she’s the 16th teenager. Maybe it’s that she lived in affluent Surrey, the county ranked fifth least deprived according to the multiple deprivation index? Maybe that, after all it’s a long 14 months since 25 year-old Georgina Hackett was bludgeoned to death with a mallet by her boyfriend Daniel Baker. Yet Elizabeth’s murder was followed only 5 weeks later by the fatal shooting of the two women mentioned earlier. Maybe now, Elizabeth’s murder seems a little less of an isolated incident.
Also earlier this year, 43 year-old Karen Wild was stabbed to death in Hanbury, Worcestershire. A police Superintendent said:
“Following this tragic incident, we continue our investigations in and around the house, including searches and forensic examinations. I would like to reassure the local community that we believe this to be an isolated incident and no-one else is being sought in relation to our investigation.”
What was isolated about Karen Wild’s murder? We know it isn’t because she was killed by a man. We know it isn’t because she was stabbed. Worcestershire is another largely affluent area, Worcester district is ranked third least deprived according to the multiple deprivation index. Maybe all that affluence shortens memories, after-all 3 women – Alethea Taylor, 63; Jacqueline Harrison, 47 and Louise Evans, 32 – were killed though male violence in Worcestershire in 2012. Could it be that Karen’s son, Lian Wild was arrested and charged with her murder, that marks her killing as an isolated incident? No, it isn’t that either; Karen Wild is one of at least 32 women who have been killed by their sons since January 2012.
This is not about local communities, affluent or not. It is about women and it is about men. Are women not a community? Is our risk through men’s violence unrecognised? It is self-evident that each women killed by a man is a unique individual, as is each man that makes the choice to kill her. The circumstances around each killing are never identical. But that doesn’t make them isolated incidents. By refusing to see a pattern we are refusing to see the myriad connections between incidents of men’s fatal violence against women; and by refusing to see the connections we are closing our eyes to the commonalities in the causes. What sort of a message would it send, if, when a man killed a woman, police didn’t refer to an isolated incident but to yet another example of femicide? Yet another example of men’s fatal violence against women. Maybe then, naming male violence, misogyny, sex-inequality, dangerous rules of gender and patriarchy wouldn’t be restricted to feminists and would become part of a wider understanding. Maybe then, there would be sufficient motivation to do something about ending men’s fatal violence against women.