Yesterday, The Birmingham Mail published a hateful piece by Maureen Messent about the 77 women killed though domestic violence in the year April 2012-March 2013. Messent described the 77 women killed as their own worst enemies : “holy cows, never to be held accountable for staying with brutal men”. She shared her sympathy for West Midlands Police, imagining their “ frustration and disappointment, then, when the women they want to help fail to turn up as witnesses “because I love him really”.”
In the year in question, at least three of the 77 women killed by a partner or former partner lived in the area policed by the West Midlands force: Da In Lee, Natasha Trevis and Shaista Khatoon.
Da In Lee was a 22-year-old student studying International Relations and Sociology at Aston University. She met Daniel Jones in 2011 at a local church but had ended their relationship on 24 March 2012 though spent the night with him on 8 April. We only have Daniel Jones’ account of what happened the next day because Da In Lee is dead. According to Jones, during an argument, he ‘caused her to fall over’, (a phrase which neatly eradicates his responsibility), before climbing on top of her. By his own admission, she struggled and screamed so he put his left hand over her mouth before taking hold of her throat. He described how her face went purplish blue, he said he saw tears well up in her eyes and two tears rolling down her face. Yet he claimed he had not intended to cause her any harm and lost track of time and so didn’t know how long it was he was applying pressure to her throat. Accident-prone forgetful Daniel Jones had been cautioned for common assault on a previous girlfriend in 2010.
Natasha Trevis was 22. She had three children aged three, two and one with 28 year old Junior Saleem Oakes. Oakes was violent and controlling throughout their relationship. He had a history of domestic violence including a conviction at the age of 19, and was known to carry a knife. Oakes and Natasha were recently separated, she had not told him that she had recently terminated a pregnancy because she was afraid of what he might do. On 7 August, five days after a social worker let slip this information, Natasha had called a taxi to her mother’s home but Oakes had travelled with her to be dropped off elsewhere. In his statement, the taxi driver said he heard Natasha say to Oakes that they ‘didn’t need to talk about their relationship because they didn’t have one’. Natasha tried to escape but Oakes stabbed her 26 times. She had wounds to her head, face, neck, chest, back and legs, one stab wound to her brain was 10cm deep.
Shaista Khatoon, 33 and Shoukat Ali, 38 had been married 15 years and had five children. His behaviour had become controlling and violent, they had separated but his harassment and threats had continued. Shaista wanted a divorce. On 19 November, two days after receiving a divorce letter, Shoukat Ali broke in to the where Shaista lived with three of the children. As Shaista called the police, Ali cut her throat. The operator heard her screams. When the police arrived, they found her body in a pool of blood.
In addition, on May 8th, Lynda Jackson, 56, was found strangled to death at her home in Erdington. A 60-year-old man was found with injuries at the same address and taken to hospital where he was said to be in a critical condition. Police confirmed that they were not looking for anyone else. Lynda was a teaching assistant at Hodge Hill Sports and Enterprise College who was strangled to death. Marie McMahon, head teacher at Hodge Hill Sports and Enterprise College, said: “Lynda was a talented and well respected colleague. She was loved by staff and pupils alike and she will be sorely missed.”
Not all women killed by male violence are included in those killed by domestic violence. In addition to the women above, in the year in question a further five women in the West Midlands were killed though men’s violence against them. Janice Smithen, 46, was killed though blunt force trauma and Pauline Gillen, 69, was stabbed, both killed by their sons; Kaysley Smithen and Ian Woolley. Carole Mudie, 68, died after being mugged by Marvin Blake. Georgina Stuparu, 23, was stabbed by her friend’s boyfriend, Phillipe Burger. Christina Edkins,16, was stabbed by Phillip Simelane and Hayley Pointon was shot. Are they less responsible for their own deaths in Messent’s eyes because they hadn’t been in a relationship with their killer?
Daniel Jones, Junior Saleem Oakes and Shoukat Ali have all been found guilty of murdering the women who were trying to leave them: Da In Lee, Natasha Trevis and Shaista Khatoon. We do not hold these women accountable for their own murders, not because they are ‘holy cows’ but because the ones who are responsible for male violence against women are the violent men themselves. Men who kill women are responsible for their actions whether the woman they killed was in the process of taking court action, of leaving, had already left or was still in a relationship with them.
Messent describes West Midlands Police as taking “whatever steps necessary to help the vulnerable. Officers burn the midnight oil, never preach, are prepared to listen for hours at a time”. Is this the same West Midlands police who had to apologise to 19-year-old Alex Faragher who, when she reported domestic violence was called a “fucking slag” and a “bitch” by two officers who allegedly inadvertently recorded the message?
The killing does not stop. Since April 2013, Salma Parveen, Yvonne Walsh, Lilima Aktar, Varkha Rami, Jacqueline Oakes, Kanwal Azam, Jane McRae, Amandeep Kaur Hoti and Tracey Snook-Kite have been murdered though male violence or a man has been found responsible for or charged with causing their death. Nine more dead women. Holy Cows? Women who allowed “themselves to be used as punch bags” and “their own worst enemies”? No. Women who are victims of male violence. Women who were killed by men. Men who are solely and entirely responsible for their actions.