Why the hierarchy of dead women and girls?

Like anyone else, I was saddened to wake up to the news that a body has been found in the search for 14-year-old Alice Gross, and that her disappearance has now become a murder inquiry; similarly, I felt sickened to hear about the rape and  murder of 23-year old Hannah Witheridge, just two weeks ago.

But since Alice went missing – and in addition to Hannah – at least ten other UK women have been killed through suspected male violence.  Why don’t we all know the name of Leighann Duffy, 26, stabbed to death in Walthamstow? What about Glynis Bensley, 48, who witnesses said was pursued by two masked men on bikes before she was killed? Perhaps some people will recall the name of Pennie Davis, 47, found dead in a field, stabbed as she tended her horse.  What about Serena Hickey, Dorothy Brown, 66; Nicola Mckenzie, 37; Davinia Loynton, 59; or Lorna McCarthy, 50?

The murder of 82-year-old Palmira Silva who was beheaded in London was also front page news this month, but few were aware that she was the third woman to have been beheaded in London in less than six months, after  Tahira Ahmed, 38, in June and  Judith Nibbs, 60, in April. Was this simply because beheading is big news at the moment due to the murders of David Haines,  James Foley and Steven Sotloff?

The killer of 15-year-old Shereka Marsh, shot in Hackney earlier this year, was found guilty of manslaughter this week.  Did we all mourn the 15-year-old school-girl, described by teachers as one of their “shining stars”, on course to sit 10 GCSEs this summer?  Wasn’t being accidentally shot by your boyfriend also big news, also international news, this month?

Men’s violence against women and girls, systemic, connected, has killed at least 11 dead UK women this month.  At least 111 UK women have been killed through suspected male violence so far this year, 111 women in 272 days is one dead woman every 2.45 days.

Older, black, usually but not all, killed by men they had known and loved – their husbands, boyfriends, ex’s and sons (8 women have been killed by their sons this year, 13 last year, 16 the year before) – why don’t we care so much about these women? Young, white and blond, killed by a stranger, hold the front pages – but don’t bother to make the connections with other women killed by men; talk about anything, immigration, terrorism, tourism, guns and gangs – talk about anything except male violence against women and girls.

Innocent Victims? Isn’t that just another way of blaming women and girls for men’s violence?

The phrase “innocent victim” has re-emerged to describe Sabrina Moss – a 24-year old teacher who was shot dead in London as she celebrated her birthday in August 2013 – in British bastions of judgemental conservative journalism The Daily Mail and the Express.

It’s a phrase that came in to my consciousness when it was used to describe 16-year-old Jane MacDonald who was murdered on 26 June 1977 by being hit on the head with a hammer three times and stabbed in the chest and back around 20 times. When her face-down body was turned over by police, they found a broken bottle complete with screw-top embedded in her chest.  She was murdered by Peter Sutcliffe and was the fifth woman of thirteen that he is known to have killed.  Before her, there had been 28-year-old Wilma McCann, beaten with a hammer and stabbed to death in October 1975; 42-year-old Emily Jackson, beaten with a hammer and stabbed 52 times with a screw-driver in January 1975; Irene Richardson, 28, beaten with a hammer and stabbed and slashed with a Stanley knife in February 1977 and Patricia Atkinson, 32, beaten and clawed with a hammer and also stabbed, in April 1977.  Wilma McCann, Emily Jackson, Irene Richardson and Patricia Atkinson had not been described by the press as innocent victims.  Why? Because Jane MacDonald was the first woman known to have been murdered by Sutcliffe who was not in prostitution.  Sutcliffe himself shared this belief that prostituted women were less worthy than none prostituted women.  In his confession, referring to Jane MacDonald, he said

“The next one I did I still feel terrible about, it was the young girl Jayne MacDonald. I read recently about her father dying of a broken heart and it brought it all back to me. I realised what sort of a monster I had become. I believed at the time I did it that she was a prostitute.”

and

“When I saw in the papers that MacDonald was so young and not a prostitute, I felt like someone inhuman and I realised that it was a devil driving me against my will and that I was a beast.”

Leaving aside Sutcliffe’s failure to take responsibility for his actions –  blaming them on being driven by the devil, not his own violent misogyny –  the implication is clear, that beating and stabbing four prostituted women to death was something less than monstrous. He became a monster when he killed Jane, not when he had killed Wilma, Emily, Irene and Patricia.

This week, Oscar Pistorius was found not guilty of the murder of Reeva Steenkamp, the woman he killed.  State prosecutor Gerrie Nel refered to Pistorius as causing “the death of an innocent woman” and again referred to him being “convicted of a serious crime of killing an innocent woman.”  Of course, Reeva Steenkamp, in comparison to Pistorius was innocent, but surely that is almost always the case when comparing murder victims to their killers.    If not innocent, what are they? Guilty? Or perhaps somehow complicit in their own death?

Despite attempts at law reform, some women’s complicity in their own murders is still implied indeed enshrined  in British law.  Academic Adrian Howe has looked at infidelity in the sentencing of men convicted of intimate partner homicide.  She points out that  “For over 300 years, criminal courts have regarded sexual infidelity as sufficiently grave provocation as to provide a warrant, indeed a ‘moral warrant’, for reducing murder to manslaughter.”  and that whilst “ ‘sexual infidelity’ was expressly excluded as a trigger for loss of control in the new loss of control defence laid down in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009”, “sexual infidelity still has mitigating prowess” in diminished responsibility pleas, as does men’s ‘distress’ if they kill a partner who is in the process of leaving them.  This ‘distress’ could just as easily be described men’s entitlement, or their rage that their partner has the audacity to reject them and move on.  A woman’s murder is somehow less heinous, deserving a reduced plea of manslaughter or a reduced sentence, if the court accepts that something that she did contributed to a man’s choice to kill her.

Dead women get no opportunity to defend their character; but even if they could, it should not make a difference.   Victims of violence should not be graded according to their worth, the balance would inevitably be tipped to discredit those not deemed to be ‘good’ women according to a scale reflecting class-biased and sexist values of what a woman should be.  We can see this when we look at the justice system and men’s sexual violence against women.  Women are not equal in the eyes of the law. The concept of ‘lady-like’ behaviour controls, judges and stratifies; acceptable/respectable standards of woman or girlhood align with middle-class standards of conduct and appearance.  Catharine MacKinnon argued  that the law divides women along indices of consent from ‘the virginal daughter’ to ‘whorelike wives and prostitutes’ with women who meet standards closer to the former, less likely to be found to have consented to unwanted intercourse, more likely to be believed regarding rape and sexual violence. Women who are socially or educationally disadvantaged are less likely to ‘perform well’ in the criminal justice system1 and women from working-class backgrounds are more likely to refuse to adhere to the status of victim, more likely to endure/cope and more likely to minimise injury2, as victims is it we who are on trial, we who are judged and the men who attack us who benefit from our perceived innocence.  In Rotherham, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford and beyond, we’ve seen how labelling girls as slags and troublemakers allows the men who abuse to continue to do so.

Women victims of male violence should not have unequal status under the law.  Whether we have fucked one man or woman or five hundred; whether we pay our bills though prostitution, preaching, teaching or trust funds. Our laws, written by white middle-class men, favour white middle-class men and all women victims of male violence deserve justice, not just those of us who according to some scale of judgement are deemed ‘innocent’.

 

1 Temkin 2002b:6

2 Skeggs, 2005:971

 

Naked headless women golf tees, it’s all a bit of a laugh

Naked headless women golf tees, it’s all a bit of a laugh, eh?  Adding, according to Dunlop, “a little humour to your game” or “the perfect gift for someone who takes the sport a little too seriously.”  Bend down and stick the nice bit of pink plastic tits and arse in the ground, balance your golf ball head, swing and “thwack”. Hilarious.

But what about those of us who aren’t laughing?

I grew up in a village in Yorkshire with a pub called The Silent Woman.  The pub sign was a picture of a woman carrying her head in her hands.  To be silent a woman had to be headless.  A misogynistic leap of association, dragging in the nagging wife, the fishwife, the gossip: to be silent a woman must be headless. Is there a feminist on social media who hasn’t experienced attempts at silencing when she expresses her opinions?  I’ve lost count of the number of men who have told me “Don’t start with ….”, “Shut up,” or called me variations of screeching, bleating feminazi.  The Silent Woman in Slaithwaite did not have a unique pub name, there are several across the UK, with The Headless Woman as a variation.  Sometimes the  name appears with the couplet: “Here is a woman who has lost her head,  She’s quiet now—you see she’s dead” (Author unknown) just in case the inference from name alone isn’t clear enough.  Carl Jung talked about cultural archetypes. Cross cultural , universal concepts that he believed indicated a collective unconscious.  Unconscious forces that are expressed in images, religion, stories and mythology as they enter consciousness and shape our interactions in society.  The silent woman, synonymous with headless woman is a patriarchal archetype. It reflects sexist misogynistic cultural values.  Not convinced about the concept of patriarchy?  Remember Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects? “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist.”

The objectification of women, reducing us to hilarious little objects that exist to titillate men, to give them a giggle, is another means of keeping us unequal.  Reducing us to hilarious little objects towards which to swing a golf club makes hitting us fun.  Making a joke out of the objectification of women and male violence against women is another way of normalising and reducing our ability to stop and stand back, to confront the horrible reality of what is happening.

Male violence against women does not exist in a social vacuum, it simultaneous reinforces and is reinforced by inequality between woman and men, given more than a helping hand by the objectification of women. Two and a half years ago, I started counting UK women killed through male violence.  Since I started counting in January 2012 and the end of May 2014, 333 UK women had been killed; amongst them, I am aware of six women who were decapitated.  Anyone still laughing at Dunlop’s golf tees?

Is it funny if I remind you of 29-year-old Gemma McCluskie?  She was actor living in London. In March 2012, her brother Tony McCluskie, 36, killed her by hitting her head and then chopped her up with a cleaver and a knife.  The next day, he took a cab carrying a heavy suitcase.  A week later, her torso was found in the suitcase in the canal close to where he was dropped off.  A week later her arms and legs were found in black bags.  It was another six months before her head was found.

Will you laugh if I tell you about Elizabeth Coriat? In March 2012, Daniel Coriat, 43, killed his 76-year-old mother Elizabeth Coriat in their shared home in London.  She was found on her bed, fully clothed, decapitated and mutilated with various weapons embedded in her head and body, injuries to the wrists and ankles in a ‘crucifixion-like’ pattern. She had suffered almost 50 separate injuries inflicted by weapons including carving knives, secateurs, a chef’s steel and a pruning saw.  Her head had been cut off completely off, rotated 180 degrees, and placed back on her body.

Will your golfer stop talking the sport so seriously if we think about Catherine Gowing, a 39-year-old vet who was murdered by a serial rapist Clive Sharp, 47, in October 2012? He raped her for 4 hours before killing her. The next day he bought bleach, petrol, a hacksaw and spare blades, and a Halloween mask.  He dismembered Catherine’s remains in open ground before disposing of her body in various locations in North Wales.  Only her torso, right hand and foot have been recovered; her head and remaining body parts were never found.

Will the story of Reema Ramzan bring back the missing humour to your game? 18-year-old Reema from Sheffield was murdered by her boyfriend Aras Hussain, 21,  in June 2013. According to forensic evidence although he had stabbed her in the chest,  Reema was likely to be alive while her head was being cut off, though would of course have lost consciousness at some point.  A post mortem showed Reema had also been stabbed in her shoulder and leg.  Injuries on her hands were consistent with self-defence.  Judge Mrs Justice Cox told Hussain  “”The pain, terror, anguish and desperation she would therefore have suffered, as you inflicted these appalling injuries upon her and ended her life, is truly horrifying to contemplate.”

Finally, if your sense of humour needs a final nudge there’s 60-year-old Judith Nibbs  who lived in Hackney, London. Judith had been active in the local community for many years and had worked delivering meals-on-wheels to the elderly for the last 6 years.  She also cared for her disabled daughter. In April 2014, police responding to a call found her decapitated body in her blood-splattered flat. Her estranged husband, Dempsey Nibbs, 67, was also there.  It is believed he had stabbed and seriously injured himself after killing Judith.  Police are not looking for anyone else.

Those golf club thwacks to the head have a broader context beyond beheaded women.  There are numerous women  murdered through blows to the head: garden ornaments, kitchen implements, hammers, feet, fists, blunt force trauma, fractured skull, brain injury. There’s also 68-year-old Sally Hingston, murdered by 25-year old and 6ft 10 Benjamin Radojezic: Sally survived a brutal beating – with a golf club – only to be dumped half naked in a ditch where she took 17 hours to die in Buckinghamshire in 2009.

Off with her head.  Oh, such a laugh. The naked headless woman – a little bit of humour for your game of golf.  I’m not laughing. After reading this, could anyone be?

 

Jo Sharpen has stated a petition to Dunlop to remove the naked woman golf tees from sale.  You can sign it here https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/dunlop-sport-remove-the-misogynistic-nudie-tee-product-which-features-a-decapitated-woman-s-body# %85naked woman golf tees picture

“Die in a fire”

A piece written by Sian Norris today “Go die in a fire” is not just an idle threat – as I know only too well”  made me think.  In Sian’s words:

 “ Telling women to die in a fire is no idle threat. It is the reality of millions of women throughout history. It is the reality of women alive today. It is my reality, as a survivor of having men set my hair on fire. It is not ok to despise women’s real life experience of male violence. It is not ok to use women’s experience of male violence in your desperate efforts to make women shut up. 

 I, too, hate that saying. Through my work counting dead women, I know that 17 women in the UK were either murdered in fires or set alight after they had been killed between January 2012 and December 2013. As Sian concludes

 “If you read this, and you are one of those people who has told women to die in a fire, who has threatened to silence women by setting them on fire, then for fuck’s sake, think about what you are saying and who you are saying it to.”

 I’d like to add “If you tell women to “die in a fire,” please remember:

Stacey Mackie, aged 35, was doused in white spirit and set alight on 27th January 2012. Police broke into her flat when a neighbour raised the alarm,  They found her sitting in the lobby with 80-95% burns, her clothes were  almost entirely burned off and her hair was singed.  As a police officer tried to comfort her, she replied: ‘I know I am going to die.’  Terrence Armer 61, was convicted of her murder, killing her after she had ended their relationship.  In court he denied that he had killed her and told the jury that he loved her.

Catherine Wells-Burr, aged 23, was smothered by Rafal Nowak.  Anna Lagwinowicz and  Tadevsz Dmytryszyn removed her body from the house and drove it in her car to a remote countryside location. Her badly-burned body was found in the burnt-out car on 12 September 2012.

Kayleigh Buckey, 17, her  six month old baby daughter Kimberley and her mum, Kim Buckley, 46, were killed in a fire in their home.  Kayleigh’s partner and father of Kimberley, Carl Mills, aged 28 was found guilty of their murders.

The body of Una Crown, aged 83,  was found on 13th January 2013.  She had suffered serious burns. Officers first thought she had accidentally set herself on fire before serious stab wounds were identified in her post-mortem. Her murder remains unsolved.

The body of Chloe Siokos, 80, and that of her husband  Argyrios Siokos, 69, were discovered after a fire at their home on 22 January 2013. Police said Chloe had other injuries inconsistent with the fire being the cause of death and that it was thought that Argyrios Siokos had murdered her before starting the fire.

Sasha Marsden, aged 16, was sexually assaulted and stabbed in the head and neck by work colleague David Minto, 23.  Her body was wrapped in a bin liner and carpet underlay, and dumped in an alleyway on 31 January 2013 before being set on fire.  Her injuries were so severe that she had to be identified by DNA from her toothbrush.

Ellen Ash, aged 83, was smothered by her son Jeffrey Ash on 21st March 2013.  He set fire to her home and fled before handing himself into police. Fire crews found her badly-burned body on the living room floor.

Naika Inayat, aged 52, died of carbon monoxide poisoning in a fire started by her husband Mohammed Inayat on 17 April 2013.  Their three daughters were also injured in the fire, one of them, 16-year-old Saimah, who had to jump from a bedroom window, suffered 50 per cent burns

Julie Beattie, aged 24, was murdered by Ashley Williams on 19th July 2013.  He  hit her  over the head with a hammer before he doused her in a mixture of petrol and diesel fuel.  She staggered out of the house in flames and said “‘Ashley did this to me”, before collapsing.  She later died of her injuries.  Her murder was witnessed by two children aged four and five, they became the youngest witnesses to give evidence at a murder trial.

Varka Rani, aged 24, was strangled with the pipe of a vacuum cleaner by her husband Jasvir Ginday, 29, on 12th  September 2013.  He had previously filed a missing persons report about her ‘disappearance’.  Police found her remains in the garden incinerator when neighbours reported thick, unpleasant-smelling smoke. Ginday told police he had been burning leaves, but one of the officers lifted the lid and saw the remains of a skull. Varka had been placed in the incinerator in the foetal position after her death.

Shehnila Taufiq, 47, her 19-year-old daughter Zainab, and sons Bilal, 17, and Jamal,15, all died in a petrol-fuelled blaze at their home after it was mistakenly targeted in a revenge attack on 13 September 2013.  Kemo Porter, 19, Tristan Richards, 22, Nathaniel Mullings, 19, Shaun Carter, 24, Jackson Powell, 20, Aaron Webb, 20, Aaron Jeffers, 21, and a 17-year-old youth who cannot be named for legal reasons are standing trial. The trial continues.

Ahdieh Khayatzadeh, 46, suffered severe burns after being doused in petrol and set on fire by her ex-husband Ahmad Yazdanparast on 12th October 2013.  Firefighters who brought her out of the building alive said she was in “horrendous” condition, so badly burned that they couldn’t tell if she was male or female, and “very much conscious”.  She died in hospital the same day, Before she died she told a paramedic that her ex-husband had carried out the attack because she had divorced him.

Mahnaz Rafie, aged 48, died of stab wounds before a fire started in her home on 12th December 2013.  Her mother Dolleh Joseph, 74, was rescued by fire crews but pronounced dead at hospital from smoke inhalation and burns.  Her husband Hassan also died from smoke inhalation and burns.  It is believed that the fire started after the gas supply was tampered with.  Police said they were not looking for anyone else

Counting Dead Women: Reviewing 2012 – How 107 dead women became 126

When I talk about why I started counting dead women, I begin with my realisation that in the first three days of 2012, seven UK women had been killed though male violence.  More than two years later, I found out it wasn’t seven women in three days, but eight.

Betty Yates, a retired teacher who was 77 years-old, was found dead at home in her house in Bewdley, Worcestershire on 4th January.  She had been beaten with a walking stick and stabbed in the head four times, two days earlier.  The knife used to kill her was still embedded in her neck.  Stephen Farrow, 48, was charged with her murder through DNA evidence matched after he murdered vicar John Suddard on 13 February.

2012 then, in the first three days of the year, eight women were killed though male violence.  Three days: 8 dead women: 3 shot, 2 stabbed, 1 strangled, 1 smothered and one beaten to death through 15 blunt force trauma injuries.

By the end of the year, I’d counted and named 107 women killed though suspected male violence, but as cases of women’s killings went to court, that number grew.  By February 2013 it was 109 women, by  the end of July it became 114, then 118.  In October 2013, I added Carole Waugh and then later Louise Evans;  in March 2014, I added Sally Ann Harrison.  May 2014, and not only is there Betty Yates but Jenny Methven, Yong Li Qui, Patricia Seddon and Eleftheria Demetriou.

Jenny Methven was 80 years-old when she was found dead on 20th February, she died through blunt force injuries to her head and body. Her skull was fractured from one side to the other with bone splinters embedded in her brain. 46-year-old William Kean has been found guilty of her murder.

Yong Li Qui, 42,  was murdered by Gang Wang, 48.  In his trial, he denied he intended to kill her or cause her really serious harm. He had beaten her head with an object so severely that her skull was fractured and her brain tissue could be seen.  She died on 25th March, a week after being attacked.

Patricia Seddon, 65, and her husband Robert, 68, were shot dead by their son Stephen. Four months earlier, he had staged a road accident and attempted to kill them by driving into a canal with them strapped in the back seats of a car.

Eleftheria Demetriou, 79, was stabbed to death by Hakim Abdillah, 38, she was killed through multiple wounds to the heart and spleen by a man she had befriended and who used to call her ‘grandma’.

I’ve written before about how I initially started counting women killed by men who were partners, ex-partners or family members: domestic violence; I’ve also looked at how femicide is a more useful but still problematic term because, whilst using patriarchal society as a context  it focuses on women killed because they are women  and not enough on toxic masculinity.

Between the five women above, two, Betty Yates and Patricia Seddon were murdered by men who also murdered a man.  I don’t know how the sex of 80 year-old Jenny Methven, 79 year-old Eleftheria Demetriou, and 77 year-old Betty, was relevant when they were killed by William Kean, 46,  Hakim Abdillah, 38 and Stephen Farrow, 48.  The age gaps between killer and victim, the inevitable differences in their strength; and the brutality of their attacks mean masculinity and power over women and misogyny, the hatred of women cannot be ruled out.   But the differences between the numbers of men who kill women (or men) to the number of women who kill women or men; and the number of men who kill their mothers (or father) to the number of women who kill a parent mean that if we want to end male violence against women, we need to look at patriarchy, sex inequality and socially constructed toxic gender for the answers.

The names of all 126 UK women killed through male violence in 2012 can be found here.

Holy Cow! Women killed by their partners or ex-partners are their own worst enemy says columnist

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

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 TrevisNatasha 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.

There are a lot of isolated incidents around

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.