Child Homicides

How many child murders are there every year ?

by Robert Whiston FRSA.  Aug 9th 2010

For technical reaons this page has been moved to It is titled: “How many child murders are there every year ?” 

I apologise for any confusuion but I suspect a corruption among the hidden coding on this page has prevented the display of the Tables below as was originally intended.

Please now click on

How many child murders seems a reasonable and simple enough question, but in Britain it is one with no definitive answer, no straightforward reply and each answer is fraught with caveats.

No single ministry it would appear keeps a comprehensive record.  Those Whitehall departments that do keep a record of tragic child deaths from unnatural causes, i.e. child abuse, maltreatment, murder etc. use different methodology and thus annual totals are at various with one another.

The baseline is in the region of 100 child deaths/murders per year using Home Office Criminal Statistics. However, child abuse industry pundits think it may be double that figure.

One Whitehall department is Ofsted – a comparatively recent addition (1992) to the array of departments with an interest in children. – is one of those that suspects child deaths are double, i.e. in the 200 pa region.

Surprisingly, Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education), [1] whose primary remit is the maintenance of high teaching and exams standards in schools produces its own figures for child deaths.

The following Table details child deaths in categories used by Ofsted in 2007 – 08. For comparison new data for 2008-09 has been fitted in alongside:

Table 1

Child deaths notified to Ofsted from 4/2007 to 3/2008 (where neglect or abuse was a factor or suspected)

Circum-stance surrounding the deaths
2007-08Number of children 2008- 09Number of children Additional comments
Suicide 28 24 Young people aged 12-17 years; identified factors include domestic violence and mental health concerns; includes young people in care or custodial settings.
Murder by parent or carer 25 24 A parent or carer was subsequently charged with murder.
Physical abuse 23 – – Medical opinion states that the injuries were non-accidental; or where a parent or carer was subsequently charged with offences directly linked to the injuries.
Substance misuse identified as a factor 19 13 Substance misuse was evident at time of death; poisoning by parent or carer including administration of prescribed medication; deaths arising from harm and harm suffered by babies born to parents with a history of substance misuse.
Unexplained causes 16 13 Outcomes of police or coroners enquiries are inconclusive but abuse or neglect suspected.
Neglect 14 (Mal-nourish-ment 14 + 11) Neglect identified as factor in the death. Includes children left unattended, failure to seek medical attention, malnourishment and known neglect by parent or carer.
Killed by parent when sleeping 11 5 Child died as a result of suffocation sharing bed with a parent when there were concurrent concerns of alcohol, substance misuse or domestic violence.
Domestic violence identified as a factor 11 – – Circumstances of death are inconclusive but known domestic violence between parents or carers is recorded.
Killing by another young person 9 9 Deaths through shootings or stabbings inflicted by a young person where abuse or neglect a contributory factor
Death by accident where neglect occurred 8 17 Accidents on roads or in homes where neglect is a factor; includes illegal handling of guns; and accidents where the explanation is not consistent with the injuries sustained by the child.
Shaken baby syndrome 7 – – Based on medical opinion stated.
“Other” 39 14 + 11 + 9 + 6 (‘other’ road accidents) Aggregation of factors where there are small numbers: including deliberately started house fires, concerns about the mental health of parents or carers, concealed births and history of sexual abuse.
Total 210 174  
Note: The categories for 2008-09 figures are slightly different from the 2007-08 tables. In 2008-09 there are only 4 main headings; 1). Homicide 2). Other external causes, 3). Accidents and adverse events and 4). Undetermined. All 4 categories each have ‘others’ as sub-sections. An attempt has been made to blend this new format with the previous data. Some small errors are to be expected.

Immediately one notices the total 210, and then that there is no ‘perpetrator’ listed. Not only that, but the age, sex and relationship of the perpetrator is not given.

Then one realises that the age and sex of the dead child is not listed. We thus have, for example, 25 confirmed murders of a child by a parent but we have no idea if it was by a mother or a father. Were there, for instance, 25 murder trials in 2007 – 2008 ?

Some killings are characteristic of one sex or the other, i.e. mother or father. “Neglect” is most commonly associated with maternal homicide as in the case of Khyra Ishaq, the 7 year old who was staved to death in Birmingham. [2]

(The number of suicides are of grave concern since they are increasing, however it is such an expansive subject that its deserves to be addressed quite separately from this paper). [3]

Ofsted report does not include her death but for the previous 12 months notes that there were 14 similar cases with an additional 16 deaths suspected and categorised as “unexplained abuse” cases.  ‘Smothering’ is another form of homicide that mothers frequently prefer over men. Ofsted reports 11 cases of this type of murder in 2007-08.

The two categories where one might suppose men or fathers to be the most likely candidacies for causing a child’s death is where ‘shaken baby syndrome’ and ‘ddomestic violence’ is identified as a factor – but arguably distraught mothers could equally be as  likely a candidate, e.g. Louise Woodward’s shaken baby trial in the US (1997).

The underlying problem with the Ofsted data is that it relies on “serious incidents involving children who have been abused/died of abuse in the last 24 months” being forwarded by local authorities. If no reports are sent by local authorities Ofsted is forced to list no murders that year.

Ofsted’s Annual Report for 2008 states that there had actually been 282 notifications of deaths of children (notified to Ofsted from local authorities between April1st 2007 and 31st August 2008).

However, a later examination of their records re: these tragic deaths,  showed that, as of  Nov. 24th 2008, 72 of the 282 notified deaths had been found NOT to have abuse or neglect as a factor (282 – 72 = 210).

The Home Office and the ‘Criminal Statistics’ it is responsible for publishing is an obvious data source for child homicides. But again the picture is anything but illuminated by them. So much so that even parliamentary questions to e.g. to Vernon Coaker MP, on 7th Oct 2008, failed to extract the required detail. [4] See Table below.

Homicides currently recorded( 1) where victim aged under 10 years: England and Wales, 1997-98 to 2006-07 ( 2)
Year offence initially recorded( 3) Number of homicides
1997 – 98 61
1998 – 99 70
1999 – 2000 56
2000 – 01 81
2001 – 02 49
2002 – 03 73
2003 – 04 53
2004 – 05 48
2005 – 06 38
2006 – 07 49

(2)As at 12 November 2007; figures are revised as cases are dealt with by the police and by the courts, or as further information becomes available.
(2) Data for 2007-08 are scheduled to be published in January 2009.
(3) Offences are shown according to the year in which the police initially recorded the offence as homicide. This is not necessarily the year in which the incident took place or the year in which any court decision was made.

Child Homicide figures and the statistical analysis for England & Wales can also be found in ‘Homicides, Firearm Offences and Intimate Violence 2006-07’ (Home Office Statistical Bulletin 03/08).

The annual numbers are at variance to the parliamentary answer given above.  Converted into a graph, the data for Bulletin 03/08 can be seen below in; “Fig 1: Child homicides where the suspect was known to the victim.”

As if to not to be left out of contention the Dept of Health compiles it own figures The Dept of Health is usually seen taking ‘the lead’ in child abuse and murder matters but its data is not transparent. It compiles significant amounts of data but never lists its findings by age or sex of victim or the age and sex of the perpetrator.

Historically, the Department of Health accepts (circa 2001) that it annually receives about 120 notifications of child deaths or incidents of serious harm to children involving potential major public concern. [5] But, “by no means all of these 120 or so notifications result in an Area Child Protection Committee case review. Currently the Department receives on average one Section 8/ACPC case review each week.”

Year Non-Accident   Natural Causes Accident,Suicide, Solvent Other Total
1990 -01 55 35 10 22 122
1991 – 02   45 35 24 11 115
1992 – 03 59 32 14 11 116
1993 – 04 54 32 19 7 112
1994 – 05 54 29 28 9 120
Source:  Child deaths, Department of Health 1990 – 95.

Taking account of these different definitions and methods of recording, the Department of Health estimates that there are about 90 child deaths each year that are the subject of a full Serious Case Review.

The link between Serious Case Reviews and fatal child abuse is not straightforward. Serious Case Reviews include non-fatal abuse as well as natural causes or accidental death, especially where other concerns are raised. There is also variation in practice between ACPCs in their response to a reported child death. Under-reporting of fatal child abuse has also been noted (Wilczynski, 1994; Creighton, 2001) particularly where the cause of death is uncertain as in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (Hobbs et al., 1995). Information on child homicide is equally uncertain (Browne and Lynch, 1995; Pritchard 1996); hence the continued use of the widely quoted statistic ‘on average, between 1 to 2 children each week die as a result of abuse or neglect’ (NSPCC, 2001). – – See ‘Part 8’ notifications of child deaths to Department of Health 1990-95.

Year Non-Accident   Natural Causes Accident,Suicide, Solvent Other Total
1990 -01 55 35 10 22 122
1991 – 02   45 35 24 11 115
1992 – 03 59 32 14 11 116
1993 – 04 54 32 19 7 112
1994 – 05 54 29 28 9 120
Source:  Child deaths, Department of Health 1990 – 95.

As examples of how opaque data can become when the Department of Health tries to be transparent and give details of child deaths, three tables are displayed below:

1. OUTCOMES OF THE INCIDENTS – child deaths (Dept of Health)
  Old Guidance New Guidance Total
Mother only 5 7 12
Father only 0 1 1
Mother and father 10 5 18
Mother, step father / cohabitee 4 4 8
Other 1 0 1
  Old Guidance New Guidance Total
0-1 month 3 4 7
2-3 months 4 1 5
4-6 months 1 2 3
7-12 months 1 3 4
1-3 years 0 6 6
4-5 years 6 1 7
6-10 years 1 0 1
11-15 years 2 3 5
16 and over 1 0 1
Not known 1 0 1
3. Cause of Death – child deaths (Dept of Health)
  Old Guidance New Guidance Total
Not known 4 1 5
Mother 7 4 11
Father 3 5 8
Non-biological ‘mother’ 0 1 1
Non-biological ‘father’ 2 1 3
Sibling 0 0 0
Other relative 0 0 0
Family friend 0 0 0
Stranger 1 0 1
Mother and father 1 2 3
Other 1 1 2
Not applicable 1 5 6

Susan Creighton’s work for the NSPCC (ref. 2001 above) should not be underestimated in getting to grips with who murders children and nor should the Family Court Reporter which, sadly, was last published by the Home Office in 1991.

Since 1995 the SIDs figures (sudden infantile death syndrome), mentioned in the Department of Health paragraph above, have since plummeted – but that too is a separate story.


[1]Ofsted can trace its origins to 1833 when the first School Inspectorate was set up.  The present inspectorate was restructured in 1992. it inspects and regulates centres of learning to ensure education and skills standards for all pupil ages.

[2] Khyra Ishaq was pronounced dead on Saturday 17th May 2008,  Source: The Independent,

[3] “Child suicide bids rise to more than 4,000”, Children’s Secretary calls for greater vigilance to spot those at risk, By  Jo Revill and John Lawless,  The Observer, Sunday Dec 16th  2007

[4] Hansard, 7 Oct 2008: Column 575W

[5] These numbers include notifications of the death from any cause of any child being looked after by a local authority or of any child who dies in residential care (as do Ofsted figures).


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