Child Homicides – an uncomfortable truth


News this week that Birmingham’s children’s social services have been adjudged as “inadequate” should come as no surprise. For ten years, Birmingham and a host of other authorities such as Haringey, have hung on by their figures tips and have survived despite incompetency and an absence of proficiency.

In last weeks edition of “Children & Young People Now” (CYPN), Tim Loughton MP, the Tory shadow children’s minister is reported as ‘waiting in the wings‘- presumably to swoop down on some ne’er-do-wells, social services, or badly functioning quangos.

CYPN, the official publication for members of the National Children’s Bureau and The National Youth Agency, describes him being ‘absolutely committed to the Every Child Matters agenda’

Mr. Loughton’s style is said to be to spend a lot of time speaking face-to-face with key figures and frontline practitioners – which can only be a good attribute.

In terms of policy he has made it clear that there is a “need to go through everything in the department’s budget to make sure it is justified”, which, bearing in mind the Victoria Climbie and Baby P affairs – and all the in-between fiascos – mount up to a formidable task for any new government and any new minister.

This brings us to a juncture that should concern many, and one that it is not spoken of, namely, what if the organisations the minister is speaking to are not representative ?

What if they are working to their own agenda ? How will he know their information can be trusted and their proficiency unassailable ?

The recent arrest of female paedophiles, Vanessa George and Angela Allen (2009) [1] and the opening of the trial and the opening of  the trial of Rekha Kumari-Baker, who killed her two daughters [2] (filicide) are the sort of cases both society and children organisations have yet to come to terms with.  (See Appendix A for a list of homicide terms).

Above: Vanessa George                             

Right : Rekha Kumari-Baker

The common assumption is that only men murder and whereas this is true of adult slayings it is not true of children slayings.

It wasn’t long ago that the NSPCC admitted:

“Yet, at the start of a new millennium, we do not know the true scale of child abuse and neglect in the UK.”

The Children & Young People Now (CYPN) report put one in mind of an article once sent to the magazine ‘Community Care’ in 2003. At the time ‘Community Care’ blithely described itself as the ‘leading social care information provider’ and ‘a must’ for all social care professionals’. It promoted itself as the champion for the interests and values of social care and how it had ‘helped shape’ social care policy over the years.

An ideal candidate, one would have imagined, for social workers to learn about perpetrator statistics, of child abuse, child murders, and the ages most at risk and the most likely perpetrator

However, the article which was submitted only a few months before the media turmoil caused by the tragic death of 7 year-old Khyra Ishaq (May 2008), proved too much for the editorial staff to digest.

When the first draft was enthusiastically embraced, verification was not unreasonably sought by the journal. Obligingly, appropriate tables and graphs were supplied – all sourced from the UK government, the ONS and US government data showing child death and perpetrator were supplied to Natalie Valios. An example of one of several graphs and tables sent is shown below (see Fig 1).

Fig 1.Child Homicides by age of victim and sex (Home Office Fig 4.4)Perhaps in 2003 it was not acceptable in certain circles to suggest that the hand that rocked the cradle was metaphorically the same one that wielded the knife. Re-draft versions were then requested and duly sent. Perhaps disbelief or incredulity forced them to overrule their mission statement (see Appendix B). In 2003 ‘maternal infanticide’ revolted the mind and was still a taboo subject. But by 2008, and after the Khyra Ishaq case, the writing was surely on the wall for all to see ?

There then followed a delay, from July 8th 2003 until Sept 8th 2003. For whatever the reason Katie Leason, the editor Community Care, then wrote saying:

“. . . . we will not be publishing it, primarily because we are not convinced by the arguments concerning female murderers.”

In effect she and Community Care were saying that government statistics could not be believe and should not be used to convince anyone.

Children account for between 10% and 20% of all homicide victims (in Australia, UK, Canada and the United States), so this should be of massive interest to social workers and their professional journal. [3]

One wonders if she applies the same criterion of rejecting objective facts for a cosier view of life in other articles that they publish ?

In the six years that have elapsed one has to muse whether she has had cause to re-assess her decision ?  The stated criteria of Community Care was that articles should be “genuinely interesting and useful”, or “ground-breaking and original” or “authoritative, accurate and well-founded.” The article they rejected was all of these things

Ordinarily government funded NGOs appear to take government generated statistics without query. Was it the inclusion of American statistics which mapped very well onto the British data that caused them to have cold feet  ? Was it that the American data was quite emphatic regarding the sex of the perpetrator whereas the UK data showed only the age and sex of the victim ?

Pictures talk

For every one graph that can be generated from British statistics 3 or 4 can be created from American data – the following are a sample available for examining solely child deaths.

Firstly, Fig 2 (below), taken from US data, shows the rate per 100,000 of all homicides by age including children from date of birth to 19 years of age.

Among US child homicides in the first week of life, 82.6% occurred on the day of birth (see Graph 3), 9.2% on the second day, and 8.2% during the remainder of the week. The increase and decay in US child homicides is shown in the graph below marked Figure 1 (the original US numbering has been retained for accuracy).                 

The next diagram marked “Graph 4 Murder in Families” related to US data on not just the number and age of children murdered but whether they were girls or boys. 

Note how ‘mothers’ are the dominant slayer of children followed by “other men” from which we have to deduce a transient non-permanent male associate. It is fathers who almost fail to register at all as slayer of children and only become visible in the ‘Total’ column for all ages.

Whichever way and method child murders are recorded – be it percentages, per 100,000 or concrete numbers – the indisputable fact is that most are slain by mothers.

It is not as if British statistics have been singularly remiss in failing to point this out, the statistical services of other countries (e.g. Canada, Australia), have been equally slow or even reluctant to highlight this problem (not least because it should inform judges when they consider awarding custody of children after a divorce).

StatsCan, in particular, has long been criticised by many individual researchers over a number of years for in-built bias and “glossing over” but the real surprise was Australian child homicide data.

In 2009 an amendment had to be rushed out correcting data in the National Homicide Monitoring Program 2006-07. The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), which is responsible for the data was contacted and advised of its error.

The original report stated that 7 homicides involved a mother and 15 involved male family members (the full report can be downloaded from the AIC website). [4]. The corrected number of child homicides and the perpetrators are shown below in Graph 5.

            Graph 5. Child homicides by perpetrator relationship (2006-            2007) Australia

Without the monitoring by fathers’ groups and men’s health lobby groups this error and many others would pass by unnoticed. [5]

The AIC also had to acknowledge that their ambiguous use of words led to muddled conclusions. For instance, in describing a family as a ‘male family member and mother’ it failed to identify the key difference in homicides between where a biological father existed in the home and ‘transient’ father figures in single mother households (SMH), i.e. Graph 5.

In future reports the AIC has undertaken to employ classifications that provide a more detailed information of the relationship between child homicide victims and the offenders.

New Zealand is also realising the inconvenient truth that mothers are just as equally likely – some would say more likely – as fathers to kill their children.[6]

New child homicide findings by Victoria University researcher Ms. Liz Moore suggest the child homicide offending is split between males and females.

She examined the post mortem results of 69 children, who were among the more than 200 murdered between 1980 and 2003. Of the 69 murdered children, 42 were boys, and the majority lived within nuclear families with both their biological parents. Ms Moore said 30 of the children were killed alongside one or all of their brothers/sisters and most of the offenders acted alone.

New Zealand has legalised cohabitation and this transitory lifestyle might skew the perpetrator data within nuclear families – as this would include cohabitation – and this raises a question mark over the normal meaning of biological parent.

As alluded to earlier, Home Office data for the number of child deaths is woefully in adequate and where it is possible to isolate elements remains ambiguous for interpretation purposes.

Privately, individual police forces and the NSPCC estimate that as many as 100 children may be murdered every year. We only read of the most shocking. But that sort of figure won’t be found in the usual HO publications.

As far back as Sept 22nd 2002 the ‘Daily Telegraph’ was reporting that Det. Insp. Bacon and his Sussex colleagues had researched 476 cases and found that:

  • 61% never went to court because the culprit could not be identified
  • 6% were thrown out by the judge;
  • a further 6% were acquitted
  • and in just 27% of cases were conviction secured by the Crown Prosecution Service. [7]

Det. Insp. Kevin Bacon’s additional comment in 2002 is probably more relevant to. As a member of the working group he described how violent men moved in “like cuckoos” on vulnerable single-parent families, abused the children, then evaded the law by moving away – presumably to strike again.

The parallels with domestic violence are uncanny. The victims are the same vulnerable

women in single-parent families and the perpetrator the same transient resident. This is not to imply a one-way street, on the contrary, Prone to Violence (by Erin Pizzey) long ago described how some women feel drawn to men they know beforehand are violent.

So where, one wonders, can Tim Loughton turn to for independent and reliable data ?

Its takes a second report by Lord Laming to provide us with the shorthand:

  • two-thirds of the 183 victims were under five
  • one third were less than a year old
  • most were beaten to death, stabbed, smothered or strangled
  • nearly three-quarters of the cases, the killers were either the child’s mother or father (and on rare occasions both)
  • One-fifth of deaths involved the mother’s partner or new boyfriend
  • Men [inc boyfriends, cohabitees, strangers, siblings etc] were twice as likely to kill as women

In an observation that is at the same time exasperating but which may at last focus the attention of all the political parties  Lord Laming notes that father have a vital role to play in keeping children save from abuse. [8] 

That cannot be in dispute but it will not help policy shaper to have spousal and biological fathers lumped together with ‘fathers’ who are mere cohabitees or this month’s boyfriend. 

Time and again – and the Baby P and Khyra Ishaq cases are classic instances – if a father had been allowed proper parental participation or access, by Social Services, or CAFCASS, a death or severe abuse could have been averted. 


Appendix A

  • Filicide Killing of own child by a biological parent
  • Neonaticide Killing of own child within the first 24 hours of birth by a parent
  • Infanticide Killing of own child aged less than 1 year old by a parent
  • Filicide-suicide Killing of own child by biological parent followed by suicide of parent
  • Familicide Murder of own child and other parent followed by suicide

Appendix B

Contact arrangements endanger children, Community Care conference hears.  Sunday, 01, Apr 2007 12:00$469986.htm#

 [ emphasis added ] 

Without question the Community Care Conference held in London on 29th March 07 was hijacked by woman for woman with the continued influence of the Woman’s feminist movement being its main player.

That any child is killed at the hands of a father or mother is a tragedy to say the least, it would seem however as in all such conferences emphasis is placed purely and simply on the actions of father’s in favour of mothers whilst the facts themselves paint a rather different picture as can be found in “Child Victims Of Homicideby Christine Alder & Ken Polk (Paperback ISBN-13:9780521002516) and used by Cambridge University which clearly shows that

Children account for 10-20% of all homicide victims in Australia, UK, Canada and the United States. Unlike other forms of homicide where men are by far the most likely perpetrators, studies show that women are as equally likely as men to commit child homicide. The authors ask who are the most likely killers of infants–mothers or fathers? Who are the most likely killers of adolescents–family or outsiders? They also consider patterns in suicide/homicides. The book draws on Australian case studies and comparative statistics from the UK and North America, having read this book myself I am ever mindful indeed grateful that Lord Justice Wall at the outset of his 24th March 06 report into child homicide cases as presented to him by the Woman’s AID Foundation of England (WAFE) was motivated to state the following “Whilst I by no means agree with everything in it” unquote.

For herein lay a big question mark surrounding the publicly displayed human persona as apposed to the true agenda behind such woman’s and children’s organizations and so adequately explained by UK expert Erin Pizzey founder of the first Refuge, in the following Daily Mail article.

We for our part at the NSCFC will continue to lobby for parity in family law and if this means highlighting that the feminist movement is society’s number one enemy on this issue then so be it. Suffice to say I, as Chairman, truly believe that the family is the primary socialising agency in a child’s life. I also believe the family is the corner stone of any civilisation.

[1] ‘Nursery worker admits sex abuse’. Oct 1st 2009

[2]  “Mother ‘wished her daughter dead”, Sept 2009,

[3]Child Victims Of Homicide” by Christine Alder & Ken Polk , Community Care conference, 2007.

[5] For instance, radio station ‘Dads on the Air’ (Greg Andresen), and ‘Dads in Distress’ (Phil York).

[6] “Mothers and fathers equally likely to kill children – study”,  The New Zealand Herald, 3rd May 2007

[7] “Which parent is the killer ?” Daily Telegraph 22nd Sept 2002. “Most of the victims, 83 per cent, were under the age of two . . . . the law had difficulty proving which parent caused the injuries.” English law has been clear since a test case in 1987, when the convictions of James and Linda Lane for the manslaughter of their 18-month-old daughter, Sarah Phillips, were overturned on appeal. The prosecution could not prove which parent had fractured Sarah’s skull.


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