The Reasons for Child Homicide across the UK
Child homicide occurs in consistent patterns across the UK and these patterns help professionals solve and prevent child homicide cases. The relationships between the victim(s) and the perpetrator(s) are found to more commonly be familial ties more often than stranger(s). Negligence is one of the main reasons for child homicide, and discussion about the purpose and rationale of perpetrators for this is mentioned extensively in the literature. The findings show that the frequent occurrence of men being the perpetrators for the majority of child homicide cases, whether they were related to the victim(s) or not, includes 25% of fathers murdering their own children for seemingly no reason at all. There is also evidence to show that a weak maternal bond may cause the mother to feel compelled to get rid of her child(ren), possibly because they are frequently viewed as a ‘chore’. There are normally tell-tale signs of possible child homicide when there have been signs of child abuse. The case studies of Sarah Barras, Susan Nelles and Genene Jones are discussed where it is not always the family members who kill their children but mostly is often the case
Child homicide is something that for years investigators and other professionals have been attempting to link various patterns with child homicide and have reached many conclusions of why people kill children such as the lack of care and empathy they have for children, more commonly in child homicide cases, their own child(ren).
Child homicide is when an adult kills a child, and this is referred to using a variety of terms such as: neonaticide and filicide which are both explained later. Child homicide is more commonly carried out by the family of those victims that are murdered rather than a stranger. Child homicide is the most extreme form of violence against children and a tragic event with serious effects on both families and the community. Approximately 95, 000 children are murdered each year globally.
The relationships between the victim and the perpetrator and their mental status are reviewed along with signs of domestic violence and negligence. The problems with maternal bond with the child can lead to violence and child homicide. When a mother experiences pathological anger towards the infant, she may have an impulse to harm or kill the child, or she may lose control and shout and scream at the baby. When the presentation of anger is more pronounced, this may result in handling the baby roughly such as obstructing the infants breathing, or she may strike, beat, bite, burn or throw him or make a deliberate attempt to kill him.
The national society for the prevention of cruelty to children presents data that shows there are one to two child deaths every week. These deaths are due to a parental negligence or mistreatment in general. Child homicide cases are becoming increasingly challenging for forensic diagnosticians due to the event not being seen. This is because the homicide is typically carried out behind closed doors and there is a struggle to pinpoint the abuser as there may be more than one guardian for the child.
Cordner et al., in Australian contexts refers to 11 case studies of child homicide. They found difficulty in differentiating between disease and abuse in these cases. Moreover, lack of care and socioeconomic factors rather than dislike of the child tend to be more prevalent in child homicide. Child homicide is less common than other causes of childhood death with ninety-three deaths as of the end of 2018 compared to other causes. (office of national statistics 2019) However child homicide is very poorly grasped. To be more understood professionals try to retrieve patterns between child homicide cases to correlate the reasons between each case, so it is easier to prevent future child homicides. When investigating deaths, professionals found that children were killed more frequently from gunshot wounds and stab wounds.
Dolan et al., found that in sixty-four cases of child homicide in the Yorkshire region, men were accused of the crimes in all of the cases. Poor mental health and a past of scarification was found in many of these cases with over half having a criminal record along with seventeen cases with previous violence to children.
High profile child murderers may cause parents to fear for their children’s safety, however, most of the cases of child homicide happen due to some parents’ murderous tendencies. Killers from outside the family were all males aged 19-42, something which links to the sixty-four cases mentioned above. Pritchard et al., 2008 say, Professionals put this factor to cases to try and find out the perpetrator by relating that information to other cases. This result is backed up with more males being convicted and 25% of fathers murdering their child(ren) arising from a threat of divorce from their partner. To go through to try and solve child homicide cases in the case of Sarah Barras who killed two of her six children with intent to kill the other four. She received a thirty-five-year prison sentence.
This case was difficult for investigators to solve as, to the public, her and her partner seemed like a loving couple when in actuality the couple were in an incestual relationship and it was found out during the interview stage that the motive for the murders was that the partners were scared the children would be put into care. During the court proceedings it was found out that in her childhood, Barras was emotionally, physically and sexually abused, eventually being taken into care which may have been part of her motivation for the abuse and eventual killings of her children Kitching. C.
Traumatic pasts seem to be a trend for some child murderers that eventually leads to them displaying the same traits in the future along with financial issues and alcohol and drug abuse being common in the killers’ households. Mental problems are also common as the perpetrators claim to not be of sound mind which leads to them murdering the children.
Marieke & Frans state that investigators have difficulty solving child homicide cases as parents are usually the ones to care for their children. Yet in child homicide cases Marieke et al. state that it is the parents who killed their children yet they show a pretence of being distraught for the loss of their child(ren) and only in rare cases will the perpetrators not show any emotion which shows that they do not regret their actions murder is the fourth highest killer for one to nineteen-year olds after transport accidents, cancer, and nervous disorders. Undetermined events are also tenth on the list which could possibly hint to unsolved cases of filicide Khan. A, Murder - 4th likely cause of death across ages 1-19.
There were also 420 cases of paternal filicide – the killing of the fathers’ own child between 1900 and 1939 in the UK. This shows how filicide is mostly male dominated and professionals can use this pattern to solve, investigate and prevent child homicide.
Approximately 95,000 children are murdered each year globally, and being murdered in childhood is strongly associated with age, gender and geography.Child homicide perpetrators’ choosing of children below the age of 1 year old, neonaticides – the killing of a parents’ own infant in the first 24 hours of life, adolescents and gender, all contribute to an investigator’s findings.
Professionals commonly do not associate abandonments, when a mother purposely leaves their child to die in poor conditions, common in poor countries and areas, with child homicide as the motive is unclear. This means official statistics do not class them as child homicide. This means that professionals do not include abandonment in the pattern missing out on what could be valuable information. The restricted availability of data and age breakdowns also meant that the analysis could not be done for every age group or by gender as there was not enough data to fall back on.
Neonatal homicides are often mistaken for ‘Sudden Infant Death Syndrome’ (SIDS) so they are also not included in homicide figures. This means that professionals do not include this in the pattern either even if the ‘SIDS’ could be ruled as a possible child homicide. When studying the seasonality of child homicide professionals found out that there is no seasonality to child homicides by month or by year or season in the examined population of children.
Alcohol consumption is one of the main factors for child homicide as a child may pass away as a result of drunken beatings. These beatings have become increasingly more common throughout the past decade according to psychiatrists especially in poorer areas where broken homes more commonly occur and child homicides are increasingly popular according to a study done by the NSPCC. Seventy-nine men and eighty-two women were detained in the hospital under criminal charges, having killed or attempted to kill their own child(ren) from data collected between 1953 to 2004 in total.
When a woman kills her children there are cases where a mother has murderous hatred for her child(ren) which is driven by the desire for revenge on her husband; it is a reference to Medea of Greek mythology, who kills her children to get revenge on her husband for leaving her, as they reminded her of her husband’s betrayal. This is known as the Medea complex and is a good reference for investigators to understand better, the motives some women have for killing their children.
Daly and Wilson report that stepfathers are twice as likely to kill by beating than biological fathers, whilst rates of fatal assaults of young children by stepfathers are over one hundred times more than biological fathers.
The case study of Susan Nelles, who was not the parent of any of the children, she aided in murdering, the case was acquitted as she was not on duty at the time yet still failed to notify a doctor or nurse on the infants slowly dying from oxygen deprivation. After Nelles was arrested the ever-increasing number of infant deaths at the hospital at which she worked stopped increasing the suspicion, yet she was let free due to only having circumstantial evidence. What this case study shows us is that child homicide can not only happen at home but can happen outside the home which breaks the patterns of filicides and neonaticides that relatives kill their kids.
Genene Anne Jones (born July 13, 1950) is a former paediatric nurse who killed somewhere between 11 and 46 infants and children in her care, (the exact number is unknown), She used injections of digoxin, heparin and later succinylcholine to induce medical crises in her patients, with the intention of reviving them afterward in order to receive praise and attention. A series of internal inquiries were held without any positive recommendation, and eventually a panel comprising experts from hospitals in the USA and Canada was appointed to look into the deaths. The panel routinely interviewed members of the staff at the Texan hospital she worked at and were surprised when one of her own colleagues bluntly accused Genene Jones of the infants' murder. The panel failed to reach any firm conclusion beyond the suggestion that the hospital dispense with the services of both Jones and the nurse who had accused her of killing babies. In 1985 she was given a 99-year life sentence after they found a lethal dose of succinylcholine which was used as a general anaesthetic in a child she had nursed and was refused parole in 2006.
The relationship between the victim(s) and the perpetrator(s) is a prominent link for child homicide cases in the UK along with the motives commonly being feelings of abandonment and isolation along with parents who cannot deal with the stress of raising a child, so they (the perpetrators) decide to murder them instead of facing responsibility. In rarer cases of child homicide, the perpetrator(s) are the doctors or nurses that were supposed to care for them. The common pattern seen here is that it is, more often than not, the people who are supposed to care for the child(ren) that end up killing them. This pattern shows that facing responsibility is something that humans are universally bad at doing. Homicide statistics for children in the UK show an annual increase with the NSPCC.