Thursday, February 24, 2011

Why would a dad kill his kids? (United Kingdom)

Why indeed? Check out the statistics. Most parental child killers are in fact fathers. And notice that in many of these cases there is a history of domestic violence, and that the murders often take when the mother is trying to separate from the abusive father and/or during child visitation.

Why would a dad kill his kids?
Merissa Richards

IT'S A disturbing statistic. Nearly 70 percent of all the children who die as a result of murder or manslaughter in the UK lose their lives at the hands of a parent. In most cases the killer is their father.

Most recently, the shocking case of Jean Francis Say hit the headlines. It is alleged that the 61-year-old father from the Ivory Coast stabbed his two children to death in their south London flat before calling his ex-wife, who informed the police.

It was reported that retired concierge and part-time football steward Say was found by detectives sitting calmly beside the bodies of his children, 10-year-old son Rolls and eight-year-old daughter Regina.

Say, who had the children for the weekend, was arrested at the scene and later charged with the youngsters’ murders.

In an interview with the Evening Standard, the children’s mother, Adjoua Say, broke down in tears saying "My children, my children. It is too horrible," distraught at the deaths.

Horrifying as the Say case is, it is not, unfortunately, uncommon.

In April last year, a jealous father, who filmed a farewell video of his two young children before murdering them, was jailed for life.

Petros Williams, 37, a finance officer from Manchester, was given a minimum prison term of 28 years for killing his son Theo, two, and daughter Yolanda, four, in a "spiteful reaction" to the breakdown of his marriage.

The sadistic father strangled them with internet cables because he heard his wife, 30-year-old Morengoe Molemohi, known as Mo, was chatting to men on dating websites.

He left a chilling note for his wife, which read: ‘Mo, use the internet as much as you like, luv (sic) Petros.’

Another note read: ‘Mummy decided to leave us for a new boyfriend.’

The devastated mother expressed how the painful memory of her children’s deaths would forever be etched in her mind.

Mo said: “In the months that have passed since the children died, the effect upon my life has been tremendous. I know that it will continue to impact upon me for the rest of my life, and I also know that the pain will never go away.

She added: “Try to imagine the panic, the isolation and the sense of uselessness in those moments, as I realised that my most precious children needed me the most and I was unable to save them.”

In October 1999, Peter Stafford, 30, from Birmingham, stabbed his wife and three children before hanging himself from a banister in the family home. This month a jury found 26-year-old Ryan Leslie guilty of murdering Cameron Jay Leslie, who was just 14 weeks old when he died in hospital on September 6, 2008, after suffering severe injuries to several parts of his body

So why would a father murder his own child?

Associate professor Christine Harrison from the School of Health and Social Studies at Warwick University revealed that there is increasing anecdotal evidence which shows that cases such as these are becoming more frequent.

Harrison said: “Research that was done in the UK a couple of years ago found that in a sizable proportion of cases involving fathers killing their own children there is a history of domestic violence and escalating violence.”

She says prevention strategies involve being able to recognise early on where there is conflict.

“Post separation can cause lethal violence, and some women get to the point where there’s a problem if they stay and a problem if they go. So they’ll probably need legal advice and voluntary sector support in order to ensure that their children are safe and remain safe,” she told The Voice.

Dr Kevin Browne, a professor of forensic and family psychology at the University of Nottingham, says many family homicides occur in certain set patterns, and one of these patterns is an acrimonious divorce.

“Where the violent man tends to take revenge because he’s separated from his family and his children,” he said. “One third of all family homicides happen after separation.”

“The warning signs are mental illness, personality disorder and history of violence in the past; those are the main significant finds. Also, sometimes they are unable to cope, which often leads to a father losing his temper.”

Experts who have studied the issue claim there are noticeable differences in the mindset of men and women who kill their kids. Women are usually mentally ill, often suffering from postnatal depression. Men tend to be struggling with emotions of jealousy, anger, revenge and hatred.

Dr Alex Yellowlees, consultant psychiatrist and medical director of the Priory Hospital in Glasgow said in a Guardian article: “Most men and woman go through life experiencing distressing circumstances such as relationship breakdowns or financial problems, and they have developed strategies to deal with them.

“But there are people, less functional people, who have not developed those coping skills. They have very low self-esteem. They are almost always very controlling and are less able to handle rejection. They cannot talk about it - it is as if they have failed - and they simply cannot accept it. They feel utterly humiliated and respond with the ultimate act of revenge - if I can't have you, no one can. They know that she will suffer for the rest of her life if he kills the children and leaves her alive.”

For mothers like Adjoua Say and Morengoe Molemohi the reasons their partners killed their children will probably count for little. They will live with the lifetime pain of having their flesh and blood taken from them in such a cruel and senseless manner. But for society, being aware of the warning signs could prove to be of vital importance in preventing future tragedies.