The Blog

When a Father Kills - It Is More Than Just a Tragedy.

It is clear that there are other men out there (and some women) thinking about doing this and we should at least call them what they are - cowardly, violent men (usually) who can't face up to the stresses of life without resorting to terrible crimes.

The Radio 4 drama Craven, features Maxine Peake playing a dedicated and determined detective investigating the fictional murder of children by their father after a family break up. In episode 5 - broadcast last week - the fictional detective says "I think a women should be free to change her mind with having her children killed" and "these killers are written about like there is a nobility in it ......... like there is this tragic man" I did find myself agreeing with this fictional detective because in the real world almost every time a small helpless child is killed by their father it is called a 'tragedy'!

It is sadly ironic that there was a similar case in the papers in the same week. The reports say that a suspect believed to be the girl's father shot a girl, aged between six and eight, in the head in a small village near Rye. Sadly, she has since died.

Predictably a senior police officer was quoted as saying "We are treating this as a tragic domestic incident and do not believe anyone else is involved". Of course these police officers are feeling the horror of the situation and no doubt searching for words to describe it - but everyone uses the same words - 'tragedy' or 'tragic' when a parent kills one or more of their children.

A quick search found the report of a father, living near Shrewsbury who killed his three children in 2012 - here is an extract from the Telegraph report - 'Ceri Fuller, 35, knifed son Sam, 12, and daughters Rebecca, eight, and seven-year-old Charlotte, before being found dead alongside them at the bottom of a 65ft-high cliff in a disused quarry. Police described it as a "tragic family situation".

Yet another incident in 2012 - a father kills his two children in Hampshire and yet again a police officer is quoted as saying - the "tragic incident" happened during an arranged visit. Very often the case will involve a family break up or estrangement - though not always - and in most cases the father takes his own life afterwards.

There are plenty of other examples - so like the fictional detective I ask the question - why do we call the brutal killing of some of our young citizens a 'tragedy' when their own father is the killer when we would not call it that if a stranger carried out the same brutal crime? These men are not 'tragic' figures - they are (or were) brutal criminals - whether they survive or not. These are horrible crimes carried out on the most vulnerable people by someone in a position of power and trust - it is the ultimate act of betrayal for a parent on a child.

I say this because it is probable that there are other men out there (and some women) thinking about doing this awful crime and we should at least call them what they are - cowardly, violent people who can't face up to the stresses of life without resorting to terrible crimes. For those thinking of carrying out such a crime should not see themselves as tragic figures.

The family of both the killer and of the victims suffer beyond description and we should be careful not to increase their suffering. But I also think it says something quite bad about the rest of us that we are content to write these things off as just tragedies. It says something about it just being a family matter - that until you are an adult your life is worth less. It says something about children being a father's possession to do with as he wants.

I think it also says something about our attitudes to other vulnerable people - to the children in care who were left at the mercy of abusers - to women who suffer domestic violence (as do men of course) and some who face losing their lives at a time when we are busy closing down refuges. There are some people whose lives are not seen as equal and valued as others.

Someone should be outraged on behalf of the children who lose their lives this way because they are more than just the children of the man who killed them - they were individuals who deserved to have the rest of their lives to enjoy.

It may not be for the police to express the appropriate outrage at the loss of any young persons life as a result of a brutal crime but equally they should not diminish the severity of it. So next time a father kills his children - which sadly will happen because it always does - perhaps the senior police officer can resist calling it a tragedy. If he or she doesn't feel they can call it what it is - because it will be subject to a Coroner's inquest - then don't call it anything: just give out the facts.