Number of child homicides rises during lockdown amid mental health fears

Martin Evans
·3 min read
Murders fell in London during lockdown but domestic homicides rose
Murders fell in London during lockdown but domestic homicides rose

The number of domestic homicides involving children has almost doubled during the pandemic, with senior Scotland Yard officers warning of the impact that lockdown has had on mental health.

New figures show that in 2020 the Metropolitan Police investigated 22 domestic killings, up from 16 in 2019.

But the number of children killed by a parent or carer over the same period increased from 7 in 2019 to 12 last year.

All of the cases investigated will now be subject to a multi-agency review, but there are fears that the strain of lockdown has fuelled mental health related homicides.

Earlier this week Olga Freeman pleaded guilty to killing her 10-year-old son, Dylan, after suffering mental health breakdown as she tried to look after him during lockdown.

In December shop worker, Nadarajah Nithiyakumar, was sent to a psychiatric hospital indefinitely after killing his two children Pavinya and Nigish, at their home in east London.

And in December, anaesthetist’s assistant, Shiwangi Bagoan, 25, killed herself and her two-year-old daughter at their home in Hounslow.

Asked what factors might have contributed to the rise in the number of domestic homicides, Commander David McLaren said the impact of lockdown could not be discounted.

He said: “I think it is fair to say that mental health has played a part in a number of those crimes this year and it isn’t a massive leap of faith to say that lockdown has an impact on all of us, in terms of our well being and how we feel about things, so I am sure that the impact of lockdown on the mental health of individuals will have had an impact across the board.”

Mr McLaren added: “In terms of those cases, we have to see those reviews through and better understand the circumstances surrounding each of them before we get to the point of drawing a conclusion that there is a direct assimilation with lockdown and those murders.”

Lisa King from Refuge, said: "These domestic homicide figures from the Metropolitan Police should serve as a wake-up call to politicians and the criminal justice system.

"Two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales and we know that nearly a third of children exposed to domestic abuse are also physically harmed themselves.

"Sadly, the increase in child victims of domestic homicides in 2020 reinforces this statistic.

"The lockdown periods since March last year have forced women and children into isolation with their abusers, exacerbating pre-existing abusive behaviours and, in many cases, escalating the level and frequency of violence."

Overall the number of homicides in London fell from 150 in 2019 to 126 in 2020 but there was a worrying rise in the number of shootings.

Commander Jane Connors from the Met also said that during the summer months knife crime rose above pre-pandemic levels.

One theory is that gang tensions that had been simmering on social media during lockdown suddenly exploded when people were once again allowed to move around freely.

Ms Connors said: "As the restrictions were lifted, as we came out through May, June, July, and into the early part of August, we did start to see that the offence levels rose above pre-Covid levels.

"And that predominantly is because there were more people out on the streets, but also because some of the gang tensions that had been playing out on social media and people not able to take their reprisals, we did start to see a slight rise in some of the knife injuries that we were seeing."