More than half the women killed by men in the UK in 2018 were killed by a current or former partner, many after they had taken steps to leave, according to a report on femicide.
The fourth Femicide Census, conducted by the campaigner Karen Ingala Smith, found 149 women were killed by 147 men in 2018. The number of deaths is an increase of 10 on the previous year and the highest number since the census began.
Of the deceased women, 91 (61%) were killed by a current or former partner. Only 6% of murders were committed by a stranger.
Of the 58 women not killed by current or former partners, 12 were killed by their sons or stepsons, while five were killed by a son-in-law or former son-in-law.
In half the cases, perpetrators had previous histories of violence against the victim or other women, with three men found to have killed before. One had been convicted of manslaughter in 1996 and jailed for three years. The second, who also had a history of stalking, had been released from prison in 2014 after murdering his previous partner in 1999. The third had been convicted of culpable homicide in 1992 and had also been convicted of serious violent offences in 2001 and 2010.
The most common method of murder was a sharp instrument, with strangulation or asphyxiation the second most common. The majority of killings (68%) occurred either in or immediately around the woman’s house.
Ingala Smith, who runs the domestic violence charity Nia, said many of the women had expressed fear and warnings about their killer to police, other services and friends and family.
Of the women killed in 2018, 41% of those killed by a current or former partner had left or were in the process of leaving – with 30% of these women killed within the first month and 70% killed within the first year after separation.
“It’s important that we challenge received wisdom about seeing leaving a violent relationship being a straightforward way that women can remove themselves from the danger of a violent partner,” Ingala Smith said.
The report, released on Thursday, found that “overkilling” – defined as the use of excessive, gratuitous violence beyond that necessary to cause the victim’s death – was evident in 56% of cases.
Younger women aged between 26 and 35 were more likely to be subjected to extreme, gratuitous violence, according to the report. It added that while such attacks were often described as “frenzied” and resulting from a “loss of control”, the evidence suggested that was not the case.
“In one femicide, the postmortem carried out on the victim established that most of the 70-plus stab wounds inflicted were very shallow, indicating a high degree of control and suggesting the perpetrator’s intent to torture the victim before inflicting the fatal wounds,” the report said.