Family Annihilators

Another day and another horrifying story of a parent killing his own child.   Reports suggest that Chris Hall feared losing his son in an upcoming custody battle.

The catalyst?  Chris Hall’s partner had left him and moved in with another man.

A friend of Hall is quoted as saying, “He loved that little boy so much and he feared he was going to be going as well. His son was the most important thing ever to him.”

Is that right?

I’m sickened and saddened at such an appalling and senseless crime. What drives a person to do something like this?  American criminologists call these murderers ‘family annihilators,’ which is exactly what they are – annihilators of a family – but why do they do it? Most parents who truly love their children would die for them!  I know I would.

The most common and convenient explanation is insanity.  That somehow, they must have snapped and lost their mind.  As a mother, and as a human being, I cannot begin to imagine what drives a person to do such a horrific thing.  Is it fair to blame depression?  Insanity?  Is that an excuse?

We like to believe that these ‘incidents’ are isolated, that these murders, as senseless and impossible to understand as they are, are the work of unhinged, psychotic people.  The truth is scarier.  Yes, these murders are rare, as much as we seem to be hearing more and more about them in the press, but experts believe they are usually all premeditated.

The more I researched this subject, the harder this post became to write.  Each personal story I read brought me to tears.  The manner in which the parent carried out the murder.  The child’s last words.

Heartbreaking.

During the trial of one murder, a father who killed his daughter argued that his wife’s affair had created an abnormality in his mind. The jury dismissed this, and agreed that it was a premeditated murder, motivated by bitterness, anger and a desire to punish his wife.

And therein lies the predominant reason people do it.  To punish.  To take away the one thing they know will hurt the person who hurt them.  To take away the life they had created together.  They feel it puts them back in control.

Experts continue to study these cases and are able to create a certain profile.  Prior domestic abuse suffered by the perpetrator as a child, a feeling of isolation and inadequacy as an adult are popular contributing factors.

Women are just as likely to commit filicide as men.

The most recent crime statistics I could find, for 2002/03, show that 99 people under the age of 16 were murdered in England and Wales, and seven in Scotland. More than half were killed by a parent.*  I expect that figure has risen inexorably since then.

Most of us have built coping strategies around us to deal with the pressures of everyday life, but less functional people may have not been able to do that and crack under the pressure in the most horrendous way.

The surviving parent is the one left to live a life of guilt and pain.  The perpetrator inevitably commits suicide and therefore doesn’t have to face up to what they’ve done.  There is no justice for the child.

Fundamentally, it is just another indicator of the erosion of values in our society.  We live in an emotionally lawless society wherein people believe they have a ‘right’ to be treated a certain way.  And when they’re not … we see what happens.

Some people just don’t have a conscience.  Unless they are caught and brought to task for their actions – but by then, it is often too late.  They would rather die than be held accountable.

My partner and I are taking the boys to the park for a picnic today and I’m grateful every day for what I have.

My heart goes out to the mother of the ‘Little Chris’ Hall, murdered by his father.

* http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2006/nov/05/ukcrime.lornamartin

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