Every year, women in the UK are killed by stalkers and domestic abusers—despite previously reporting them to the police. Unfollow Me is a campaign highlighting the under-reported issue of stalking and domestic abuse in support of anti-stalking charity Paladin 's calls to introduce a Stalkers Register in the UK. Follow all of our coverage here .
Thirty-five women in London, UK were murdered by abusive partners and ex-partners between 2015 and the first six months of 2018, according to new data uncovered by Broadly under British freedom of information laws. Eight out of the 35 victims were murdered by individuals previously reported to the police for violent or threatening behavior.
As part of Broadly’s Unfollow Me investigation into stalking and domestic abuse, we asked every police force in the UK how many women had been killed by abusive partners, ex-partners, or stalkers—despite previously reporting their killers to the police prior to their death. Our data found that 55 women had died in the three years between 2015 and 2017 in this way. It is likely that the true figure would be much higher as only 33 of 45 territorial police forces responded to our requests for data.
London’s Metropolitan Police—the biggest police force in the UK—initially declined to provide us with data as our request exceeded the cost limit set out in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). However, the force provided some of the information after Broadly filed a complaint.
Watch: Unfollow Me: The Story of Alice Ruggles
Met Police was able to tell us that 35 female victims had been murdered by a partner or ex-partner over a three and a half year period between 2015 and 2018. In eight cases, the killer had been previously reported to police for a domestic incident by the victim or a third party.
Campaigners say that these deaths could have been prevented if the police had acted swiftly following initial reports. “Too often police do not risk assess or investigate cases appropriately,” says Laura Richards, the founder of anti-stalking charity Paladin, “nor do they check the intelligence to see if the perpetrator is a serial abuser and this has been going on for decades.”
Richards believes that the number of homicides is likely to be much higher as the data provided by police does not include serial stalkers. “The Metropolitan Police Service finally identified at least eight women over the last three years who were murdered following police contact,” she says. “This number is undoubtedly higher given the fact they do not proactively identify repeat or serial stalkers.”
Met Police told Broadly that they are committed to protecting victims of domestic abuse. “The Met takes domestic abuse very seriously and is committed to safeguarding all victims and bringing perpetrators to justice, working with all our partners and local communities to constantly learn and improve the way we work,” a spokesperson says. “Our domestic abuse investigators work closely with independent domestic violence advisors (IDVA's) and specialist domestic support agencies, in order to ensure that victims of domestic abuse are able to access the help and support they need.
“We are also keen to raise awareness of the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, also known as Clare's Law. If an individual has concerns about their partner, they have the 'Right to Ask' police if that person has a history of domestic abuse. We will carefully consider the request and where appropriate, disclose information that allows the individual to make informed decisions to safeguard themselves.”
Under ‘Right to Know’ provisions, the police may also decide to proactively disclose this information to a violent offender’s partner if they are deemed to be at “significant risk,” the spokesperson added.
However, Paladin is calling on police to implement a Stalkers Register to track and monitor all serial stalkers and abusers in order to warn future partners about their history of violent offending. “Police must proactively identify serial abusers, place key information about them on the system and then manage them, protecting future victims in the process, just as they do with sex offenders,” Richards says.
She believes that shifting the onus for identifying dangerous individuals onto police—rather than expecting potential victims to seek this information under Clare’s Law—would save lives. ”It's time for action, not more words and consultation,” Richards urges. “Women are paying with their lives. Women deserve to be protected from serial offenders. Women deserve better."