Serial misogynist murder

This is painful to read:

Theodore Johnson first killed a woman in 1981. He tipped his wife Yvonne over the balcony of their ninth-floor flat in Blakenhall Gardens, Wolverhampton, having already hit her with a vase. Well, they had been arguing – a factor that enabled him to plead guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of provocation. The second woman Johnson killed was Yvonne Bennett, in 1992. He strangled her with a belt while their baby slept. Her “provocation” was that she refused the box of chocolates he had bought to win her back; he was able to plead diminished responsibility and, after a two-year stay in a secure psychiatric unit, was released and again free to form new relationships. Then, in December 2016, Angela Best became the third victim of Johnson, 64, and on Friday he will be sentenced for her murder. Best’s spur to his violence had simply been to end their relationship and start a new one with someone else.

Couldn’t someone have warned Yvonne Bennett and Angela Best? Shouldn’t Johnson have had some sort of large conspicuous non-removable warning label attached to him?

Paula Cocozza, the author, says there are more such cases, as well as the background violence.

According to the Office for National Statistics, one woman in four experiences domestic violence in her lifetime, and two women are killed each week in England and Wales by a current or former partner.

Prof David Wilson is a criminologist with a special interest in serial killers. “When I looked at Theodore Johnson,” he says, “I saw a man who has killed three or more people in a period greater than 30 days. Technically, he’s a serial killer. What is the context in which he has been able to kill, especially after being incarcerated on two separate occasions? That context is misogyny. Women being killed by men who are in a relationship with them is seen as a thing that happens, something that just occurs. Last year, two women a week died at the hands of their partners or ex-partners. That is an extraordinary figure that begins to reveal something not about serial murder but about the phenomenon of everyday murder. There is this unreflective acceptance that violence towards women is normalised.”

Just one of those things, like fires and floods.

This year the government will introduce a domestic violence and abuse act, the specific proposals of which have yet to be announced, but which should help to clarify and unify the police response to domestic violence. The biggest change Jacob would like to see is better sharing of information. She reads a lot of domestic homicide reviews and many disclose that communication could have been better. Agencies such as police, probation, health services, housing, adult social care, child social care and substance abuse services “are holding back information from each other which, if shared, could save lives”.

At some point in the future, she will read the domestic homicide review for the case of Best’s murder by Johnson. What it won’t say is that the context of domestic violence still somehow persuades too many of us that such murders should be valued differently from a random killing by a homicidal stranger.

“It’s somehow seen as not as large a breach of the social contract we all have with each other,” says Liz Kelly, the director of the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit at London Metropolitan University. Nor is the review likely to mention misogyny, a word that is also absent from risk assessment forms. As Kelly says, “Misogyny is not seen as a form of extreme dangerousness … We need to identify these men who hate women and [understand] that they are a danger to all women.”

That’s the thing. We’re often told it’s “just talk” (or just trolling or just the internet or just a reaction to the “control left”), but it’s not safe to assume that.

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