London Homicides 2013 – Review

Homicides in London have increased year-on-year for the first time since murdermap launched in 2010.

As it stands we have counted 108 victims for 2013 compared to 100 in 2012.

Taking a more detailed look at the figures, the most striking change is in the percentage of female victims – up to 37 per cent of the total (39 out of 108) compared to around 23 per cent in previous years (e.g. 23 out of 100 in 2012) .

 

Here’s a chart showing the changes in weapon type compared to the overall total of homicides over the last six years.

In terms of borough by borough totals, Hackney has the most at eight, followed by Ealing, Newham, Lambeth and Enfield on seven and Islington and Croydon on six.

NOTE: This post has been updated as new cases come to light.

On 16 January 2014 it was updated to include the murder of Paula Newman in New Addington in November 2013 (previously categorised as a suspicious death).

On 8 February 2014 it was updated to include the manslaughter of Shenol Shevka-Ahmed in January 2013. (Health and Safety at Work investigation)

On 7 March 2014 it was updated to include the manslaughter of Amani Abdi in October 2013 (previously causing or allowing the death of a child).

On 11 March 2014 it was updated to include the murder of Ellie Butler in October 2013 (previously classed as unexplained/suspicious).

In June 2014 it was updated to include the manslaughter of Mark Haley, who spent two years in a coma before dying in August 2013.

In July 2014 it was updated to include the manslaughter of Ram Gharu in July 2013.

On 12 July 2014 it was updated to remove the death of Zbigniew Michniewicz, whose death was found to be due to drug abuse rather than an assault.

On 29 July 2014 it was updated to add the manslaughter of Sylwester Mendzelewski, who died in a fire in a derelict building in Croydon.

In October 2014 it was updated to include the death of Oliver Farrell, who was hit by a car in Islington.

Unsolved Homicides 2013

Nine London homicide cases (murder or manslaughter) from 2013 remain unsolved. Can you help?

Nobody has been charged in respect of the following victims (click to read more about each specific case):

Joseph Burke-Monerville, 19, was shot dead in Clapton, east London, on 16 February 2013.

Champion Ganda, 17, was stabbed to death in Forest Gate on the afternoon of 9 May 2013.

Yassin Omar Mohammed,  28, died on 14 May 2013, four years after being hit with a bottle in Wembley, northwest London.

Surjeet Singh, 23, was stabbed to death during a brawl at a fairground in Southall on 26 August, 2013.

Aamena Hussain, 28, was found dead at her home in Leyton on 3 September 2013.

The body of Damian Chlywka was found in a well on the outskirts of London near Warlingham on 15 November 2013.

Antonio Rodney-Cole, 22, was stabbed to death in Stoke Newington on 2 December 2013.

Rowan Thomas-Williams, , 20, was shot dead in Neasden, northwest London, on 6 December 2013.

Dora Matthews, 43, was found unconscious at her flat in Wood Green on 19 December 2013.

Slideshow of victims:

Homicide and Mental Illness

Following a series of stories about the number of people killed by mental health patients (1,200 in Britain in a decade, said The Sun), we decided to look at a single year in depth to illustrate the situation in London.

In 2011 there were a total of 119 homicides. Twelve out of those 119 (just under ten per cent) were killed by suspects who were genuinely suffering from a mental illness.

Here are a breakdown of the cases, followed by another nine cases where suspects claimed that their responsibility was diminished by mental illness but were convicted of murder.

Suspect was being treated for mental illness in the community:

Kasey Gordon, 15, was stabbed to death by a man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia in January 2011. The killer was being treated while staying at a care home.

Badi Saleem, 35, was stabbed to death by a a paranoid schizophrenic in May 2011. The killer had been released from a secure hospital the previous year.

Sally Hodkin, 58, was stabbed to death in the street by Nicola Edgington in October 2011. Edgington was a diagnosed schizophrenic and attempted to admit herself to hospital shortly before the attack.

Carmel Charles, 20, was stabbed to death at her home in November 2011 by her partner Richard Henry, a diagnosed schizophrenic. He had stopped taking his medication after being discharged from hospital.

Suspect had undiagnosed/untreated mental illness:

Ram Bhasin, 80, and his lodger Sunil Koosuru, 29, were killed in a house fire started by Mr Bhasin’s son in March 2011. Aaron Bhasin had developed a mental illness after suffering a heart attack.

Clarence Larteh, 23, was stabbed to death in May 2011 by a man suffering from a mental disorder as a result of alcohol dependency.

Sarwat Malik, 60, was stabbed to death by her husband in June 2011. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity after doctors said he was suffering from depression at the time of the attack, but had recovered by the time of trial and was sentenced to a conditional discharge.

Mary Quinn, 81, was strangled by her son in June 2011. Thomas Quinn admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility (depression). The prosecution did not accept the plea but the jury cleared him of murder.

Umesh Chaudhary, 41, was battered to death with a brick by a complete stranger in July 6, 2011. The killer was later diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act.

Maymoun Zarzour, 39, was strangled in his office in September 2011. The killer was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Desbert Welsh, 50, was stabbed to death by his uncle Ezekiel McCarthy in November 2011. McCarthy pleaded guilty to manslaughter due to diminished responsibility (dementia and acute alcohol delirium) and received a suspended sentence.

Suspect’s claims of mental illness rejected by the jury:

Wing Ho, 18, was stabbed to death by his younger brother Andy in January 2011. Andy Ho claimed his responsibility was diminished by mental illness but was convicted of murder.

Lorna Smith, 45, was killed by her ex-boyfriend, who claimed his responsibility was diminished by reason of a split-personality / schizophrenia. He was convicted of murder.

Alan Smith, 63, was stabbed to death in March 2011. His killer claimed his responsibility was diminished by reason of schizophrenia but was convicted of murder.

Zandra Maxwell-Nelson, 24, was stabbed to death by her estranged husband in April 2011. He claimed his responsibility was diminished by reason of his depression but was convicted of murder.

Alice Adams and Tibor Vass, both 20, were stabbed to death in August 2011. Killer Attila Ban claimed he was suffering from mental illness but was convicted of murder.

Sashana Roberts, 24, was stabbed to death by her former partner in September 2011. He claimed he suffered from a mental illness and heard voices telling him to kill her but was convicted of murder.

Charito Cruz, 37, was battered to death by her partner Asad Niazi in September 2011. Niazi claimed diminished responsibility (severe depression) and loss of control.

Richard Ward, 37, was beaten to death in Battersea by Cameron McFly, who claimed to be suffering from a borderline personality disorder.

Ruby Love, 23, was strangled and dumped in a canal by her boyfriend Manzar Juma in December 2011. Juma denied murder on the grounds of loss of control (previously known as ‘provocation’) and diminished responsibility (depression and personality disorder).

Fitness to Plead: The Pritchard Criteria

What happens when the suspect in a murder trial is unable to understand the trial process? And what has that got to do with a man accused of having sex with an animal in 1836?

In October 2012, 65 year-old Colin Hammond was stabbed to death in a street in Fulham, southwest London, by Frederic Russell, a 27 year-old Frenchman who had been in the country for only a few days. The two men were almost certainly complete strangers.

Russell had a history of paranoid schizophrenia but unlike other mentally ill defendants did not respond to treatment. By September 2013, psychiatrists agreed he was so unwell that he was not capable of even giving his lawyers instructions.

When this issue is raised by the prosecution or the defence, the judge has to decide whether the defendant is ‘fit to plead’ using the ‘Pritchard Criteria’, as set out in the case R v Pritchard from 1836.

That case involved a deaf and mute man accused of bestiality. As he could not speak, he was unable to plead ‘not guilty’ (although he could indicate this by a sign, having been educated at the Deaf and Dumb Asylum in London).

It was left to the jury to decide ‘whether he was sane or not’ – meaning whether he could understand the trial proceedings enough to mount a defence to the charge. The judge set out his own three points, which were later turned into the ‘Pritchard Criteria’.*

Under these criteria, the accused is unfit to plead if he or she is unable:

  • to comprehend the course of proceedings on the trial, so as to make a proper defence;
  • to know that he might challenge any jurors to whom he/she may object;
  • to comprehend the evidence; or
  • to give proper instructions to his/her legal representatives

If the judge finds the defendant unfit to plead then a jury is asked to decide whether he ‘did the act’ or not (instead or guilty or not guilty). The defendant can then be detained under the Mental Health Act, put under a supervision and treatment order or given an absolute discharge (meaning no futher action).

In the case of Frederic Russell, he was detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act, meaning he can only be released when medical professionals find he is no longer a risk to the public. Theoretically, if his condition improves and he is found ‘fit to plead’ he can then be tried in the normal way (although the sentence is effectively the same). [Read more on the case of Colin Hammond]

*Pritchard was found unfit to stand trial and was locked up ‘during His Majesty’s Pleasure’ (His being William IV’s). The judge in R v Pritchard said he had adapted his three points from a similar case, R v Dyson, a few years earlier. Esther Dyson, 26, was accused of murdering her newborn baby daughter by cutting the infant’s head off with a knife at her home in Eccleshill, West Yorkshire. Dyson was both deaf and mute and unable to read or write. According to a report in the York Herald for 26 March 1831:

In consequence of the prisoner labouring under the infirmity of being born deaf and dub, the greatest interest was excited and the galleries were crowded on the opening of court… She is rather tall, and of slender make. She has light hair and complexion, and of rather a pleasing and pensive cast of feature. She was dressed in a  coloured silk bonnet, a light calico printed dress, and a red cloth cloak. She had the appearance of a respectable female in the lower walks of life.

The jury found she was ‘mute by the Visitation of God’ and could not understand the trial (even if she knew right from wrong).

CSI London: Bugs and Bodies

When the body of Leah Questin was found in a suitcase on farmland in Kent in September 2009, Metropolitan Police officers investigating her murder took a tip from CSI’s Gil Grissom and his fascination for bugs.

The activity of Blowflies and their eggs at the site of the corpse was crucial in working out approximately when Leah died. In this case it was some 12 days earlier. As a result the officers could focus on a narrower timeframe when it came to collecting crucial evidence including CCTV footage and mobile phone use and prioritising lines of enquiry.

It soon became clear that someone had been using Leah’s phone and withdrawing large sums of money from her account. Detectives quickly focused on the man she had recently met through the dating section of the Gumtree website: Clinton Bailey.

Bailey had killed the 37 year-old nurse after inviting her to his home in Brockley, southeast London, on 12 September 2009. And although the decomposition of her body prevented pathologists from working out the case of death, there was enough evidence to prove it was murder rather than accidental death.

The following year Bailey was jailed for life with a minimum of 30 years before parole.

This study of insects in connection with crime – forensic entomology – gained greater recognition thanks to the lead character in the US TV series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Gil Grissom’s fascination with bugs may have been creepy, but it often cracked a case that had foiled the human members of his team.

Forensic entomology can not only estimate the time since death, it can also provide evidence as to whether a victim has been stabbed or shot, whether their body has been moved from another location and the type of that location and whether there was a longer period of neglect or abuse before death.

Samples taken from insects that have fed on a body can also indicate what substances were present if the remains have decomposed too much to be analysed.

The insects in question include flies, beetles, bees, wasps, ants, butterflies and moths. The most commonly used by forensic entomologists are blowflies, otherwise known as bluebottles and greenbottles. Blowflies are generally the first to arrive at a dead body and provide the most accurate means to estimate the minimum period since death.

After the eggs are laid by the female blowflies, they hatch into tiny larvae about a millimetre long which grow into maggots to feed on the body before moving away to turn into adult flies, leaving behind a brown case

The time intervals between each stage, and the size of the larvae allow the scientist to estimate the minimum time since death. However, when the body is placed in a zip-up bag – as in the case of Leah Questin – this timeframe is disrupted.

It was this issue which led MSc student Poulomi Bhadra to carry out a three-month experiment titled ‘Factors influencing accessibility of bodies to blowflies’ to determine how what delay can be caused by physical barriers like zip-up bags.

Chicken liver was placed in zipped containers of varying types and exposed to flies both in the laboratory and outdoors.

Commenting on her study, Poulomi Bhadra said: ‘The research itself has been so interesting; we have obtained some surprising results so far and there is much more to investigate.’

Her study is one of more than 100 research projects which have been carried out as part of the Metropolitan Police’s partnership with King’s College London since 2001.

No doubt her findings will be of use to the Met’s Evidence Recovery Unit and its staff of more than 100 forensic scientists and 400 crime scene examiners, who together investigate more than 11,000 crime scenes every month – that’s well over 132,000 a year.

The Unit is also responsible for blood pattern analysis, shoeprints, fingerpint enhancement, fibre analysis, crime reconstructions and DNA sampling.

Read the full case summary of the murder of Leah Questin

Half-Year Review 2013

Looking back at the first six months of the year we have counted at least 44 homicides in London.*

This means that we are on track for even fewer cases than last year’s total of 99 (which was in itself the lowest on record since the early 1970s).

However, it should be pointed out that there are often wild variations in different parts of the year. There have been four potential homicides in July so far (two confirmed).

A few more stats:

  • 33 men, 11 women (75 per cent men)
  • 7 teenage victims (all male, 16 per cent)
  • 19 victims of knife attacks (43 per cent)
  • 5 shootings (11 per cent)
  • 27 north of the river, 17 south of the river

The cases include those of high public interest such as the attack on Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich, but also those that have received no attention whatsoever such as Gilbert Barber in Harley Street, central London.

*We say ‘at least’ because there are several cases that may yet be classified as murder or manslaughter, or cases that we are not yet aware of for whatever reason. Some only become public knowledge when a suspect is charged, for example, while others (including the case of Christie McHugh) are still under investigation. In addition two cases have been removed after detectives decided they were not homicides (Dean Reddy / Alessandro Bussandri)

The Turkish Gang War

The gang-related revenge killing or ‘tit for tat’ feud accounts for a very small proportion of murders in London. It is however one of the most disturbing, conjuring up echoes of the American mafia as represented by The Godfather and other films.

This type of murder appears to flourish when when those responsible seem to be getting away with it. The intended victims or targets seek revenge outside of the justice system and potential ‘hitmen’ are emboldened by the failure of detectives to solve a case.

The worst recent example is the ‘war’ between two gangs in north London, the Hackney Turks (Bombacilar) and the Tottenham Turks (Tottenham Boys). Between March 2009 and April 2013, five men were shot dead. Although most of the victims were members of the two gangs, one of them was entirely innocent.

Strikingly, none of the ‘hitmen’ who fired the shots have been brought to justice. So far, any convictions have been restricted to the co-conspirators who enable the gunmen to carry out the murders: getaway drivers, spotters etc.

Although there have been previous incidents involving the two gangs, prosecutors have traced the feud back to a brawl at the Manor Club in Finsbury Park, north London, on 24 January 2009.

That night Kemal Armagan, the leader of the Hackney Turks, was injured in the fight and vowed to kill anyone who attacked him, including Mehmet Senpalit, a Tottenham Turk.

The feud that followed was described in court by Edward Brown QC in this way:

This feud has resulted over the last few years in murder, attempted murder, beatings, threats and damage to shops and the like belonging to those perceived to be associated to one gang or the other. It has therefore been a bloody and lethal campaign by each side. From relatively minor origins, this feud became a dreadful sequence of revenge attacks – not just a beating here or a punch there, but determined killings and attempts to kill.

A brief timeline:

  • 8 March 2009: Kemal Armagan’s brother Ali Armagan is shot and injured, along with fellow Bombacilar Kenan Aydogdu.
  • 22 March 2009: Ahmet Paytak, 50, is shot dead at Euro Food and Wines in Hornsey Road, Holloway, a store owned by Mehmet Senpalit. Kemal Armagan, who fled the UK shortly afterwards, is believed to have ordered the hit.
  • 2 October 2009: Oktay Erbasli, a 23 year-old Tottenham Turk member, is shot and killed while driving in Tottenham.
  • 5 October 2009: Cem Duzgun, a 21 year-old Hackney Turk member, is shot dead at a social club in Upper Clapton Road.
  • 15 August 2010: An attempt to kill Kenan Aydogdu, a close friend of Ali Armagan.
  • 1 February 2012: Ali Armagan, 32, is shot dead in his car near Turnpike Lane tube station. Kemal Eren, the leader of the Tottenham Turks, is believed to be responsible.
  • 1 December 2012:  Kemal Eren is shot and seriously injured in Elbistan, Turkey.
  • 18 April 2013: Zafer Eren, 34, Kemal Eren’s brother, is shot dead in Southgate.

 

See also:

North-east London’s Turkish mafia – London Street Gangs website

What lies behind murderous Turkish gang feud? – BBC Online

Other tit-for-tat feuds over the last few years have tended to involve teenage/youth gangs:

TN1 vs GAS – Zac Olumegbon (TN1) and Kwame Ofosu-Asare (an innocent victim)

GMG vs DA – Negus McLean (DA)

 

Off the Map: The case of Dean Reddy

We added the case of 25 year-old Dean Reddy after detectives arrested his father on suspicion of murder.

Since then police have said they are no longer treating the death as suspicious and revealed that further tests established the cause of death was ‘sudden adult death syndrome’. (See the report in Edgware Today on April 25, 2013).

Here is the case page as it read before deletion:

Dean Reddy, 30, died after being found unconscious at a flat in Mill Hill, northwest London, on 23 February 2013.

Police were called to the address in Bittacy Hill following reports of a disturbance at around 11pm. Mr Reddy was pronounced dead at 11.51pm.

His 57 year-old father, who had suffered cuts to his face and neck, was arrested at the scene on suspicion of murder and later released on bail until April.

Following further investigation, detectives from the Homicide and Serious Crime Command decided the death was no longer suspicious. No further action was taken.

The Fall in Violent Crime and Murder

The release of the ‘UK Peace Index‘ (pdf link) has again highlighted the decline in violent crime (including murder) since 2003. “This is the fastest decline in violence of any country in Europe,” the report concludes.

It notes that the homicide rate (murder, manslaughter and infanticide) has halved over the last ten years to 1 per 100,000.

The bad news is that London scores badly with the capital’s boroughs occupying the top 17 ‘least peaceful areas’ of the UK – with Lewisham at the top. See Murder Britain – How does your area compare (Indy Voices).

But the cause of this decrease in crime and murder over the past decade is still unclear (fall in UK crime baffles experts)- particularly as the fall has continued in the face of a major recession. The explanations have varied from the reduction in the use of lead in paint and petrol) to cultural changes.

Here are some of the suggested reasons (feel free to add more in the comments):

  1. A ‘symptom of a new morality‘ as people become less tolerant of criminal behaviour.
  2. Lead poisoning. ‘Studies between cities, states and nations show that the rise and fall in crime follows, with a roughly 20-year lag, the rise and fall in the exposure of infants to trace quantities of lead.’ 
  3. The decline in illegal drug use, particularly among the young. Drugs play a part both in petty crime (shoplifting etc to get money to feed the habit) and in violent crime (disputes between drug dealers / turf wars etc).
  4. Legalised Abortion (The Donohue-Levitt hypothesis) – It is argued that unwanted children are more likely to become criminals.
  5. Feminism – ‘Strong, autonomous feminist movements were the first to articulate the issue of violence against women and the key catalysts for government action, with other organizations sidelining issues perceived as being only important to women.
  6. Policing – the targeting of specific types of homicide and violent crime, such as teenage knife crime (which reached a height in around 2007), gang violence (Operation Trident). In a recent statement, the Met highlighted its ‘series of high visibility ‘Big Wing’ operations engaging staff right across the MPS in joint action to target specific areas of crime, ranging from car crime to burglary.’ The ‘detection rate’ for homicide (number of cases where a suspect is charged) has remained high, meaning killers are less likely to get away with it. Improvements in technology (e.g. DNA, CCTV, mobile phones) also make it easier for police to identify suspects, resulting in more convictions and fewer unsolved cases.
  7. Harsher sentencing – The 2003 Criminal Justice Act brought in set ‘tariffs’ or ‘minimum terms’ for life sentences, ranging from 15 years to whole life. For example, gun murders have a starting point of 30 years. In 2010, the minimum term for some knife murders rose from 15 years to 25 years.
  8. The internet – are we more content with our lives due to social media? Perhaps young people are now too busy on their iPhones and game consoles to become involved in criminal behaviour. (On the other hand, mobile phone thefts/robberies have increased massively)
  9. Improvements in medical care – see our blog on Emergency Medicine and the murder rate
  10. Dodgy statistics – Are the police ‘cooking the books’ under pressure to beat targets? (This seems much more unlikely in the case of homicide – a crime that is harder to conceal).

So will it last? Some fear that the effects of the recession will result in rise in homicide (even if it hasn’t happened yet).

The latest homicide figures for London do show a slight increase for the financial year 2012/13 (106) compared to 2011/12 (103), with the lowest 12 month rolling figure being achieved in the summer of 2012 (96).

What happens next may give us a better indication of the factors behind the recent decrease in homicide and violent crime.

How safe is London?

We were recently sent an email by a worried student asking about the likelihood of being murdered in London. This is perhaps not surprising given the prominence given to reports of teenagers being stabbed to death or shot.

As we’ve repeatedly demonstrated, the number of homicide cases (both murder and manslaughter) has been going down steadily from a peak in 2003. Last year there were less than 100, which is returning to the levels last seen in the 60s and 70s.

London may have more crime than any other area, but this is mainly because there are more people in London (approximately eight million). As you can see, if you rate different police forces by the number of murders per 100,000 people, London is only tenth highest, with the worst being West Yorkshire. Having said that, it is higher than the avarage for England and Wales.

And if you look at it by country, then ‘England in Wales’ is doing better than both Scotland and Northern Ireland, although it’s some way behind Austria and even Italy.

The country with the highest ‘murder rate’ is Lithuania – which is of interest given the increase in the number of people from that country now living in London and the rest of the UK. According to the Office of National Statistics, there were 74,000 Lithuanians in the UK in 2010 compared to 4,000 in 2001.

According to the 2011 census there were just under 40,000 Lithuanians in London, although some believe the true figure may be double that. In some areas like Newham Lithuanians make up 2.7 per cent of the population.

Two Lithuanians were allegedly murdered in London last month alone (January 2013) but this is rare – there were two Lithuanian murder victims in the whole of 2012, none in 2011, two in 2010 and three in 2009. Generally the victims seem to die at the hands of fellow Lithuanians, in temporary accommodation or squats, and involving the excessive consumption of alcohol. (see the cases of Rolandas Vosylius, Paulius Riepsa and Alvydas Miksys.)

The recently-released figures for Homicide in England in Wales for the financial year 2011/12 (around 540 homicides in total) also contained a breakdown for gender and weapon (by percentage). As in London, most victims are male.

Apparent method of killing (percent) Male victims
(367 offences)
Female victims
(172 offences)
Sharp instrument 39 38
Blunt instrument 10 9
Hitting, kicking etc. (without a weapon) 23 5
Strangulation, asphyxiation 4 26
Shooting 9 4
Burning 3 5
Poison or drugs 2 3
Other 11 10

It should also be pointed out that ‘stranger’ murders are actually quite rare. Most cases involve gang-related violence, domestic violence or fights at pubs or clubs. And while it’s always advisable not to walk alone in the streets at night, the likelihood of being murdered in London is very low indeed.