Fingerprints: The murders of Thomas and Ann Farrow

The first British murder case to be solved using fingerprints took place in Detpford, south London, on 27 March 1905. At 7am shop manager Thomas Farrow, 71, had not yet got dressed to open up for the day when there was a knock at the door. Not wanting to pass…

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Joseph Cullimore: The story of a fatal stabbing in east London

The 999 call came in at 4.37am on 17 August 2018. The caller said he had stabbed a man in the neck and ribs at a flat in Flaxen Road, Chingford. The caller said this man was now lying face down in a pool of blood in the living room.…

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Murders up or murders down? The strange world of homicide statistics

Did the number of murders in London increase or or decrease last year? It depends whether you mean calendar year or financial year.

Most headlines last week focused on the increase in UK murders to their highest level in a decade (or alternatively, lower than they were in 2007). Other reports went on the record level of knife crime offences (since comparable records began in 2011).

This fits in with the general picture in London, which saw an increase in the number of homicides (both murder and manslaughter) to around 130*, the most since 2008. The Metropolitan Police recorded the most knife offences (14,660, a one per cent rise since 2017).

But then another perspective was offered by the Metropolitan Police themselves, who released their latest financial year statistics (April 2018 to April 2019), which showed a significant drop in homicides from 163 in 2017/18 (or 154 not including terror attacks) to 122 in 2018/2019. The force was also able to highlight a reduction in knife injuries by 9.6% from 4,732 to 4,277, although there was a 0.5% increase in total knife crime offences (which would include possession offences).

The police say this is evidence that they have made progress in “tackling and reducing violent crime in the capital”. Perhaps it is also evidence that putting more effort and resources into policing, as a result of the outcry at the sharp spike in murders in early 2018, can affect the crime rate. We can only hope it points towards a significant reduction in murders in 2019.

Then again, it may simply be a reflection of the variation in the number of murders every day, week and month. The sharp rise in murders in February and March 2018 (19 and 20 respectively**) were enough to prompt headlines stating that the London murder rate had overtake New York’s (but you only looked at those two months, ignoring January 2018 or the year as a whole etc). The figures for the rest of the year, and the start of 2019, were significantly lower, although there were 15 homicides in March this year.

This variation in the number of murders over short periods is one reason why most murder statistics are analysed by year rather than by day, week or month. For example, in July 2008 there were four murders in London in one day. You could have viewed this as a sign of increasing violence in society, or you could have concluded that having four murders in one day was highly likely to happen once every three years.

Conclusion: Statistics are useful, as long as you know what you are looking at and can see how they vary over different time periods.

*we counted 129, the Metropolitan Police say 136, and media reports give figures varying between 132 and 135. It depends which cases you count as homicides.

**our figures, the Met say 18 for both months, but they can record cases differently depending on when they declare a case a homicide (rather than when the victim died).

Alex Vanderpuye: A ‘swift and unexpected’ attack

Update (17 June 2019): Police have offered a £20,000 reward for information leading to a conviction. The case remains unsolved. Report from inquest in April 2019: Detectives investigating the murder of Alexander Vanderpuye nearly 18 months ago are hoping to charge two suspects later this month, an inquest heard. The…

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New Project: Full reporting of a murder trial

The sentencing of murderer Frederick Henry Seddon at the Old Bailey in 1812

The decline of court reporting over the last 25 years has been described as a “threat to justice”.

Local newspapers may not have the staff or resources to cover a trial in depth and the national press, TV and radio are naturally interested only in the most important or topical cases. Most court reports in the media will either be the start of a case (the prosecution opening, a summary of the evidence against a suspect) or the end (conviction and sentence).

But what about the witness evidence and the defence? Juries make their decisions based on all the evidence put before them (or at least they are supposed to do so), not the summaries provided by the prosecution, the defence or the media. If the public do not hear all the evidence (or at least the most important parts of it), it is perhaps not surprising that some jury verdicts are greeted with dismay (or even anger).

That is why we want to fully report a murder trial from start to finish to give the public a better idea of what happens in court. It will not be a verbatim transcript with ever umm and err – that would take too long to read, let alone write up – but it will be an in depth report of what happened with the most important parts quoted as accurately as possible.

Most murder trials last between two to three weeks. Sending a reporter to cover one trial all day would potentially cost (depending on the reporter or their employer) between £70 and £200 per day. We have therefore set a rough minimum of £950 to support full coverage of a short trial. If possible, the case chosen will be one that would otherwise receive very little coverage at all.

If the target is met, we will commit to providing daily coverage on the blog. All donors will also receive a long-read summary of the entire case upon its conclusion and an option to take part in consultation on the next project.

All of the above will be subject to legal restrictions such as the Contempt of Court Act and the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act, for example. Explanation of the effect of these will, if possible, be provided.

You can donate to our one-off project here.

We are also trying to build a more long-term solution, which involves funding regular court reporting with a monthly subscription via Patreon.

A further appeal would support the development of the new website. Please email us at mailbox@murdermap.co.uk for if you have any further questions about the project.