Drylaw in the northwest of Edinburgh January 16th 2014 and the hunt for a 3 year old boy is underway. Rosdeep Adekoya reported her son Mikaeel Kumlar missing and the community had responded. Hundreds of members of the public joined the police, coast guard and other volunteers searching the surrounding streets, woods and shorelines. Their efforts admirably but in vein; His body would be found two days later in woodland 20 miles away in Fife.
Mikaeel, Rosdeeps son began being sick shortly after visiting a popular restaurant at the city's Fountain Park. It was at this point that Rosdeep began to smack and punch, with a clenched fist, her sons head and body. When Mikaeel was sick for the third time Rosdeep dragged him by his limbs to the shower, threw him over the edge of the bath and began to beat him again, striking him heavily across his back. Mikaeel's condition continued to worsen and he kept being sick, resulting in Mikaeel staying home and not attending nursery. During this time he was assaulted again and as a result became lethargic. By the Tuesday night Mikaeel was barely responsive and died later that night. Experts later said that during this time Mikaeel would have been in a significant amount of pain as a result of his injuries and would have become dangerously ill before his three year old body finally succumbed to death. Adekoya discovered her son's body on the floor when awaking her other children the next morning.
Rosdeep Adekoya took Mikaeel's twin sister to nursery and drove straight to Fife with her son's three year old body wrapped in a duvet, shoved in to a suitcase and then placed in the boot of her car. Rosdeep buried the suitcase near an old family home before returning home. The next morning at 07:15am on the 16th of January 2014 Adekoya called 999 and reported her son missing. The first responding officers reported that the Mother appeared "very upset and distressed". But later inconsistencies in her story began to appear. By Friday evening the police believed things were not quite as they initially seemed. Investigating officers pressed Adekoya and eventually she broke and told officers "It was an accident and I panicked. I am going to go to the jail." When asked where her son was she replied "In the woods behind my sister's house." Adekoya then took the officers to the spot where she had buried her son saying "to the left under trees in suitcase."
The Crown accused Adekoya of punching Mikaeel several times between the 12th and 15th of January. Striking his body against a hard object and thus inflicting blunt force trauma injuries to his head and body. It was concluded that he died from blunt force abdominal trauma on the 14th of January from injuries sustained from the previous Sunday the 12th of January. The beating over the bath is thought to be the likely 'hard object' referred to and would have led to internal injuries that would have gone on to cause death. Mikaeel had over 40 injuries across his small body including bruising to the chin, cheek and back. There was trauma to the brain and haemorrhaging in the spinal cord. And injuries to his arms and legs.
Rosdeep Adekoya was initially charged with murder but pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of culpable homicide on the 22nd of August 2014, by doing so she was denying the intent of murder and instead accepting that she had attempted to defeat the ends of justice by concealing where Mikaeel's body was buried and falsely claiming that he was a missing person and in-turn instigating a large scale search. Advocate depute Alex Prentice told the court "The basis for the plea tendered being accepted is that the Crown accepts the accused had no intention to kill Mikaeel and that the assault perpetuated upon him, although severe, fell short of the wicked recklessness required for murder." To further illustrate this point the court also heard that Adekoya's internet history showed searches including "I find it hard to love my son", "I love all of my children except one", "Why am I aggressive towards my son?" And "get rid of bruises". The court also heard that the reason Rosdeep never took her son to the Doctor was because of the noticeable bruising to his body. The sentencing took place in the High Court in Edinburgh on 25th August where Rosdeep Adekoya was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment for the culpable homicide of her son, Mikaeel Kular. The boy's father had nothing to say as he left court following the tragedy that he and the rest of the family have been burdened with.
Tia Sharp's 12 year old naked body was found wrapped in a black bed sheet in a black bag in the loft of her grandmother's house. Christine Bicknell reported her granddaughter missing from her New Abbington, London home on the 8th of August 2012. The police launched a search and the family made public appeals for information on the whereabouts of Tia. On the 10th of August 2012, after the fourth time of searching the house, police found Tia's body. A post mortem was conducted but due to the length of time between time of death and the actual discovery of the body the ME could not commit to a cause of death but it was thought to be suffocation from being smothered.
The family set up was strained, Natalie Sharp gave birth to Tia when she was 18 and only had a very short relationship with Tia's father. Natalie then had a short relationship with Stuart Hazell before living with her long term partner and Tia's stepfather David Niles. Tia spent a lot of time at her Grandmother's house, where Stuart Hazell was now her Grandmother's live in lover, and Tia had expressed a wish to live there on a permanent basis once turning sixteen.
After the discovery of the body Christine was arrested on suspicion of murder and the police launched a hunt for Hazell. The police apprehend him after a 'tip off' from the public and he too was arrested on suspicion of murder. Hazell already had thirty previous convictions that included crack-cocaine dealing and violent offences. On the 12th of August 2012 Stuart Hazell was charged with the murder of Tia Sharp. The charges against Christine Bricknell were dropped.
During the course of the trial it came out that Natalie Sharp and David Niles had been investigated 3 times by social services. Twice with relation to class A-drugs and once in relation to an argument that broke out at their flat where the police were called. Police also found on Hazell's computer searches such as 'naked girlies' 'illegal underage incest pics' 'violent forced rape' and 'little girls with glasses.' All telltale signs that Tia was in mortal danger at the hands of her grandmothers live in lover.
In May 2013 the trial began and five days in, Hazell changed his plea from not guilty to guilty. He was later sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of thirty eight years to be served. A pregnant Magdalena Luczak moved to England from Poland with her boyfriend Mariusz Krezolek. She was carrying Eryk Pelka's baby, Daniel Pelka. The family lived in Coventry, West Midlands and it was to this home that the police were called twenty six times to investigate Luczak and Krezolek for domestic violence and alcohol abuse. Daniel visited A&E twice including for a broken arm and went to school with bruises and facial injuries. The four year old was also seen scavenging for food and one teacher described him as a 'bag of bones' and 'wasting away.' Daniel eventually died on the third of March 2012. Luczak and Krezolek were found guilty of filicide and jailed for life on the second of August 2013. During the trial the court heard that the pair had force fed their son salt, beat him, locked him in a room and submerged his small head under water. When Daniel died he weighed just nine pounds.
The death of a child is always a poignant loss, with thoughts of a life not lived. When that death falls to the hands of the parents and in need the mother, it appears to become all the more shocking but NSPCC Figures show that on average in England and Wales death of a child at the hands of another person and that includes parents are not as uncommon as we would like to think.
· 1 child is killed every week
· 68% of those are aged under 5 years old
· In 67% of all child murders the parent is the number 1 suspect
· Under 1 years old are 7 times more likely to be killed
· 1 baby is killed every 20 days
· When the parent is blood related to the child they kill, 47% of mothers will be the perpetrated and 53% will be the father.
· If not a blood related parent to the child it is much more likely to be the father figure who kills the child.
Crime figures show that a child is more likely to be murdered by a parent than a stranger. This means that statistically it is actually more dangerous to leave your child with a spouse than to leave it with a stranger. Professor Kathryn Abel conducted a study looking at 297 cases of filicide between 1997 and 2006. Within this study she found that 37% of parents who killed, were suffering from some kind of mental illness, and that 12% of them would have seen a health care professional within 1 year of the kill. Another 40% of filicide perpetrators had a mental health record, and the most common diagnoses were mood and personality disorders, not psychosis. Less than half of these perpetrators had previously had contact with mental health services, fewer fathers than mothers, and only 20% were treated before the offence took place. Abel also notes that 23% of female offenders were teenagers at the time of the child victim's birth. In general population only 7% of babies are actually born to teen mums.
Within the study of Filicide, researchers have come to some common identifiers. With the case of mothers who kill, research points to Infanticide, where the women are more likely to be the murderer. In many of these cases the mother has suffered severe, undiagnosed or untreated mental illness - often triggered by birth. Up to 80% of women will experience some degree of depressive illness after child birth; with 25% of new mums likely to experience psychosis within the first month following child birth. At this stage there is also the risk of postnatal or postpartum psychosis - whereby the mother becomes psychotic after giving birth. UK legislation recognised the extent of mental health issue faced by new mothers within the Infanticide Act 1938. This allowed mothers within this spectrum to be tried and punished as if guilty of manslaughter rather than murder. The vast majority of new mums who suffer with a mental illness following the birth of their child will not harm their baby. The statistics have however prompted new screening methods for new mothers, with more attention to be given to post birth support and midwives trained to look for signs of mental health issues.
When looking at older children they are more likely to be killed by their father, and there is no link to mental health problems. Research shows that these murders are more likely to be premeditated and executed in a calm and purposeful manner. There are cases of 'heat of the moment' - temporary loss of insanity - but statistics show this is not the 'norm'. Kathryn Abel's study of found that fathers were more likely to commit violent filicide and tend to have previous convictions for violent offences. There is also more likely to be substance misuse or dependency.
Murder is a crime often sensationalised, whether it is on the front page of a newspaper simply reporting a crime or be it on TV and film where the plot is littered with kills. A parent killing a child however still remains shocking and rocks the moral compass. For a society having to become ever more accustomed to crime it is of comfort that we are not becoming desensitised to the horrors of deviance. It is reassuring that we are trying to understand the complexities of such a heinous crime as filicide. Care does need to be taken to ensure that the right approach to punishment and rehabilitation is taken. Where mental health has played a part, a duty of care does need to come into play at all stages of the process - plea, sentence and rehabilitation. At the same time, care needs to be taken that mental health does not become a wall for parents to hide behind. There also needs to be professional help at the end of the process and a holistic approach taken when reintegrating an offender in to society, especially with cases such as Adekoya where she will still be relatively young when finishing her term.
When looking at Rosdeep Adekoya's killing in the context of filicide research it is clear to see why the original charge of murder was reduced to culpable homicide, and in turn why Adekoya was sentenced to the 11 years imprisonment. As society we may feel uncomfortable with the way she beat and disposed of her son's body but the internet searchers provide the counter argument that it was not premeditated and that Adekoya did in fact need help in raising her son.
In Crown Court twelve jurors are asked to hear a case and pass verdict but, the reality is individuals are passing judgment on each other on a daily basis. Drylaw came together as a community to search for Mikaeel when his mother declared him missing. New Abbington looked for Tia and Coventry watched as Daniel disappeared in front of them; other communities across the UK need to come together before the alarm is raised, we need to inquire if something doesn't look right and react to what is in front of us in the here and now. Before looking down we need to look left and right before another child's life is taken away in the most common of ways.