The number of people killed by a family member has more than doubled in the last year, a study has found.
The Domestic Homicide Project revealed 62 people died at the hands of a family member and 103 people were killed by an intimate partner in 2021-22, increasing by 55%.
The report also looked at domestic violence victims who died by suicide and found almost a quarter of the 370 domestic deaths reported in the last two years were suicides of people who had experienced domestic abuse.
In 2021-22 there were 64 suspected victim suicides, a 28% increase on the previous year. This jump was likely down to better identification by police of the link between suicide and domestic violence, the report noted.
Lead author Dr Lis Bates said this was the first time data had been used to “systematically” reveal the scale of the issue.
She said police were getting better at identifying suicides and unexpected deaths where a domestic abuse history may be relevant, but said more needed to be done to investigate deaths.
Coercive and controlling behaviour was a core risk factor in both intimate partner homicide and suspected victim suicide cases, the report found. Bates said it was “vital” police and partner agencies tackle such abuse.
Lucy Hadley, head of policy at Women’s Aid, labelled the statistics “horrifying” and called on the government to centre domestic abuse in its ten-year Mental Health Plan and updated suicide prevention strategy.
The report is the second from the Domestic Homicide Project, which was established by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and the College of Policing.
The report found the COVID-19 pandemic acted as an “escalator and intensifier of existing abuse” in some instances, with victims less able to seek help due to restrictions.
It also concluded the pandemic had not “caused” domestic homicide but had been “weaponised” by some abusers as both a new tool of control over victims, and – in some cases – as an excuse or defence for abuse or homicide of the victim.
The study found the proportion of suspects previously known to police for domestic abuse rose to 66% from 55% in the previous year.
Adult family homicide suspects were less commonly known to police and commonly had caring responsibilities for the victim and mental ill health.
National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for domestic abuse, Assistant Commissioner Louisa Rolfe, said: “While policing has a vital role, this report identifies the complexity of these cases and that policing doesn’t hold all the answers.
“Victims and perpetrators often have complex needs and we cannot do this alone.”