Murder of innocence
As he lay crying in his cot 11-week-old Kyle Metcalfe’s limited sight would not have enabled him to focus on his father standing above him tightly clenching the pillow that would drain his last breath away. As one policeman poignantly put it last night: "Kyle was one of life’s true innocents. He just never stood a chance."
On Tuesday at the conclusion of a trial that saddened the country, Kyle’s father, Ian Metcalfe, 34, was convicted at the High Court in Edinburgh of the manslaughter of two infant boys between 1988 and 1995 and of attempting to endanger the life of a third child in 1989.
Yet today as Metcalfe sits in a lonely cell in Saughton Prison the real unanswered question remains: what would possibly drive a parent to murder their own child?
Metcalfe’s crimes may be beyond the comprehension of most but the shocking reality is that infanticide has always been a common crime. And, in Scotland, the legacy of infant murder is among the worst in Europe.
Infanticide has a long and disturbing heritage. Throughout history it is thought to have accounted for tens of millions of gender-selective deaths, particularly of baby girls. Even today it remains a critical concern in several countries, notably in two of the world’s most populous, China and India.
In the UK, too, according to the latest crime statistics from the National Criminal Intelligence Service, babies under one year of age are at greater risk of being murdered than any other age group, usually at the hands of parents or step-parents.
Scotland is no exception. In a highprofile case in December 2000, former professional kick-boxer Thomas Duncan, 33, was jailed for life after admitting that he murdered his three-year-old stepdaughter Kennedy MacFarlane. The attack, which took place in his front room in Dumfries in May 2000, left the toddler in a fatal coma with a broken spine and severe brain damage. Psychologists claimed Duncan, who had been taking steroids and Class A drugs, had been driven to murder in a fit of rage prompted by frustration arising from his growing drug dependency.
More recently, in September last year, Glasgow mechanic Darren Jenkinson, 30, was jailed for murdering his sons, Aaron, seven weeks, and Jacob, three weeks. Jenkinson, who last month had his sentence doubled to 30 years, was found guilty at the High Court in Glasgow of smothering his two baby sons with their bibs in their Glasgow homes in 1995 and 1999.
Like many baby-killers, including Metcalfe, Jenkinson was initially able to convince doctors and his wife that he was not a murderer. For two years his wife, Frances, clung to the belief that her children had died from an inherited heart condition. And, for several weeks during his trial, Jenkinson maintained his innocence despite having earlier confessed to police on tape.
However, in a four-day legal bid, Jenkinson’s defence team failed to have the police tapes withheld from the jury. When they were played in court, horrified jurors wept as they heard Jenkinson describe how he had held down the kicking legs of the children as he slowly smothered them.
Before the evidence was heard, Jenkinson finally confessed to his startled wife in the cells below the court - she never spoke to him again. Knowing he was facing a fait accompli, Jenkinson went on to claim diminished responsibility, alleging he had been sexually abused as a child and that the abuse had resulted in post-traumatic stress disorder and a mental condition known as Munchausen’s Syndrome By Proxy.
Jenkinson also claimed the voice of his dead father, who had allegedly abused him in childhood, had driven him to kill his own sons. But during and after the trial leading psychiatrists dismissed the causal link between a killer’s childhood sexual abuse and the murder of his own children.
According to Professor David Owens, professor of clinical psychiatry at Edinburgh University, the murder of children by men is usually an impulsive act associated with drug and alcohol-related violence or sex. Planned killing is extremely rare, normally associated with psychotic behaviour, which does not depend on past trauma.
Owens recently told The Scotsman: "Killing children in a planned way outwith a sexual context is highly unusual.
"It is very different from drug or alcohol-related crime. I could accept a psychotic illness underlies it. As for the link to sexual abuse as a child, I would doubt that very much. If you are making a psychotic defence, it is a very, very weak argument."
Owens has also cast doubt on the claims Jenkinson suffered from Munchausen’s Syndrome By Proxy, in which the patient inflicts harm on others to attract medical attention. He says: "Munchausen’s is not a concept without problems. Richard Asher, the man who first described it, said death was not the point of it. The purpose of it is endless medical attention." As such, he says, the deliberate killing of children does not in his opinion strictly qualify as Munchausen’s Syndrome By Proxy.
Even during Jenkinson’s original trial Dr Gerard Bailes, a consultant forensic psychologist for the regional forensic psychology service of East Anglia, agreed that, while childhood sexual abuse impacted on personality, it was difficult to prove any causal link between abuse and later criminal acts: "Just because someone has been sexually abused does not mean that was a significant factor when they committed a crime." He added: "I’m very wary of post-traumatic stress. People who are massively traumatised in a disaster, we can see how it’s affected them. But sexual abuse is complex traumatic stress, it pervades a person’s whole life. Being sexually abused clearly traumatises people but it doesn’t actually mean it caused someone to commit a particular crime at a particular time. From a diagnostic point of view, you have to look at things in 3D, rather than looking for a tidy label for it."
Yet other psychologists have argued that there is a far higher risk of children being sexually or physically abused when there is a family history of domestic violence.
Dr Marianne Hester of Cambridge University, an expert on child abuse, recently claimed that this kind of revenge murder by a parent is about reasserting lost control. She said: "The children can end up being used as the ultimate weapon for revenge and this can often end in the most tragic circumstances, through systematic abuse or murder."
In England, infanticide is covered by a separate law relating specifically to women and applying within the first 12 months of a child’s life.
In Scotland there is no such distinction in the law, yet Scottish society has witnessed a long and troubled legacy of female infanticide, particularly in the 19th century, when there were more Scots mothers convicted of killing their children than people convicted of murder.
One of the most troubling cases of infanticide ever recorded in Scotland emerged earlier this year after police in Orkney recovered the bodies of three infants buried under the floorboards of a remote croft. It is believed the children were drowned by their grandmother, Tamima Gray, at the turn of the last century, because her daughter, Violet, was not married.
According to Dr Anne-Marie Kilday, a history lecturer at Oxford Brookes University, it was often the stigma of pregnancy outside marriage which drove Scots mothers to infanticide.
"The subject of infanticide is one which fascinates me, as the act of killing a newborn child is so diametrically opposed to all the appropriate notions of ‘maternal instinct’ which a mother is supposed to feel for her child. But it happened surprisingly often. The crime was less common than assault in 18th and 19th century Scotland, but it was more common than murder.
"Often women servants would be forced to ‘get rid of’ their child after being made pregnant by the master of the house. Or they would fear being hauled in front of the church to be punished for giving birth out of wedlock."
But Kilday adds that the more brutal killings could often be attributed to an act of vengeance against the absent fathers of their children.
According to experts, the lessons from history are just as relevant today. Every year there are cases, particularly involving teenage women, where people are found to have "disposed" of or murdered their newborn children.
Last month three teenagers fishing in the River Kelvin in the West End of Glasgow discovered the body of a newborn baby wrapped in a blanket. Strathclyde Police fear the child’s mother may have left the boy by the river immediately after giving birth and are attemping to trace her, although one officer admitted that the task they faced was monumental.
He said: "It would take a lot for a mother to abandon or kill her own child. These cases are particularly harrowing, but tragically they still go on. In many ways the same stigmas and fears some mothers, particularly young parents, have had about childbirth centuries ago still exist today and in this case it is inevitable that a teenager has been inolved. For the officers involved it’s one of the toughest investigations to deal with."
For the relatives, too, of course. Remarkably, in several recent cases of infanticide the partner of the accused has continued to stand by their lover, commonly refusing to believe he or she could be responsible for such an appalling crime. During his trial this month, Metcalfe’s second partner, Maureen Lockerbie, collapsed in tears in the witness box as she described how her son, Dylan, smiled at her on the day he died.
Yet in the same breath, still wearing the engagement ring Metcalfe had bought her, the 24-year-old told the High Court in Edinburgh that she would still marry her lover if he was found guilty of murder. Such was the depth of her belief that Metcalfe didn’t kill her son. It also emerged in court that, following Dylan Lockerbie’s death, the couple had had another son, who was fostered when he was born in 1999 and has now been adopted.
During the trial Lockerbie was asked by defence counsel Donald Findlay, QC, what she would have done if she thought Metcalfe was mistreating Dylan. She said: "I would probably have lashed out at him and done him some serious injury. The only two people I trusted with my child, apart from myself, were Ian and my mother."
In contrast to Ian Metcalfe’s partner, Darren Jenkinson’s estranged wife, Frances, welcomed her husband’s 30-year sentence for the double murder of her children. She recently told The Scotsman: "From the beginning, I said life should mean life and that if a limit had to be put on his sentence then I would havebeen happier for it to be longer. I want to see Darren properly punished for what he did to our children and I didn’t think 15 years was long enough."
Suffer the children
KEIREN AUSTIN, 8, AND JADE, 7
THE brother and sister were drugged with sleeping tablets by their father, Phillip, who then strangled them - using toddler reins on one and a dressing-gown cord on the other - in Northampton in July 2001. The tablets had not taken full effect and there were signs that both children had been able to struggle. Austin, 31, had earlier killed his wife, Claire, after a row. He admitted the murders and is serving a life sentence.
SAM MACMARTIN, 6
LUCY MacMartin, 33, was heavily pregnant, seriously depressed and anxious about the state of her marriage when she poisoned her young son then cut her own throat with a circular power saw. Sam was found in a bedroom at Longton, Lancs, in February last year.
BEN PEPALL, 4
STABBED and bludgeoned to death in 2000 by his father, Leslie, whose wife had just left him. Pepall, whom doctors had said was no danger, was jailed for life for murder. Ben’s baby sister survived the attack in Gosport, Hants.
GEMMA SMITH, 5, AND ADAM, 3
THEY were found dead from gunshot wounds to the head in their 300,000 home in Camberley, Surrey. Ex-Coldstream Guard Anthony Smith killed his family before turning the weapon on himself. He was in serious financial difficulties.
ASHLEY WILLS, 5
STABBED 53 times by Raymond Wills in a jealous rage in March 2000, in Cramlington, Northumbria. Wills, jealous of his sister Caroline, killed her then turned on her son.
AIDAN GREEN, 2
THE toddler died of starvation and hypothermia in April 2000 after being abandoned for a week in an unheated house in Walsall by his father, Sponford. His body was found by burglars. Clinically depressed Green admitted manslaughter and was jailed for four years.
EMMA HALL, 12
STABBED by her father, Phillip, while she was asleep at her home in Tintern, Monmouthshire. Hall, 41, was found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity - he believed she would return to life. He is being held in a secure hospital.
ZEESHAN, 6, AND SABA ZAIDI, 7
STRICT Muslim Zainulabedin Zaidi sought revenge after the breakdown of his marriage in March 2000, stabbing his wife Shazia and two children. The 34-year-old was found guilty of murder and is serving three life sentences.
DANIELLA HURST, 2
DANIELLA’s body was found in a car near her home in North Hykeham, Lincs, in October 2000. She had died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Her 33-year-old father admitted to manslaughter.
OREN JACKSON, 6, AND HALF-BROTHER LEWIS, 2
DEPRESSED mother Claire Jackson suffocated her two sons with a pillow after a row with her ex-boyfriend in June 2000. The two children were found in bed at the family’s flat; their 28-year-old mother hanged herself.
CHRISTOPHER FAIRLESS, 9, AND OLIVER, 6
MURDERED by their 36-year-old father, Frank, while they were on a weekend visit to his home at Scotter, Lincs, in April 2000. He had already been charged with raping and assaulting his ex-wife. He hanged himself.
NATALIA MUJAHID, 3
HER mother, Taj Begum Ali, 25, was jailed for four years for poisoning her in Blackburn, Lancs, in April 2000. Asad, the child’s father, got two years for child cruelty. The couple had given her methadone.
CURTIS JOHNSON, 23 MONTHS
BATTERED to death by his mother’s 25-year-old boyfriend, Gary Nuttall, in September 2000, in Stalybridge, Greater Manchester. Nuttall had been left alone to babysit and lost his temper with the toddler. He was convicted of manslaughter and jailed for seven years.
KENNEDY MACFARLANE, 3
HURLED across a room by her stepfather, Thomas Duncan, in Dumfries, Scotland, in May 2000. The kick-boxer admitted murder and was jailed for life.
COREY RAINE, SIX MONTHS
BEATEN to death in April 2000 by her 19-year-old mother, Sarah Allison, who was suffering from post-natal depression and later admitted infanticide.
NIHAAL KAPDE, 6
SET alight in bed by his mother, Saheeda, in June 2000 at Staincliffe in West Yorkshire. Depressed over her arranged marriage, she was detained indefinitely in a psychiatric unit.
STEPHANIE CROWTHER, 9, AND STEPHEN, 8
MAYALSIAN-born nurse Yew Chein Crowther stole drugs from the hospital where she worked to give her children a lethal injection at their home in Cheadle Hulme, Greater Manchester, in November 2000. Having surrounded their bodies with flowers and toys, the 47-year-old took her own life.
DIEGO PINIERO-VILLAR, 12
KNIFED 30 times in May 2000 at Covent Garden, London, by unemployed occultist, Edward Crowley, who had earlier been charged with stalking him. Crowley was jailed for life for the murder.
ANNA CLIMBIE, 8
FORCED to sleep naked in a bath, and bound hand and foot, she died of hypothermia in February 2000, at Tottenham, North London. Her aunt, Marie Therese Kouao, and her lover, Carl Manning, were both jailed for life.
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