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London: murder capital. A year of violent deaths examined

At the end of December 2019, the Guardian Newspaper was to publish an article stating that the number of homicides in London had hit a 10-year high and there had been a surge in knife and gang-related killings since 2014. The piece was to report that the Metropolitan Police had recorded some 149 homicides in 2019, up to 30 December 2019. And that over five years the homicide rate in London had increased by more than 50%, from 94 cases in 2014.

Figures from the Mayor of London’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) revealed other long-term trends in the capital. As the Guardian reported, shooting deaths in London totalled four in 2014, rose to 15 in 2018 and fell back to 12 in 2019. Fatal stabbings numbered 55 in 2014 and have gone steadily up, reaching 90 in 2019, according to Met figures.

At the time, Ben Bradford, a professor of global city policing at University College London, who was working with the Met and MOPAC, was quoted saying that drugs, austerity and a rise in violence in youth cultures were the key factors. This, he said, had “something to do with trends in the drugs market – there has been an increase in competition. There is definitely something going on around 10 years of austerity. It can’t be a coincidence that the generation of boys who were eight, nine or ten in 2010 is coming to fruition after cuts.”

The piece concluded, “London disproportionately shapes the national debate about crime”.

Because of this claim, just over a year later, Action on Armed Violence set out to conduct a deeper analysis of the violent deaths recorded in London in 2019.

We sought to find out not only the identity of those violently killed – broken by race, gender, age and location – but also to analyse what had happened to those accused or convicted of the killings. We also looked at murders in London in 2018. However, these are not included in this piece, and was done to avoid double-counting reported deaths.

We used a combination of police statements, press reports, reported legal outcomes and social media to identify those who had been killed in 2019 in Greater London, and to follow their cases to see whether their killers had been arrested and/or convicted, and to try to understand trends and patterns of killings in what was to be London’s deadliest year for a long while.

OUR KEY FINDINGS

  • 147 people were killed in Greater London in 2019
  • Stabbings accounted for almost two-thirds of all murders
  • London, proportionally, had twice the numbers of killing (per capita) than the rest of the UK
  • Almost half of all those killed were Black and over half of those found guilty of killing were Black
  • Black people living in Greater London are over three times more likely to be a murder victim (per capita) and four times more likely to sentenced for murder or homicide (per capita)
  • White people living in Greater London were less likely to be killed as a proportion of population, and also less likely to be killers
  • Four in five people killed in Greater London were men.  Almost all those found guilty of killing were men
  • Women more likely to know their killer and be killed at home
  • Taking the average age of death of all those killed, Black victims were on average seven years younger than the mean, White victims were on average seven years older
  • Taking the average age of all those convicted of killing, Black killers were on average three years younger than the mean, White killers were on average 10 years older
  • Young, Black men are disproportionately at higher risk of being a victim of killing, and also disproportionately to be involved in the act of killing
  • White killers were, on average, 13 years older than Black killers
  • In terms of those killed, women were generally older than men
  • There does not seem to be racial bias in cases solved – roughly the same racial percentage of killings being successfully ‘solved’ equates to the racial percentage of those who were killed
  • Younger victims have a higher chance of their deaths remaining unsolved over a year after their killing.
  • Killings where people are shot are over twice as likely not to be solved over a year later, as a proportion of all unsolved forms of killing
  • Those London Boroughs with the highest levels of poverty appeared to have the highest levels of murder and manslaughter

This article will now break down those key figures into various sections that detail the methods of killing; London’s murder/homicide rate versus the rest of the country; race; gender; and ages of both those killed and those convicted of killing. We also examined the trial and case outcomes, as well as reviewing existing and current (as of April 2021) unsolved killings, and their locations.

METHOD
Method of killing:
Of the 147 people killed in Greater London in 2019, we found:

  • 61.2% (90) were stabbed;
  • 17.7% (26) were killed by ‘other means’ – included beatings, head injuries, blunt trauma injuries, falling from high buildings, poisoning, burns, and one person killed by a car;
  • 7.4% (11) of cases was where the method of murder was not reported publicly
  • 8.1% (12) were shot;
  • 4.8% (7) were strangled;
  • 1 victim was both stabbed and shot[1].

LONDON / UK
Capital versus rest of country
:
Overall, 650 people were killed in the UK (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland) in 2019.[2] Accordingly, 22.7% of all killings in the UK in 2019 took place in Greater London. London constitutes 11.4% of the UK’s population.[3]

RACE
Race – the killed
:
In 135 cases, the ethnicity or race of the victims was identified either through media reports or open-source data.

Of the 135 people killed:

  • 46.7% (62) were Black;
  • 35.6% (48) were White;
  • 15.6% (21) were Asian;
  • 3% (4) were Latin American or mixed-heritage.

To compare to the racial demographics of Greater London, of people living there:

  • 13.3% are Black;
  • 59.8% are white (44.9% White British and 14.9% White Other);
  • 18.5% are Asian;
  • 8.4% are Latin American or mixed-heritage.

As such, Black people living in London were over than three times more likely to be murder victims in Greater London in 2019 than other racial groups. They represent about 47% of all murder victims but only 13% of the Great London population.

Race – the killers:
At the time of writing (March 2021), 106 people had been convicted of murder or manslaughter for killings that occurred in 2019. Of these 106, race could be identified in 91 cases. Of the 91:

  • 59.3% (54) were Black;
  • 22% (20) were White;
  • 16.4% (15) were Asian;
  • 2.1% (2) were Latin American or mixed heritage;
  • In 3 cases ethnicity was unclear owing to a lack of photographic records;[4]
  • In 12 cases ethnicity was unclear owing to them being under-age.

Of note, then, that – where race is known:

  • 45% of people killed were Black, and 59.3% of known killers were Black.
  • 37% of people killed were White, and 22% of known killers were White.
  • 16% of people killed were Asian, and 16.4% of known killers were Asian.

Black people living in Greater London, then, as a proportion of London’s population, were four times more likely to be sentenced for murder or manslaughter for such crimes in 2019 than other racial groups. Black people represented 13.3% of the Great London population but 53.2% of those sentenced for killing someone in 2019.

The reasons for this disparity are not detailed or analysed here but are likely linked to poverty, gang formation and employment opportunities, amongst others. This area of research needs urgently to be addressed. Data on the perpetrators of murder and homicide is often very limited and does not offer the same insight into motivations or drivers as data on victims.

GENDER
Gender – the murdered:
In 146 cases, the gender of the victim was known (one of the victims was an unnamed child). Of the 146:

  • 80% (117) were men;
  • 20% (29) were women.

The number of women living in London is slightly higher compared to the number of men; 4.49 million are women and 4.48 million people living in Greater London are men.[5] As such men were over four times more likely to have been murdered in London in 2019 than women.

When examining women as victims:

  • Reports on 48.2% (14) of the women confirm that they were mothers, and one was pregnant when she was killed
  • 31% (9) of women were killed by their partner or ex-partner and a further 20.7% (6) were killed by a family member[6] 

As previous research has highlighted, they were more likely to know their killer or to be killed by intimate partners or family members.[7]

Gender – the killers
Of the killers, the gender of 104 could be identified. Of the 98:

  • 97.1% (101) were men;
  • 2.9% (3) were women.

When considering gender, men were far more likely to be murderers or killers in Greater London in 2019. Women were significantly less likely to be murderers.

AGES
Ages – the killed

The average age of victims, where age was reported, was 32.7[8] The average age of victims, by race, was:

  • 24.7 for Black victims;
  • 40.5 for White victims;
  • 28 for Asian victims;
  • 40.8 for Latin American or mixed heritage victims.

The average age of victims, by gender, was:

  • 31 for men;
  • 39 for women.

Three of the victims were under a year old.[9] The average age of people living in Greater London is 35.8 (the mean of 35.3[10] and 36.5[11]).

Ages – the killers:
The average of those convicted of murder or manslaughter (from 107 people) was 25.8. The average age of killers, by race, was:

  • 23.2 for Black killers;
  • 35.3 for White killers;
  • 27.8 for Asian killers;
  • 19.5 for Latin American or mixed heritage killers

CRIMINAL CASES
Of 147 killings, 117 have (as of April 2021) led to trials, convictions or mental health detentions. This means, over a year after the events, 77.6% of London’s murders are not considered ‘ongoing investigations’ for unknown suspects:

  • In 28 cases, there has been a charge and the accused is awaiting trial.
  • 6 murders led to the prime suspect being detained under hospital orders.
  • 89 killings lead to 106 people being convicted of murder or manslaughter.

It appears that in a number of cases an individual’s murder was perpetrated by more than one person. This might point to gang-related acts of killing. More research work could be done on this issue.

Three murders have no reports of arrest, trial or conviction. This likely means the case file is still open and the killer potentially at large. Of these three cases, two of the victims were White and one victim was of unknown race. 

For 89 killings where the UK justice system has sentenced people – 106 cases – the victims were:

  • 41.6% (37) Black;
  • 34.9% (31) White;
  • 14.7% (13) Asian;
  • 3.3% (3) Latin American or mixed heritage;
  • 5.7% (5) Unknown race;

This means that there does not seem to be racial bias in cases solved – roughly the same racial percentage of killings being successfully ‘solved’ equates to the racial percentage of killings.

For 28 killings, where the UK justice system has arrested someone but no decision has been made on sentencing, the victims were:

  • 39.2% (11) Black;
  • 32.1% (9) White;
  • 21.4% (6) Asian;
  • 3.6% (1) Latin American or mixed heritage;
  • 3.6% (1) unknown race;

Of note:

  • Their average age was 33.1
  • 60.8% (17) were stabbed
  • 21.4% (6) suffered fatal head injuries
  • 7.1% (2) were shot
  • 3.6 % (1) was hit and dragged under a car
  • 3.6% (1) died following a punch
  • 3.6% (1) identified by DNA due to 100% burns

Unsolved – victims:
The average age of the 30 victims, where the killing is still unsolved, is 25.6 (this excludes a victim where the age is unknown). The mean average of all victims was 32.7. This means that younger victims (a mean of 7.1 years) have a higher chance of their deaths remaining unsolved over a year after their killing.

In terms of gender, of the 30 unsolved so-far killings, of the victims:

  • 80% (24) were men or boys
  • 16.7% (5) were women or girls
  • 3.3% (1) was an unnamed child

There does not appear to be a gender bias in unsolved killings.

In terms of race, of the 30 unsolved killings:

  • 46.7% (14) were Black;
  • 26.7% (8) were White;
  • 6.7% (2) were Asian;
  • 20% (6) were of unknown ethnicity[12]

In terms of method, of the 30 unsolved killings:

  • 26.7% (8) were stabbed
  • 20% (6) were shot
  • 23.3% (7) were killed by other means[13]
  • 23.3% (7) cause of death was unknown
  • 3.3% (1) Scotland Yard said officers were not releasing a cause of death for operational purposes
  • 3.3% (1) of victims both stabbed and shot

So whilst only 7.4% of people were shot and killed, 20% of unsolved killings were where people were shot and killed. As such, killings where people are shot are over twice as likely to be unsolved over a year later, as a proportion of all unsolved forms of killing.

LOCATIONS
A breakdown of the location of all killings can be found here. The top Greater London murder locations were Newham, Southwark, Waltham Forest and Wandsworth.

Locations of unsolved killings
In terms of location, the most common Boroughs where murders were found to be unsolved were Camden and Newham, with 4 cases each.  It is of note that:

  • Camden has the second-highest pay inequality;[14]
  • Newham experiences higher than average levels of homelessness, fuel poverty and children living in low – income families[15]

It appears that unsolved murders often occur in Boroughs which suffer from higher levels of economic deprivation. More research needs to be done in this area.

CONCLUSION
The main findings of this report are that in a year where 147 people were killed in Greater London, and where stabbings accounted for almost two-thirds of all murders, there are clear racial, gender, age and locational factors at play in both those who are victims and perpetrators of violence.

The finding that almost half of all those killed were Black and over half of those found guilty of killing were Black must point to a need for government and local authorities to address the known drivers of violence – poverty, social exclusion, criminal gangs and structural inequities.

The excessive representation of men in the data – where four in five people murdered in Greater London were men and almost all those found guilty of killing were men – also points to the need for more research to be done into the drivers of male violence and how such drivers can be addressed and prevented.

That women are more likely to know their killer and to be killed at home reflects the terrible reality that, notwithstanding the tragic recent murder of Sarah Everard, most cases of femicide occur in the home.  The drivers of such domestic violence also need to be better understood and monitored.

Overall, our findings point to strong concerns of specific vulnerable groups – both for victims and for potential perpetrators.  More work needs to be undertaken to understand the way in which violence impacts the lives of young, Black men in London – the most likely cohort to be killed and to kill.

Iain Overton, the Executive Director of Action on Armed Violence, said of the findings:

“All too often, news stories of killings in London fixate on individual tragedies. This research seeks to identify wider trends and patterns in both those killed and those who have perpetrated killings. Whilst our data often points to and reinforces widely-held truths – such as men being far more likely to be killers than women – our findings point towards the need for more research, not least in areas such as why so many Black men are caught up in violence at a young age. Analysis into social deprivation, education, employment prospects and other factors that play a part in the fabric of violence need to be more widely examined, and government funding should be found to this end.”

To this end, the granular data of this report is made available here.

AOAV’s Iain Overton was interviewed for this piece by the radio show Voice of Islam. It can be listened to here (begins 23:30):


[1] Cox, S., 2021. Police Renew Appeal to Find Killers Who Stabbed And Shot Stratford Man In ‘Savage’ Manor Park Attack. [online] Newham Recorder. Available at: <https://www.newhamrecorder.co.uk/news/crime-court/noore-bashir-salad-appeal-one-year-on-1-6601034> [Accessed 5 January 2021]. <https://www.newhamrecorder.co.uk/news/crime-court/noore-bashir-salad-appeal-one-year-on-1-6601034> [Accessed 5 January 2021].

[2]  Mackintosh, T., Lee, S. and Swann, S., 2021. Homicides Fall For First Time In Five Years Across UK Despite London Rise. [online] BBC News. Available at: <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-50925024> [Accessed 5 January 2021].

[3] Gamp, J., 2020. UK Population Explained: How Many People Live In The UK?. [online] The Sun. Available at: <https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/12230808/uk-population-how-many-people/> [Accessed 5 January 2021].

[4] The following people’s ethnicity was not clear, as there were no pictures found of these individuals: Taalib Rowe, Joel Ellis and Muhammed Hussain. In addition, 12 other people’s identity was unidentifiable because only their age/ gender was given.

[5] Clark, D., 2020. London Population by Gender 2019 | Statista. [online] Statista. Available at: <https://www.statista.com/statistics/1064772/population-of-london-by-gender/#:~:text=There%20were%20approximately%204.49%20million,outnumbered%20men%20by%20300%20thousand.> [Accessed 5 January 2021].

[6] In four cases the victim was killed by her son, in one case by her brother, and in one case by her mother

[7] Buchholz, K., 2020. Infographic: Women More Likely To Be Killed By Partners Or Relatives. [online] Statista Infographics. Available at: <https://www.statista.com/chart/18913/victims-murdered-by-partners-family-femicide/> [Accessed 5 January 2021].

[8] Sahkira Mercedes Gwendolin Loseke was reported to be just ‘in her 20s’.

[9] Julia Bogdan was three months old; Riley Fauvrelle was five days old and an unnamed girl was eight weeks old

[10] Barrett, S. and Belcher, E., 2019. Demography. [online] Centreforlondon.org. Available at: <https://www.centreforlondon.org/reader/the-london-intelligence-issue-9/demography/#median-age-change> [Accessed 5 January 2021].

[11] Trust for London. 2020. London’s Population Age, London Poverty – Trust For London | Trust For London. [online] Available at: <https://www.trustforlondon.org.uk/data/population-age-groups/#:~:text=London%27s%20population%20is%20young%20(average,aged%20between%2030%20and%2034.> [Accessed 5 January 2021].

[12] Five victims were listed as ‘unnamed’ and the ethnicity of Omar Smith was not clear.

[13] this includes strangulation, head injuries, falling from a high building, fighting, hit/dragged under a car

[14] Trust for London. 2020. Camden | Trust For London. [online] Available at: <https://www.trustforlondon.org.uk/data/boroughs/camden-poverty-and-inequality-indicators/> [Accessed 5 January 2021].

[15] Newham.info. 2021. Newham Info – Deprivation. [online] Available at: <https://www.newham.info/deprivation/> [Accessed 5 January 2021].