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London 2020: a year of violent deaths examined

In January 2021, the BBC published an article that stated the number of homicides in 2020 in London had, as recorded by the Met Police, fallen compared to the previous year. Domestic killings in the capital, however, had increased.

AOAV’s data on such homicides showed that Met officers had launched 131 murder investigations in 2020. In 2019, as AOAV’s analysis showed, there were 147.

The number of those that were domestic killings, however, rose to 22 – up proportionally from 11% (16) of all killings in 2019 to 17% in 2020. The figures showed not only a rise in domestic killings, but also an increase in the number of children (under 18s) killed, from seven in 2019 (5% of total) to 16 in 2020 (14% of total).

In response to these statistics, AOAV set out to give more detail to London’s murders in 2020. To find out not only the identity of those violently killed – broken down by race, gender, age and location – but also to analyse what had happened to those accused or convicted of the killings.

We used a combination of police statements, press reports, reported legal outcomes and social media to identify those killed in 2020 in Greater London, and to follow their cases to see whether their killers had been arrested and/or convicted, in order to try to understand better the trends and patterns of killings in Britain’s most violent city. Of the 131 murder investigations, we found data on 115 cases, meaning that there were 16 murders where virtually no details were in the public domain.

OUR KEY FINDINGS

  • Numbers
    • 131 people were killed in Greater London in 2020 (AOAV analyses the data on 115 here);
    • There was an overall decrease in killings compared to 2019 by 11%, this seems linked, in part, to Covid-19 isolation policies impacting street killings;
    • The youngest victim was 5 months old, the oldest was 80;
  • Domestic violence
    • There was an overall increase in the killings of women by 15%; this was also likely due to lockdown and the increased chance of violence at home;
    • In total, 23% of all murders in London were of women (where data is known);
    • Domestic violence seems to have hit Asian communities the hardest: of all domestic killing victims, 28% were Asian;
    • When looking at only Asian victims, 47% of all Asian homicides were women – almost all of these Asian female victims’ cases were domestic violence related;
    • While about 50% of female victims knew their killers in 2019, in 2020, 65% of them did;
  • Teenage murders
    • 17 were teenagers – 15% of all murder victims;
    • Of these 17 teens, 100% were male and 65% were Black;
  • Methods
    • Stabbings accounted for almost two-thirds of all murders; even with many forced to stay at home, the proportions of methods of killing were almost identical to 2019;
  • Race
    • Black people living in Greater London in 2019 were 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;
    • Young, Black men were disproportionately at higher risk of being a victim of killing, and also disproportionately to be involved in the act of killing;
  • Gender
    • Four in five people killed in Greater London in 2019 were men;
    • Almost all those found guilty of killing were men;
    • Women were far more likely to know their killer and to be killed at home;
    • In terms of those killed, women were generally older than men;
  • Convictions
    • There were fewer unsolved cases in 2020 (17 or 15%) v. 2019 (30 or 20%);
    • Most of the unsolved cases were Black, male, stabbing victims;
    • 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;

METHOD OF KILLING

There was data available for 115 of 131 people killed in Greater London in 2020; of these we found:

  • 62% (71) were stabbed;
  • 21% (24) were beaten to death;
  • 11% (13) were shot;
  • 4% (5) were killed using a vehicle;
  • 1% (1) were killed in arson attacks;
  • In 1% (1) of victims method of killing was unknown.

RACE

Race – the killed:

In the 115 identifiable cases, ethnicity was either reported or available through open source data in 111 cases. Of the 115 people killed:

  • 39.7% (46) were Black;
  • 35.3% (41) were White;
  • 12.9% (15) were Asian;
  • 4.3% (5) were Latin American or mixed-heritage;
  • 3.4% (4) were Middle-Eastern;
  • In 3.4% (4) of victims, race could not be identified.

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.

From this we can conclude that Black people living in London were comparatively three times more likely to be murder victims in Greater London in 2020 as a proportion of population. Black people represent about 40% of all murder victims but only 13% of the Greater London population.

Race – the killers:

At the time of writing (March 2022), 126 people had been accused of or convicted of murder or manslaughter for killings that occurred in 2020. Of these 126, race could be identified in 84 cases. Of the 84:

  • 57.1% (48) were Black;
  • 14.3% (12) were White;
  • 15.5% (13) were Asian;
  • 8.33% (7) were Middle Eastern;
  • 4.8% (4) were Latin American or mixed heritage;
  • In 8 cases ethnicity was unable to be ascertained owing to them being under-age and protected by law on being named.

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

  • 40% of people killed were Black, and 57% of known killers were Black.
  • 35% of people killed were White, and 14% of known killers were White.
  • 13% of people killed were Asian, and 16% of known killers were Asian.

Black people living in Greater London, then, as a proportion of London’s population, were over 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 57% of those sentenced for killing someone in 2020.

The reasons for this disparity are not detailed or analysed here but are likely linked to issues related 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 the 115 cases, the gender of the victim was as following:

  • 77% (89) were men;
  • 23% (26) 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. As such men were over three times more likely to have been murdered in London in 2020 than women.

When examining women as victims:

  • Most women, 88% were either stabbed or beaten in method of killing;
  • 65% of women were killed by an intimate partner or family member, compared to 52% in 2019;
  • 25 out of the 26 women were killed by men, with 1 female victim’s murdered unidentified;
  • The murderers 20% of women victims received hospital order;
  • Asian women make up 47% of Asian victims (overall women were 23% of all victims) meaning that Asian women were twice as likely as the average woman to be killed;

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

Gender – the killers

Of the killers, the gender of 100 could be identified. Of the 100:

  • 95% (95) were men;
  • 5% (5) were women.

In terms of gender, men were far more likely to be murderers or killers in Greater London in 2020. Women were significantly less likely to be murderers.

AGES

Ages – the killed

The average age of victims, where age was reported, was 34.1. The average age of victims, by race, was:

  • 28 for Black victims;
  • 40.8 for White victims;
  • 28.3 for Asian victims;
  • 46.4 for Latin American or mixed heritage victims;
  • 35.7 for Middle Eastern Victims.

The average age of victims, by gender, was:

  • 32 for men;
  • 40 for women.

In 2020, there was a marked increase of children (17 years old or under) being killed due to an increase in teenage victims. There is also a notable proportion of black teens being killed, with the killer often being another black teen. About 1 in 10 people killed in 2020 was a black teen boy. More research is urgently needed on this.

The numbers relating to children/teens murdered in London in 2020 was: 

  • 16 children murdered (ages 0-17)
  • 17 teens murdered (ages 13-19)
  • Of these 17 teens, 8 were aged either 18 or 19 years old.

CRIMINAL CASES
Of 115 killings, 70 killers have (as of March 2022) led to trials, convictions or mental health detentions. This means, over a year after the events, 60% of London’s murders are not considered ‘ongoing investigations’ for unknown suspects:

  • In 11 cases, there has been a charge and the accused 18 killers are awaiting trial;
  • 14 killings led to the 13 killers being detained under hospital orders;
  • 42 killings lead to 56 people being convicted of murder or manslaughter;
  • 3 killings led to suicide by perpetrators;
  • 3 killings (1 case) led to a not guilty verdict;
  • A number of cases were unclear in status due to lack of public record.

It appears that in at least 21 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.

For 56 killings where the UK justice system has sentenced people – 70 killers  – the victims were:

  • 42.8% (24) White;
  • 37.5% (21) Black;
  • 10.7% (6) Asian;
  • 3.6% (2) Middle Eastern

While there are proportionally more white victims whose perpetrators saw justice, this may be an issue of lack of public data on Black victims, as well as a paucity of reporting on Black victims.

Mental health concerns
In 2020, there was a 133% increase in murders that resulted hospital orders, with 6 in 2019 and 14 the following year. The pandemic is a likely cause or contributor of these mental health issues, which proved to have deadly consequences.

Of the 14 victims killed by assailants who were later to receive hospital orders:

Gender:

  • 64.3% (9) were men;
  • 35.6% (5) were women.

Race:

  • 50.0% (7) were White;
  • 28.6% (4) were Asian;
  • 21.4% (3) were Black;

Of the 14 killers who received hospital orders:

Gender:

  • 78.6% (11) were men;
  • 21.4% (3) were women.

Race:

  • 35.7% (5) were White;
  • 28.6% (4) were Asian;
  • 21.4% (3) were Black;
  • 14.3% (2) were of unknown ethnicity

78.6% of these murders which resulted in hospital orders were the result of killing a family member or intimate partner (domestic). On another note, there is a much lower proportion of Black killers receiving hospital orders compared to White and Asian killers. More research should be done on explaining this.

Unsolved – victims
The average age of the 17 victims where the killing remains unsolved, is 32.8. The mean average of all victims was 31.4. This means that older victims have a slightly higher chance of their deaths remaining unsolved over a year after their killing.

In terms of gender, of the 17 unsolved so-far killings, of the victims:

  • 88.3% (15) were men or boys
  • 11.7% (2) were women or girls

There appears to be a potential small gender bias in unsolved killings, where male victims’ killers prove more elusive to find than female victims’ killers.

In terms of race, of the 17 unsolved killings:

  • 52.9% (9) were Black;
  • 23.5% (4) were White;
  • 17.6% (3) were of unknown ethnicity
  • 5.9% (1) was Asian;

In terms of method, of the 17 unsolved killings:

  • 47.1% (8) were stabbed
  • 35.3% (6) were shot
  • 17.6% (3) were beaten

So whilst only 11.2% of people were shot and killed, 35.3% of unsolved killings involved people who were shot and killed. As such, killings where people are shot are over 3x 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 Ilford, Croydon and Enfield.

Locations of unsolved killings
In terms of location, the most common Boroughs where murders were found to be unsolved were Brent with 4 murders and, surprisingly, Westminster, with 2 murders. Brent suffers from considerable levels of economic hardship, with 33% of its residents living in poverty (in overall London, this number is 28%). Westminster is a highly affluent area.

It appears that while unsolved murders often occur in Boroughs which suffer from higher levels of economic deprivation, this is not the entire story. More research needs to be done on this.