“Hit 40 times with an axe”, “bludgeoned repeatedly”, “battered virtually beyond all recognition”: 139 women killed by men in 2017, 40% of cases featured “overkilling”


Tuesday 18th December 2018 


Today’s Femicide Census report reveals that at least 139 women were killed by men in the UK between 1st January 2017 and 31st December 2017, including 21 women who were killed in terrorist attacks.[1]

For the first time, the Femicide Census (developed by Women’s Aid Federation of England and Karen Ingala Smith) has collected data on incidents of overkilling, where the force and/or methods used by the perpetrator was greater than that required to kill the victim.

Overkilling was evident in four in ten (42%, 58) cases where women were killed by men in 2017, according to data collected by the latest Femicide Census report from court and media reports.

One report stated that a victim had been stabbed 175 times, while several victims were described in reports as being “hit 40 times with an axe”, “bludgeoned repeatedly” and “battered virtually beyond all recognition”.

Three quarters (76%, 105) of women killed by men in 2017 were killed by someone they knew; 30 women were killed by a stranger, of whom 21 were killed in a terrorist attack. 64 women were killed by their current or former intimate partner, 24 women were killed by a man known to them such as a work colleague, neighbour or friend, while 17 women were killed by a male family member of whom 10 were killed by their son.[2]

By collating femicides, we can see that these killings are not isolated incidents, too many of them follow a repeated pattern. Many were committed in similar locations (59%, 82 women were killed at their home or the home they shared with the perpetrator), a sharp instrument was used as a weapon in 66 cases, and nearly half (46%, 64) of women killed by men were killed by a current or former intimate partner.

Over half (55%, 12) of women killed by a former intimate partner were killed within the first month of separation while almost nine in ten (87%, 19) women killed by a former intimate partner were killed within the first year of separation. 

By viewing these cases of femicide together, we can learn what needs to be done to reduce, and ultimately prevent, the killing of women by men. The Femicide Census report recommends that:


  • The Westminster government must ensure that the proposed domestic abuse bill and wider violence against women and girls strategy incorporates the findings and learnings from the Femicide Census
  • The Westminster government and devolved institutions must work with specialist organisations to develop a long term, sustainable funding model with national oversight for specialist domestic abuse and violence against women and girls services.
  • Public services, including police, social services, health, housing and other relevant agencies, must review and implement learnings from the Femicide Census, domestic homicide reviews, serious case reviews, fatal accident inquiries and coroners’ notices following the death or suicide of a woman after experiencing male violence.


Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said:

“Time and time again, we hear of cases where a woman has been killed by a man as an “isolated incident”; yet the latest Femicide Census report shows yet again that this is not the case. The majority of these cases are not isolated incidents, there are too many similarities in the circumstances where women are killed by men.

“In four in ten cases, there was evidence that the perpetrator used excessive violence, more than was necessary, to kill the victim. Despite the extreme level of fatal male violence being used against women, it is clear that not enough is being done to protect women from men’s violence and prevent more women’s lives being taken. Yet another 139 women’s lives were lost to fatal male violence in 2017. We call for the government to urgently put the prevention of femicide at the centre of its work and domestic abuse bill to combat fatal male violence against women once and for all.

“The government’s domestic abuse bill must deliver both the legislation and the resources needed to transform the response to domestic abuse. Our network of life-saving specialist services is not an optional extra but an essential piece of the jigsaw in our response to domestic abuse and femicide. They not only provide survivors with the support they need to escape abuse but they are also often the key to survivors having the confidence to report the abuse to the police in the first place. The domestic abuse bill must protect specialist services from closure, only then can we ensure that every survivor can safely escape and rebuild her life free from fear and abuse.”


Karen Ingala Smith, Chief Executive of nia, said: 

“The Femicide Census challenges widely held assumptions about the nature of violence in our society. For example, the dominant perception of knife crime is one of young men and street violence yet the Femicide Census tells us that 47% women were killed by knives or sharp objects, in fact this is the most common method used by men to kill women.  It may also surprise some to learn that 40% of women killed by men were aged over 45 and 14% were over the age of 66.  Where analyses of violent crime do not look at sex disaggregated data, violence against women continues to be overlooked and made invisible.

“Most people when thinking about men’s fatal violence against women, if they think of it at all, think of intimate partner violence. Whilst the Femicide Census affirms that 46% of women killed by men in 2017 were killed by current or former partners, this means that 54% of women were killed by men in other circumstances. There is something specific and different about being hurt by a person who is supposed to love you or to have loved you once, the person who is or was supposed to be your safe place.  Some of women’s support needs can be different depending on how they were abused and by whom and we need a range of specialist domestic and sexual violence services to meet women’s needs. But one of the central premises of the Femicide Census is to look at what connects different forms of men’s violence against women and we believe this is essential to take the necessary steps to significantly reduce men’s violence against women.”

“The use of excessive violence or desecration after death challenges narratives of momentary loss of control that are especially prevalent in relation to domestic violence. Instead it highlights the brutality and misogyny that men bring to their violence against women whether dead or alive and challenges benign rationales given by men which are often accepted and repeated in media coverage of the killings of women.”


If you are worried about your relationship or that of a friend or family member, you can contact the Freephone 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline, run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge, on 0808 2000 247 or visit www.womensaid.org.uk. 

For more information, please contact the Women’s Aid press office: 020 7566 2511 / [email protected]


Notes to editors: 

1. The Femicide Census

The Femicide Census was developed by Karen Ingala Smith and Women’s Aid working in partnership, with support from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP and Deloitte LLP. Where possible, the census has captured a wide range of information about each case including: (i) the name of the woman and her killer, their age, occupation and health status; (ii) the incident and date of the killing itself; details of the relevant police force area, the weapon and recorded motive; and (iv) other available details on children, ethnicity and country of birth. The census aims to provide a clearer picture of men’s fatal violence against women, committed by partners, ex-partners, male relatives, acquaintances, colleagues and strangers. The Femicide Census has the most up-to-date information on femicide in the UK, currently containing information on over one thousand women killed by men in England and Wales since 2009, Northern Ireland as of 2015 and Scotland as of 2017. At the point of the publication of this report, a number of cases of femicide from 2017 could not be included. These cases are still under investigation and information was exempt from disclosure via police Freedom of Information requests. It is therefore believed that 139 is not the total number of cases of femicide for 2017.

2. Femicide

Femicide is generally defined as the killing of women because they are women, though some definitions include any killing of women or girls by men. The Global Study on Homicide in 2011 indicated that whilst there had been a decrease in the number of homicides worldwide, there had been an increase in the number of femicides[3]. A recent report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women (SRVAW) noted that the UN and its Member States have repeatedly concluded that the comparability and availability of data is key to defining and understanding femicide, and its manifestations, causes and consequences. The SRVAW described the Femicide Census as an example of good practice in data collection.

3. Karen Ingala Smith

Karen Ingala Smith has been recording and commemorating UK women killed by men since January 2012 in a campaign called Counting Dead Women. Karen is Chief Executive of nia, a London based charity championing an integrated approach to addressing all forms of men’s violence against women and girls.

nia has been delivering services to women and children who have experienced domestic and sexual violence for over 40 years. A proudly feminist organisation run by women, for women, their services currently include East London Rape Crisis, The Emma Project a pioneering service for women who are escaping domestic and sexual violence and who use substances problematically, Daria House, a refuge for women who have been sexually exploited, with a particular focus on supporting women who been exploited through their involvement in prostitution.

4. Women’s Aid

Women’s Aid is the national charity working to end domestic abuse against women and children. Over the past 44 years, Women’s Aid has been at the forefront of shaping and coordinating responses to domestic violence and abuse through practice, research and policy. We empower survivors by keeping their voices at the heart of our work, working with and for women and children by listening to them and responding to their needs.

We are a federation of over 180 organisations who provide just under 300 local lifesaving services to women and children across the country. We provide expert training, qualifications and consultancy to a range of agencies and professionals working with survivors or commissioning domestic abuse services, and award a National Quality Mark for services which meet our quality standards. We hold the largest national data set on domestic abuse, and use research and evidence to inform all of our work. Our campaigns achieve change in policy, practice and awareness, encouraging healthy relationships and helping to build a future where domestic abuse is no longer tolerated.

The 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 (run in partnership with Refuge) and our range of online services, which include the Survivors’ Forum, help hundreds of thousands of women and children every year.

5. Scottish Women’s Aid

Scottish Women’s Aid is the lead organisation in Scotland working towards the prevention of domestic abuse. We play a vital role coordinating, influencing and campaigning for effective responses to domestic abuse. We work with a network of 36 specialist local Women’s Aid groups toward a shared vision of a Scotland where domestic abuse is not tolerated.

Scottish Women’s Aid manage Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline in partnership with Men’s Advice Line. Anyone affected by domestic abuse can call the 24/7 helpline on 0800 027 1234.

6. Welsh Women’s Aid

Welsh Women’s Aid is the lead, national umbrella membership organisation in Wales which represents the views and experiences of specialist Welsh violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence services. Our membership comprises 22 independent specialist violence against women services across Wales which provide a range of front-line services: refuges, rape crisis, community-based outreach, advocacy, therapeutic support, drop-ins, group-work, and support for children and young people. More information is available at www.welshwomensaid.org.uk

Anyone in Wales affected domestic abuse, sexual violence and other forms of violence against women can contact the 24-hour Live Fear Free Helpline 0808 80 10 800, or via its webchat provision: www.livefearfree.wales for confidential information and support, and help to access local services across the country.

7. Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland

Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland is the lead voluntary organisation in Northern Ireland addressing domestic and sexual violence and providing services for women and children. Our nine local Women’s Aid groups span the whole of Northern Ireland and offer a range of specialist services to women, children and young people who have experienced domestic violence. www.womensaidni.org

Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland also runs the 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline, which is open to all women and men affected by domestic or sexual violence. Freephone 0808 802 1414 for support, email [email protected], or text SUPPORT to 07797 805 839.


[1] The Femicide Census was developed by Karen Ingala Smith and Women’s Aid working in partnership, with support from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP and Deloitte LLP.

[2] In four cases, the perpetrator’s relationship to the victim could not be established and is therefore classified in the report as ‘unknown’.

[3] United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), ‘The Global Study on Homicide’, Vienna, UNODC publication, 2011

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Women’s Aid is a registered charity in England No. 1054154

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