TRANSCRIPT - A Murder In The Family: Fathers Who Kill Their Wives And Children

[Music] this podcast contains descriptions of death and violence that some listeners may find upsetting. Hello and welcome to episode three of the Six O’clock Knock, the true-crime podcast that takes a fresh look at murder the Six O’clock Knock is presented by me Simon Ford and former major crime detective Jacques Morrell in our previous episodes we looked at some unsolved British cases from the 1940s and the 1960s and you asked for our analysis of some more recent cases these are tragically all detected cases that we're going to talk about now there's no mystery associated with them but they do illustrate our topic and the topic is familicide [Music] we started looking at a case from 1993 where a father inexplicably killed his grown-up daughter and this made us look at other cases and how we as a society deal with the really difficult topic of murder within the family so murder in the family is termed familicide right is this something that you dealt with in your police career quite a lot or is it unusual well no unfortunately yes on a number of occasions we in the police never use the Latin terminology though each case that came before us was different you know I can remember them all I’ve included a reference to one of them in this episode too but looking back I think it's the family secrets and the what ifs that make these cases so intensely tragic it's bad enough having a family member violently killed don't get me wrong but uh when it's done by someone within the family when the killer is someone who was supposed to care for them it becomes so inexplicable and it's no surprise I suppose in most of these cases they never explain their actions so we started looking at these familiar side cases and we came across a recent one in Australia and it's a stark reminder that familiar sides occur in every society across the world this first case involves Camp Hill in Queensland in Australia which is a pleasant residential suburb of Brisbane and the houses are spacious and the roads are lined with trees and grass verges and in this lovely setting an unimaginable tragedy took place on the morning of Wednesday the 19th of February 2020 what happened in Camp Hill will affect the community there for a long time at 8 25 am during the school run emergency services received a number of calls to an incident on a quiet suburban street as with all incidents that take place in full view of the public numerous calls are made by people who witness things differently often calls are made from people who are passing by who may be confused or unsure about what's happening they just know that they need to call the emergency services in this incident there was a mention of an explosion then another of a fire involving a vehicle it was even a report that there'd been a road traffic collision so when the emergency crews arrived they found a car on fire a woman with severe burns and a man with fatal stab wounds once the fire had been extinguished those at the scene discovered the really horrible reality of the situation on the back seat of the car were the remains of not one but of three kids they were all under 10 years of age and they'd been burned alive in what had been a ferocious fire this was a chaotic scene but the officer in charge began to understand what had happened the woman had been driving her three children to school and her car was hit by another vehicle having come to rest the male driver of the other vehicle got out and approached the woman in her car then he poured petrol into it and immediately set it on fire causing what people had described as an explosion the woman despite being on fire herself managed to get out somehow run away as members of the public stopped and tried to help the man told them not to do anything before stabbing himself to death the woman was rushed to hospital she had 97 burns and died later that day the man involved was Rowan Baxter he killed his estranged wife HAnneah and their three children there'd been a long history of domestic abuse Jacques what do you make of that truly awful this was in broad daylight and in public the case gained national attention if not international the media frenzy was extensive and there was a lot of soul-searching in Australia as always there's a hope that something could be learnt from these kind of incidents something to prevent it from happening again but there was also some criticism of how the case was reported and there were calls for changes in the law there was reporting from who said too often when fathers kill their children the tendency is to frame it as a case of mental illness rather than gender driven violence now this is interesting because even the Aussie prime minister Scott Morrison he was criticized for sympathizing with Rowan Baxter’s state of mind rather than the family had been a victim of his violence and controlling behaviour and he chose to identify support next week for mental health services rather than pledging to tackle domestic violence in the country and this raises some questions did anyone at any time in their relationship suggest to Rowan Baxter that he sought help for his abusive and controlling behaviour towards his wife did he attempt to seek help immediately before committing this awful murder do we really expect people like Rowan Baxter to tell people about their intention to kill would it have been better if society had been able to change his behaviour at an early stage wow there are three four really big questions there aren't there so from the the report goes on based on what we know so far in the killings HAnneah Clarke experienced an extreme form of coercive control by Rowan Baxter he'd control how she dressed and where she went Clarke also had a domestic violence order against him had recently left the relationship and had expressed fears her husband may kill her control and the imminent loss of it was central to Baxter’s actions against both Clarke and her children this is true in cases I worked on they may be all be different but it's that loss of control that drives these perpetrators to extreme violence yeah the headline in Australian media read it's time that coercive control was made illegal in Australia I think we're all agreed on that that's reminiscent in the UK the law was changed about five years ago offenses were created to address controlling and coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship stalking and harassment were now an offence and it suggested that Rowan Baxter had been tracking his estranged wife's phone following their separation I’ve had a look at the media reporting on this it was covered extensively by an online tabloid in the UK this family tragedy is one thing but the media frenzy of the case was centred on the photographs of this photogenic family and they showed their photographs of them in happier times yeah that often happens actually if it's a photogenic family if the media's got access to um family photographs which um are a stark contrast with the grim reality of what happened that juxtaposition is quite often what makes a story sadly clearly true on Australia as well news reporting on recent familicide cases has often focused on the personal circumstances of perpetrators their financial troubles and the pain and heartache those two words in quotes they must have felt this is again contemporaneous reporting of that case the case has made us think about murder in the family and particular filicide that's the deliberate act of a parent killing their own child I mean I don't know about you Jacques but I’ve got three kids and I can't imagine wanting to hurt them but obviously this is something which does occur the word familicide is derived from the Latin words filius and philia son or daughter and side meaning to kill murder or to cause death so just think insecticide okay the word can refer both to the crime and also to the perpetrator of the crime so question for you Jacques are most of these cases committed by men usually yes and is it a mental health issue the legal teams in these cases when they come before the courts they will always explore the medical history of the suspect asking whether they've had a mental breakdown it's often claimed that the defendant went through a temporary loss of control when they committed the murder it's rare though that the person is actually mentally disordered when they you know where they cAnneot enter a plea are they guilty or not guilty the faculties are okay in that respect and these cases attract they attract a lot of psychological study after they're concluded from a police perspective it was different unless the perpetrator explains their actions or the family open up to revealing past events it's often difficult to ascertain the state of mind of the people who go on to kill their son or daughter cases of familial side they're not always preceded by violence it's often about how the father figure considers his role within the family some fathers have a more traditional attitude to control over finances and the way the families run and these cases are all different but they seem to happen at a point and this is crucial they seem to happen at a point where the male head of the household inverted commas faces a spiralling loss of control over his family and it goes on to say a loss of control over masculine domains is at the heart of familiar sides even when there's no clear history of domestic abuse some perpetrators whose actions may appear out of the blue have been described in research studies as having their lives unravelling this spiralling loss of control wow yeah you can see how that might happen to a bloke but for it to have such an extreme effect on him that he goes out and kills his own children and or his partner well yeah I find that quite hard to swallow but anyway we have um Wikipedia also mentioning a study in 1999 and I’ve got to say we do check out all the references in Wikipedia when we use it we don't just take it at its word great resource though it is this gender issue yeah it concluded that mothers were responsible for a higher share of children killed during infancy while fathers were more likely to have been responsible for the murders of children aged 8 or older so babies and toddlers more likely mum is the killer and then when they get to school age more likely dad that's crazy isn't it but a UK study of around 300 cases between 1997 and 2006 showed that 37 percent of the perpetrators had some form of mood or personality disorder the majority though had not had contact with mental health services prior to the murders very few had received treatment you can see why that would be if mental health services weren't aware of the case why would these people be offered help so what is there a groundswell of people who have these conditions and tendencies and for want of a better word weaknesses but there just isn't the support there to help them until it's too late it's frightening isn't it Jacques yeah that that's interesting Simon it really is so we're gonna look at two cases in the united kingdom why have we chosen them well they both have some similarities both though were committed by people with different characters and backgrounds okay so first of all here's a case with which I had some contact at the time because I was a court reporter in this part of the country in this part of the UK I’m going to take you to a place called Scamonden in West Yorkshire this is on the Pennines which is a range of mountains that pretty much marks the border between Yorkshire and Lancashire in that part of the UK there was a village here then in the 1960s the valley was flooded to create the Scamonden reservoir and the M62 motorway crosses the dam wall of the reservoir and then passes through a cutting with scamming bridge over it now while much of the village was lost to create the reservoir the chapel still exists and the old vicarage is now a boat club Scamonden is surrounded by moorland so think Jane Eyre that sort of moorland roads from Elland Huddersfield and Manchester pass through it it's bleak it's high up in the winter it's very very cold it gets blocked by snow quite easily the road towards Manchester takes you over saddle with more a place already synonymous with murder on Saturday the 31st of January 1993 police were alerted to the body of a woman that was lying in a ditch at the side of a quiet stretch of road up on Scamonden Moor the woman had suffered severe head injuries and her body had been there for several days the police were quickly able to identify that the body was of a missing 23 year old from Ellend that town about 10 minutes’ drive away Linda Fleming was her name and she was a trainee pharmacist she'd been reported missing by her father 10 days earlier now Linda had lived with her dad in Greystone Avenue a cul-de-sac of modest semi-detached houses built in the 1930s Ellend's a market town south of Halifax by the River Calder in fact it was recorded as Ellent in the Doomsday Book and the town's name is derived from the Old English meaning land by the water river or land partly or wholly surrounded by water so there's a lot of water in that part of the country and Ellend is quite an isolated place because of it there'd been considerable publicity about Linda Fleming's disappearance the public had in fact been asked to find her in order to maximize this publicity the police arranged a televised news conference I was there as a reporter and her father was invited to make a plea for her to return home derrick Fleming her dad sat next to his daughter's boyfriend Derek's voice was I don't know ineffectual as you read the prepared text it's been a while but this is what he said Linda wherever you are or for whatever reason please come home or just ring we all love you and we want you home with us and his voice tailed off at the end as he began to sob Derek Fleming had a straight laced appearance that's how I’d put it almost insipid just blended into the background really he wore a dull looking grey woollen suit a collared shirt and grey patterned tie he had what you might call an old-fashioned hairstyle this is 1993 so he was kind of you know way back in the 1950s his good head of light brown hair was neatly parted and this was complemented by his large wire-framed spectacles I mean to be blunt nothing appeared to suggest that he was a brutal killer now with the discovery of Linda's body the police now had a murder inquiry and the natural line of inquiry would be to search and examine her home now there may have already been a cursory search of Greystone Avenue because the police routinely search premises where people are reported missing from and this is usually with the consent of the person in control of those premises and these initial searches usually check whether the person is actually there and this is most important in the case of small children who go missing sometimes they hide or get stuck in places so the police need to to check whether they are still on the premises and this curse research may maybe to see if the person's left something that assists in tracing them a letter from a friend an address book a note in the diary in this case there was a murder investigation and things had to be done more thoroughly although 10 days had passed since derrick Fleming had reported his daughter missing the house at gravestone avenue was still full of clues there was traces of blood on some of the floor tiles there was also heavy blood staining on a peg bag in the utility room and they also found blood inside the boot of Fleming's car a fast track submission to the forensic science services would match that blood to Linda Fleming's DNA so Derek Fleming's efforts to remove all that evidence had failed now what caused this dull looking man Derek Fleming to beat his daughter to death what caused him to remove her body and to dump it in a roadside ditch what then drove him to claim he knew nothing of her disappearance with all that forensic evidence pointing to Linda being killed at Greystone Avenue Derek Fleming was arrested in police interviews he broke down and confessed but only to a point he claimed his daughter had said something to him about his work and this had caused him to react he claimed that he had been ill and depressed he was vague he mentioned that they had argued and he must have lost control and hit her with a hammer whilst he was accepting responsibility he said he'd no recollection of assaulting her he even claimed that he'd forgotten about the incident after he'd put her body in the boot of his car wrapped in polythene he'd gone to work as normal at the joinery company he was a manager there he claimed he only remembered what had happened when he opened his boot later he then drove to the moor and dumped her in a ditch all this brings it right back to me because I was a reporter for the BBC at the time and I was at Leeds crown court both for the um concluding arguments by both the prosecution the defence and then for the summing up and the sentencing of derrick Fleming in January 1994 a year after Linda's death uh derrick Fleming was jailed for life for murdering his daughter as he was led from the dock to begin his sentence relatives openly wept in the court I remember that really clearly the jury had taken what three and a half hours to unanimously find him guilty of murder Derek Fleming had initially admitted manslaughter on the grounds of provocation but denied murder during the trial it was suggested that Linda had confronted her father over his plans to move to Spain with his mistress he denied this although it was accepted that he'd been having a relationship with a woman for several years the judge at Leeds crown court Mr Justice Tucker told him something happened that morning which caused you to batter your daughter over the head nine times with a hammer the jury rejected your contention it was something she said or did that provoked you to act in that way bearing in mind that part of his defence or at least what Derek Fleming said in interview with the police was that he couldn't remember any of this until he opened the car boot and saw that his daughter's body was in there I mean frankly to my mind at the time this was unbelievable you don't hit somebody over the head nine times with there's an engineering tool actually a thing called a ball pain hammer so it wasn't the biggest hammer you can get your hands on but it was certainly a very serious piece of kit and if I recall as well they stopped counting after nine blows and said at least nine blows with a hammer because the skull Linda's head was so badly fractured they kind of gave up counting the fractures after that yeah Derek Fleming he served less than 14 years and was released in December 2007. now whatever people think about the custodial sentence that he served this was a man of previous good character a parole board must have assumed he was not a danger to the public nor was he likely to reoffend wow that really surprised me when I found that out because I basically dropped this case as soon as it was wrapped up and Derek Fleming went to prison but yeah the idea that well he's now been at liberty for as long as he was in prison having committed that crime well all I’d say is the parole board obviously knew what they were doing even so he still put his family through a trial and he'd made efforts to deflect his guilt onto his daughter he claimed his daughter provoked him um I mean quite what sort of provocation it takes to strike your own flesh and blood over the head nine times with a hammer I’ll never know but he accepted only manslaughter by provocation these were all efforts to minimize what he'd done he was still maintaining some control over the family ultimately he had avoided having to explain exactly what he did and why and to reiterate he'd put the family through that experience in court they had to relive it and they'd had to see some of the evidence that was submitted and as you can imagine that evidence was not a pleasant sight it is a cowardly thing to do and yet so many of these cases are similar his control as a father figure of his family unit had unravelled he was under stress by his own actions the secret affair and the deceit around it but rather than open up about it and work through the emotional upheaval he chose to release that stress and anger by harming those close to him whether Derek Fleming was seriously plAnneing to sell up and move to Spain is not the point he was not willing to let his grown-up daughter intervene and spoil his happiness he'd seen his daughter grow up and kept the family together despite his infidelity the situation that he had created and control for so long was now spiralling out of control his marriage his job and now his relationship with his daughter was over so while the circumstances are different Fleming was in a situation similar to Rowan Baxter’s in Australia right his actions were also gender driven and his role as the male in the family under threat and there's an imminent loss of control that whole alpha male head of the household thing and well will it lead to violence against those he loved I suppose the answer to that is yes isn't it that's right um there is a similarity in these cases and sadly there's lots of examples out there they occur in all cultures and throughout the world these are honour killings yeah that's a loaded term that deserves well a podcast in its own right really maybe we'll come around to that at some point be interesting to explore that the next case for now is from 2004 it's the case of Terry Rodgers in Huthwaite in Nottinghamshire unlike Derek Fleming he had a violent history but there's still that same senseless and inexplicable violence against his daughter why have you chosen this one Jacques well it's a case that I remember uh I was involved in it for a short period and it was as tragic as it was predictable once we knew the background of Mr Rodgers the circumstances are very different to the Fleming case but there's also some similarities too yeah Terry Rodgers killed his 23 year old daughter her name was Chanel Taylor this happened at the home she'd set up with her husband they'd been married just for a few weeks Terry Rodgers had walked his daughter down the aisle at the wedding no one knows what had happened between them and no one knows whether there was an argument no one knows what was said but for some reason Terry took a double-barrelled shotgun and shot Chanel several times in the head and back now he fled sparking a million pound manhunt involving hundreds of police officers and he was eventually caught but it took weeks just a few weeks but even so he'd been hiding out in dense woodland Rodgers admitted killing his daughter he claimed it was manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility another case of hiding behind his mental state maybe of playing the victim well the case was set to go to trial for murder in early 2006. the family were denied that justice as Rodgers who'd gone on hunger strike starved himself to death on remand in Lincoln prison he died nine days before his trial was due to begin taking any explanation of his terrible actions to the grave Simon I remember that period well there were actually two murder suspects of the run at the same time and both were hiding in in woodland and sleeping rough I remember speaking to the company who produced the video of Chanel's wedding day we'd recovered that wedding video as part of the evidence as you can imagine uh the company that produced it was operated by a woman which was unique uh it was a selling point for these wedding videos and it meant they could record the whole day from the bride's perspective obviously the wedding tradition is that no man should see the bride on the day of the wedding and that tradition wasn't breached from an investigative point of view we needed to know if the video recorded anything that hinted at problems within the relationships was anything said or done to suggest any bad feeling was there anything that was relevant there wasn't but it was surreal you know looking at all that footage taking in a candid way a young woman's special day looking forward to the future with her husband now Rodgers uh had a history of violence against women that had gone on for years his relationship with Annee Chanel's mother was effectively over whether the wedding had added to the stress an atmosphere it's not clear but uh either way his perceived status as the head of the household inverted commerce was shattered just as in the Australian case there was that spiralling loss of control over his family so spiralling loss of control head of the household this kind of ingrained patriarchy that just well seems to entitle these men to behave in these inexplicable ways and perhaps is the explanation for that behaviour Claire Donnelly of the daily mirror newspaper reported on the case she got an interview with Terry Rodgers wife Annee who was also Chanel's mum Annee stated that Terry's hatred of women was always behind his nastiest attacks and Annee’s words here are voiced by an actress I tried to get away from him loads of times but he always tracked me down despite her father's brutality Chanel was one of the few people who showed him any affection and said of Chanel she had a heart of gold she would have done anything for anyone when Chanel married lee Taylor she even asked her dad to give her away but weeks later when her father needed somewhere to stay after yet another bust up with Annee she took him in after his death in Lincoln prison the senior investigating officer detective chief inspector Paul Cottie didn't hold back on his opinion of Rodgers he said I think he shot his daughter to punish Annee for throwing him out of the marital home he's a disgusting man he's not alive anymore he's unable to hurt anyone again but people like Terry are probably the lowest form of human life you could come across the mirror article learnt that Rodgers detested women and this stemmed from his childhood he was rejected by both his birth mother and then by his adoptive mother he grew up with a pathological hatred of women his troubled home life was having an impact and he was sent to borstal for stealing a bicycle when he came home aged 14 well Terry had changed he may have also been sexually abused by one of the members of staff at borstal Rodgers developed a terrifying personality that used violence to intimidate and control the women around him his first marriage to Teresa was short-lived and devastated by violence he served a year in prison after battering his wife with a hammer causing a fractured skull broken wrist and broken fingers in what we can only call a brutal assault he tracked her down in order to attack her I went upstairs and opened the wardrobe door and I felt a bang on the back of my head I thought it was a bag that had fallen off the shelf until I looked up and I saw him there and I realized that he was hitting me I crossed my arms over my face because I was being hit on the head once from behind but also at the side so I crossed my arms and I was basically on my back kicking with my arms crossed and I remember screaming and fighting but after that I can't remember a thing Teresa had to have life-saving surgery and when she came round from the operation she immediately started divorce proceedings against Rodgers Rodgers was jailed for 18 months for GBH and he was released after 12 months shortly after he met his second wife Anne he told her about his first marriage and as Anne said he made it sound more like Teresa's fault like he was provoked but it wasn't long before Anne was seeing the real dark side of Terry Rodgers he used to batter me senseless and it didn't just stop with his fists he attacked me with axes Stanley knives even scythes it kept one in the shed and he used to cut the grass with it one time he came at me swinging it really hard I managed to duck just in time a second later and he'd have had my head off once he threw an axe at me and he just missed another time he slashed my leg with a Stanley knife anything could set him off and eventually throughout her husband weeks before Chanel was due to get married today Anne seems bewildered racked with guilt that she survived and Chanel didn't as she says quietly if he had done this to me then perhaps people would understand it but Chanel was the only person who truly loved him she was so kind to him and look how he's repaid her Anne’s final statement I think just sums it up perfectly I’m not surprised that he killed someone but I wouldn't have thought it would have been one of his children wow there's a lot to take in here isn't there Jacques I mean first of all I suppose in my mind this is all history how do we prevent these awful cases from happening in the first place yeah how do we prevent them it's good question uh families are very private entities aren't they most families I suppose keep secrets hidden in order to avoid shame often they want to hide the dirty washing from public view now going back to the legislation that we've had and that Australia is crying out for I wonder whether this new legislation will have an impact how quickly will it get the message that society cannot allow abusive controlling behaviour in these relationships it needs victims to seek help and more importantly it needs the abusers to be offered support so that they can change their behaviour early if we think about you know the three cases Terry Rodgers left a trail of destruction over many years there was lots of evidence that he needed to change his behaviour was anything done the Rowan Baxter case suggests that things were being dealt with on a legal footing so it's not easy to know whether there was time to work with him and for him to change his behaviour the Fleming case is perhaps the most interesting despite his affair and presumably the loveless marriage that he was in he managed to create the illusion of a respectable and happy family man seeing his daughter grow up it was only the ending of that that he couldn't deal with the Fleming's case is or was I supposed less easy to predict but probably much easier to avoid it if he'd been honest to his family yeah there's an enormous amount there to unpack isn't there and I suppose well apart from anything else Derek Fleming now we don't know where he is um he'd be approaching 80 years of age I suppose now and there's part of me wants to talk to him and there's another part of me wants to forget all about it heavy topic isn't it yeah it felt that way didn't it Simon I think it's the fact that we lack any kind of explanation in these cases it's hard to make sense of what happened it also exposed I suppose how these families hide so much sadness only for it to be exposed in such a violent moment hmm absolutely yeah let's get back to unsolved cases with serial killers they seem I don't know less disturbing really they're less close to home in a way you're right I mean the mystery that remains in cold cases seems to make things easier to handle doesn't it it's the whodunit that's to draw yeah the why don't it can be fascinating but in these cases we haven't had that explanation that final piece of the jigsaw yeah maybe you guys listening to this have got a view is there a murder case that's fascinated or intrigued you I mean you tell us about that and we can look into it and see what we can fish out hopefully some answers but as a friend of mine used to say Simon there are no answers only more questions we hope you enjoyed this episode of the Six O’clock Knock there was no knocking this time for obvious reasons but next time there will be and next time we will be oh well I’ll keep that a secret for the time being I’ll tease you a little bit oh and don't forget to keep in touch by following us on social media we'd love to hear your feedback so until next time from me Simon Ford Jacques Morrell and our super producer Paul Bradshaw it's goodbye the Six O’clock Knock is presented by Simon Ford and Jacques Morrell and produced by Paul Bradshaw and is available on every major listening app please help us spread the word by giving us a five star review and telling your friends to subscribe.[Music]