Cyprus Mail
Crime Cyprus

Expert care needed for children of murdered mothers

By Evie Andreou

IN THE LAST 13 years, 18 domestic murders have left 40 children either orphaned or without any parents to care for them, according to a study by University of Cyprus’ law department.

In the 18 cases, two of the children were injured during the course of the crime and two were killed after witnessing the murder of their mother by their fathers or step-fathers.

Some of the children were left orphaned after their fathers killed themselves after murdering their mothers; the rest were left without any parents looking after them as their fathers were jailed for their crime.

The study calls for the training of social workers or other specialists to properly support these children that face the danger of presenting chronic disorders of post-traumatic stress, suicidal tendencies, criminality, abuse of substances and depression.

According to the study many of these children, whom prior to their mothers’ murders were often victims of physical violence or had to witness the physical and psychological abuse of their mothers, face psychological and financial problems, since their care is undertaken either by the state social services or usually by grandparents.

The study says the children need proper and constant support to help them have a normal life as functional adults.
“Social workers that have the responsibility of the care of such underage children conscientiously do what they can within the means and the powers they have, but they are understaffed and need specialisation for the multi-dimensional task they are called to do,” the study said.

According to the research, these children say that they feel that they do not have adequate support from the state and feel that the state stopped caring for them as soon as their fathers were convicted.

The study, which was conducted by Professor Andreas Kapardis and post grad student Maria Constantinou, proposes the permanent operation of an emergency unit for the protection of victims of domestic violence and calls for legislation amendments to allow government bodies to intervene and cooperate in cases of domestic violence.

In August, a 35-year-old man shot and killed his ex wife, 31, with a hunting shotgun in front of their two children and then killed himself, and in June a 41-year-old man who had recently lost custody of his two children murdered his wife and young daughter with his army-issue G3 automatic rifle before taking his own life. His teenage son was injured seriously after being shot in the back.

Several murders of women by their partners could have been avoided through timely and efficient protection, the study said, since preceding the murders there had been reports of domestic violence and threats by the perpetrator.

“Because of no specially trained staff in such issues and under staffing, the system is failing when it could have prevented more murders with the timely and effective protection of women-victims and the children” the study said.

According to the research, the majority of the couples were separated or were living together but in the process of a divorce. Eight of the eighteen killers committed suicide while the rest are imprisoned.

The murders were carried out with hunting rifles, army guns or kitchen knives and the study suggests a legislative amendment which would allow the police and the army to confiscate in cases of domestic violence.

“The guns would be returned only after an in depth evaluation of the case is made,” the study said.

Close and regular observation of reports of domestic violence from the social welfare services, and evaluations by people with special training is also needed the study said.

The study also urges judges of family courts and divorce lawyers to observe reasons given for divorces and ask for the protection of the victims in cases where threats have been made against them.

The university said that the study is at the moment comparing relevant legislation and practices in Cyprus, Italy and Lithuania.

On Thursday Defence Minister Christophoros Fokaides said that they are taking measures to prevent assault rifles being issued to reservists which could be used in unlawful acts.

The weapons of reservists serving in frontline units, will be secured with a special mechanism that will only be removed in case of emergency or during exercises and the rest of the reserve force would have to remove the firing pin from their rifle and hand it over to their unit. It will be returned to them in an emergency or during an exercise.

The health, interior and justice ministers, Philippos Patsalis, Socratis Hasikos and Ionas Nicolaou, are also to hold a joint meeting on October 15 to discuss the issue of gun control.

The meeting will focus on improving communication between the various government departments that deal with gun possession, to ensure that no mentally unstable person keeps a gun.

As the law currently stands, police can only intervene after substantial evidence is presented to suggest that the person in question is a potential threat and can only confiscate the gun with a court order.

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