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This article was published 14/8/2018 (1007 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The lack of information about recent murder-suicides in Winnipeg has shined a light on the need for police agencies to develop better policies on how the crime -- which is often left shrouded in secrecy -- is tracked and disclosed, according to experts.
On Tuesday, police released the names of the victims in the city’s latest murder-suicide, one week after the bodies of two men were found in a quiet, suburban neighbourhood. Luis Miguel Almeida, 33, murdered his partner, Kok Aun Tee, 37, before killing himself last Tuesday at their home on the first 100 block of Wordsworth Way.
Other than providing those sparse details, however, police remain tight-lipped on the incident. No information is set to be released on what happened and why – despite the fact the matter will never see a courtroom. Since the suspect in murder-suicide cases is dead, no charges are laid and the details of the attack are not made public record.
"This is the second homicide this year where the suspect killed themselves, the first being a domestic-related homicide at a residence in the 600 block of Buckingham (Road) in May 2018," Winnipeg Police Service Const. Jay Murray told reporters Tuesday.
The earlier murder-suicide took place May 21, when Lorne Turner, 58, is alleged to have killed Angela Turner, 50, his wife of 31 years, before taking his own life.
The lack of public disclosure on murder-suicide cases isn’t confined to Winnipeg, experts say, as the attacks are often left shrouded in secrecy by law enforcement agencies across the country.
Critics of that approach say it’s time for police to update the way they track and handle information in these cases. Other than the two murder-suicides in Winnipeg this year, it remains unclear how common the crime is in Manitoba and its capital.
"That’s a good question. We may have had one last year. I think it would be premature to comment on if there’s a rise why that would be," Murray said, when asked if the WPS has seen an increase in murder-suicides.
Later, in a follow-up email to the Free Press, Murray said the WPS does not track murder-suicides or domestic homicides. Manitoba RCMP has confirmed it doesn’t either.
Why police don’t break out murder-suicides and domestic homicides -- like they do with domestic assaults, for example -- remains unclear, with experts saying there’s no excuse for not charting the crimes.
According to Jane Ursel, a University of Manitoba sociology professor and domestic violence expert, better tracking of domestic homicides and murder-suicides is vital to combatting intimate partner violence.
"Absolutely (police) should be doing this. We know they can do it, because they’re doing it with domestic assaults. It’s never a matter of blaming or shaming any service providers or family members who are affected by this, but it’s a matter of improving our response," Ursel said.
"It was discovered that police don’t always report things on a domestic. Sometimes the details aren’t released or the relationship isn’t necessarily made clear." – Jane Ursel, a University of Manitoba sociology professor and domestic violence expert
"When and where intimate partner violence becomes lethal, it’s critical for us to know about that and for all of society to become aware of it, because that’s how we can improve. We need to have a better understanding of the histories and red flags that result in lethal domestic relationships."
Ursel pointed to recent efforts by the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability (CFOJA) to track female murder victims, as evidence of the deficiencies in the current law enforcement approach. (The vast majority of domestic homicide victims are women and perpetrators are men).
"In trying to compile that list, it was discovered that police don’t always report things on a domestic. Sometimes the details aren’t released or the relationship isn’t necessarily made clear. It also depends on what the newspapers pick up in terms of the relationships. The reality is that the information is sporadic. Sometimes we get it. Sometimes we don’t," Ursel said.
Peter Jaffe, director of the Centre for Research and Education on Violence against Women and Children (CREVAWC) and a Western University professor, wasn’t surprised to learn the WPS and Manitoba RCMP weren’t tracking domestic homicides and murder-suicides. Nonetheless, he said it’s a best practice that should be implemented.
"I think they’d want to have that data," Jaffe said.
Under Jaffe’s leadership, the CREVAWC is currently developing a national database, in partnership with coroners and medical examiners across the country, to track domestic homicides and murder-suicides in Canada.
While Jaffe said he understands why law enforcement can’t always release information immediately, he made clear its important for those details to come out eventually so "lessons can be learned" and "systems improved."
"The best practice seems to be to have the police wait an appropriate amount of time, then release the information on a delayed basis. It’s important to educate the public on what the red flags were and what might have been done in hindsight," Jaffe said.
"That helps us recognize what the patterns are. Domestic homicides don’t just happen out of the blue. They happen in a context of multiple risk factors."
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.