Antrim murders prompt call to make misogyny a hate crime

Assembly to debate motion urging strategy to tackle violence against girls and women

House in Derrycoole Way, Newtownabbey: The police believe Karen McClean’s son, Kenneth Flanagan (26), fatally stabbed her and Stacey Knell, his girlfriend, in separate properties in Derrycoole Way and Glenville Road and then took his own life. Photograph: PA Wire

House in Derrycoole Way, Newtownabbey: The police believe Karen McClean’s son, Kenneth Flanagan (26), fatally stabbed her and Stacey Knell, his girlfriend, in separate properties in Derrycoole Way and Glenville Road and then took his own life. Photograph: PA Wire

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Members of the North’s Assembly will debate a motion later today calling for the immediate introduction of a strategy to address violence against women and girls and to make misogyny a hate crime.

It follows the double murder of Karen McClean (50) and Stacey Knell (30) in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, on Friday.

The police believe Ms McClean’s son, Kenneth Flanagan (26), fatally stabbed her and Ms Knell, his girlfriend, in separate properties in Derrycoole Way and Glenville Road and then took his own life.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said Flanagan was found unconscious inside the house at Glenville Road, and subsequently died. Police are not looking for anyone else in connection with their murders.

Det Chief Insp John Caldwell said on Monday it was a “really shocking and horrific double murder of two women inside their own homes, a place where they should have been safe.

“Both women were mothers and this appalling murder has left children facing a lifetime without their mums,” he said.

Daughter’s safety

Ms Knell’s former partner and the father of her child, Sam Lillie, told the BBC he had contacted police on Friday over concerns for his daughter’s safety.

He said he felt “something bad’s going to happen . . . I never knew it would have been this.”

The PSNI confirmed to The Irish Times that a report “of concern for the safety of a child” had been received on Friday.

“Following review, there was no evidence of immediate concern for the child’s safety and the caller was provided with advice in respect of the matter,” Chief Supt Davy Beck said.

In the North’s Assembly on Monday politicians extended their sympathies to the families of Ms McClean and Ms Knell and committed to bringing forward legislation to protect women and girls from violence.

Northern Ireland’s Minister for Justice, Naomi Long, is to present a paper to this effect to Ministers in the coming days.

The North is the only part of the UK which does not have a specific strategy to protect women and girls.

‘Gender-based violence’

The North’s Deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Féin, told the Assembly on Monday that the Executive could not stand still “while women and girls are continuing to come to harm and to do so would be a dereliction of all of our duties in public office.

“I absolutely rightly agree the Executive must take unified and determined action to tackle the critical issue of gender-based violence. It needs to be progressed in the right way as a matter of urgency,” she said.

DUP MLA Paula Bradley said Ms McClean and Ms Knell could not be allowed to become “yet another statistic . . . We can’t wait for another mum, daughter, wife or girlfriend to die.”

Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s debate, which has been tabled by the SDLP, the party’s deputy leader, Nichola Mallon, said society had a “deep-rooted problem with misogyny and violence against women” and their murders had “brought the clear inadequacy of the systems that are designed to protect women into sharp focus”.

If you are affected by any issue in this article, please contact Pieta House on 1800 247247 or the Samaritans by phoning 116123 (free), or emailing jo@samaritans.ie