Nearly nine out of 10 murdered women knew their killer

Ireland’s femicide rate on par with those of England, Scotland and Wales

Three years ago the number of women killed violently in this country, often at the hands of someone they knew, appeared to be falling.

In 2015, five women were murdered in Ireland; not an insignificant number but down by 50 per cent on the previous year. In 2016, the number fell even further with two incidents of femicide – the killing of a woman or girl on account of their gender.

Clodagh Hawe (39) and her three children were killed in August of that year, and Kitty Fitzgerald (72) was killed in December. Both women were killed in murder-suicides by their husbands.

However, last year this number sharply increased with nine incidences of femicide. And in the first five months of this year four women have been killed – Joanne Ball (38), Natalia Karaczyn (30), Anastasia Kriegel (14) and Jastine Valdez (24).


A total of 216 women have died in Ireland since 1996 when domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid began recording the violent deaths of women. Nearly nine out of 10 of these women knew the man who killed them, and 56 per cent were killed by a current or former partner.

When compared with the femicide rate in other European countries, Ireland falls relatively low on the list of deaths per 100,000.

Based on last year's nine violent deaths, it has a female homicide rate of 0.2 per 100,000 of the female population. This number is on par with England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where the overall rate in 2016 was 0.2 per 100,000 women.

Male violence

In its annual report on the nation’s cases of femicide, Women’s Aid UK noted the killings were “not isolated incidents” and many of them followed a similar pattern of male violence against women. Sharp instruments were often used as weapons and many of the killings were committed at the victim’s home or the home they shared with the perpetrator.

In a European context, the number of women who have died violently in Ireland is relatively low when compared to other European nations. In Lithuania, a country with a population of just over 2.8 million, 49 women – or three per 100,000 of the female population – died violently in 2015. In Latvia, where the population is just under two million, 29 women were killed in 2015 representing 2.7 per 100,000.

In Hungary, with a population of 9.8 million, 56 women were killed in 2015 (1.4 per 100,000), while in Estonia, a country with a population a quarter the size of Ireland, 10 women were killed that same year.

Germany, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Croatia, Malta, Montenegro, Serbia and Switzerland all rated significantly higher than Ireland in the number of women killed per 100,000, according to Eurostat.

The femicide rate in the US was 2.26 per 100,000 in 2016, when 3,682 women were killed.

While the number of female murders is high in some central and eastern European countries, the worst incidences of femicide can be found in Central America. El Salvador currently has one of the highest rates worldwide with 15.69 deaths per 100,000 women, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

In Honduras more than 10 women are murdered per 100,000 every year and similarly in Guatemala nearly 10 women per 100,000 are killed. In Jamaica, more than nine women per 100,000 are violently killed and in Belize the female murder rate is eight women per 100,000.

The highest rate of female murders in the world in 2016 was in the Central African Republic where 670 women, or 29.4 per 100,000 women, were killed.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast