Frank's sister Julia and nephew William Pemberton were murdered in 2003. Frank is now the CEO of Advocacy After Fatal Domestic Abuse (AAFDA), a centre of excellence for reviews after domestic homicide and for specialist peer support. Frank helped ensure Domestic Homicide Reviews (DHRs) became law, and works with the Home Office to continually enhance the methodology. Since DHRs started in 2011, Frank has been a Home Office appointed assessor of these reviews. He is a Home Office accredited Chair for DHRs and trains others to undertake them. Frank is a member of the national Victims’ Panel chaired by the Justice Minister and was on the assessment panel for the recruitment of the first (Designate) Domestic Abuse Commissioner.
'I want you to know that when I ask him for a divorce he will threaten to kill me and I believe he will carry out that threat.'
My sister told me this, 14 months before she and her son were murdered by her husband, his father.
Ten days before the murders I was eating breakfast when my sister said:
'I just want to remind you that he is coming for me.'
I stood up, taking my cereal bowl over to the sink and said ‘Don’t worry Julie, he won’t do it while I’m alive’. Then I drove 26 miles to work. Nearly sixteen years later, I can still see her face giving away that she did not share my certainty.
What’s it like as a man, to lose a sister or a daughter or a young person to domestic homicide? It touches the basest of instincts. We thought they would be safe while we were around. I meet so many fathers and brothers, part of whom got broken by these brutal acts, who feel such a deep, primordial hurt and regret.
These men have become members of the exclusive club that no-one wants to join. Men who are now concerned that society is not quite as safe as we were led to think it was. Men who wonder why they could not keep the women they love safe. Men who are baffled as to why pleading with the safeguarding agencies to help, didn’t work. Men who are deeply troubled by this. Men who know that other men brutally killed the women they love. Perhaps knowing that we did what we are supposed to do when under threat, call the police, numbs the pain a little.
Talking with other men helps. I have witnessed many men exchanging stories of brokenness, of frustration and regret, bafflement and concern for the future. When men talk about this with each other, we build coping strategies.
Domestic abuse permeates all of society. In my journey after double murders, the prevalence and gendered nature of domestic abuse struck me as profound. So, I know a bit now but I did not google domestic abuse when my sister first told me the truth about her marriage. I wish I had.