Around a third of all people murdered in Hampshire during the past three years were killed by their partner.
Figures from the Home Office show that, between 2009 and 2012, 28% of all homicides in Hampshire were classed as domestic violence-related.
In Surrey, the figure was even higher, with 36% of victims killed by a person with whom they were, or had been, in a relationship. This places Surrey third highest in the list of 43 police forces which provided data for this period.
The average ratio for England and Wales was 19%, meaning Hampshire was also significantly above average for domestic abuse-related murders.
Domestic abuse charity Your Sanctuary runs four refuges in Surrey providing safe accommodation in undisclosed locations. Most victims travel from miles away, often from different counties, to ensure they are not discovered by their former partners.
Operations manager Fiamma Pather said some victims were arriving with nothing more than the clothes on their back and their children in tow.
“People arrive with what they can carry,” she said. “One poor woman literally arrived with what she was standing up in having had to jump out of a bedroom window when her husband was asleep.”
Once at the refuge, families stay for around six months receiving support and advice from volunteers and trained members of staff, and are then helped to find permanent accommodation elsewhere.
“We don’t say ‘you have to leave your abusive relationship’, because we know there are reasons why people don’t want to,” said Mrs Pather. “But we do talk about what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. We empower them to make their own decisions about that relationship.”
She added that many victims felt isolated and that they were the only person having that experience, when this was very much not the case.
Responding to the Home Office statistics, she said: “I can’t explain all the reasons why people kill their partners. But I think people underestimate just how dangerous domestic abuse is. Some people think it is just an argument between a couple. Certainly we’re saddened by these statistics.”
The data shows that there were nine domestic homicides in Hampshire during the three-year period. The number of murders, both domestic-related and otherwise, fell by more than 75% in the county during this time.
Nationally, it is thought that two women are killed by their partners every week, and one man every three weeks.
Karen Evans, chairman of the North East Hampshire Domestic Abuse Forum based in Aldershot, said Hampshire’s high ratio of domestic abuse homicides was not necessarily evidence of a particular problem in the county.
“I think it’s the way things go – sometimes you have a spate and it depends which area it is in,” she said.
Mrs Evans said that every time a domestic murder took place it triggered a review by a team of police officers in order to improve the support the force can offer to other victims.
She said: “We look at what lessons we can learn to make sure that if a similar situation in the future were to happen it wouldn’t have the same outcome.
“There is very much a focus on what we can do better in the future and how we can make a horrible death have a positive impact.”
Your Sanctuary’s 24-hour helpline number is 01483 776822 or click North East Hampshire Domestic Abuse Forum website for more information about its work.