Grim milestone as London homicide numbers eclipse last year’s figure

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The violent death toll in London has continued to rise with more homicides so far this year than in the whole of 2017.

A grim spate of bloodshed in the capital, including the week from October 31 when there were five stab murders, has brought the total to 119.

According to Home Office figures there were 118 in London in 2017, excluding the 13 victims of the terrorist attacks at Westminster Bridge, London Bridge and Finsbury Park.

The latest incident was the death of a 62-year-old woman who was found fatally assaulted at a home in Balham, south west London, at around 11.40pm on Monday.

A 66-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of her murder.

Earlier the same day, in a separate case, Devi Unmathallegadoo, 35, died from abdominal injuries in Ilford, east London.

Ramanodge Unmathallegadoo, 50, of no fixed address, has been charged with her murder.

New Metropolitan Police headquarters
Metropolitan Police headquarters, New Scotland Yard on Victoria Embankment (Metropolitan Police/PA)

In London, there have been 26 so far this year not including the two deaths on Monday, compared to a record low of nine last year. There were 16 in 2016, 27 in 2015, 16 in 2014 and 31 in 2013.

Among the 119 homicides in 2018, there have been 68 stabbings, 12 shootings and two deaths involving a knife and a gun.

A third of the cases (42) involved victims aged 16 to 24, while 20 were teenagers.

Among the victims aged 16 to 24, 30 were stabbed, nine were shot, two died in attacks involving a knife and a gun, and one died in a fall.

For the teenagers aged 15 to 19, six were shot and 14 were stabbed.

Levels of violent crime in the capital have remained a concern throughout the year, with monthly highs in February and March, when 18 homicides were recorded each month.

These were the second highest monthly totals recorded since April 2010.

The only higher peak was in June 2017 when there were 20, a figure that includes eight people killed in the London Bridge terror atrocity.

If this is excluded, the previous monthly peak was in April 2010 when there were 16.

In total, 111 homicides were recorded in 2016 and 122 in 2015 in the capital, according to Home Office data.

Before this the number of police-recorded homicides in London had been falling, from 164 in 2007 to 91 in 2014.

Looking at official figures for financial years, there was a peak in 2003/4 when there were 212, and then, bar one rise in 2010/11, the total gradually decreased until 2017/18 when it rose by 36% to 146.

In response to the bloodshed this year, the Metropolitan Police Violent Crime Task Force was set up, seizing 340 knives, 40 guns and 258 other offensive weapons in its first six months of operation, and making more than 1,350 arrests.

Mayor Sadiq Khan also announced plans for a violence reduction unit that would adopt the public health approach to tackle violent crime that was successfully used in Glasgow.

Police have pointed to links between violence and so-called county lines drug networks, where urban dealers force children and other vulnerable people to courier illegal substances to customers in more rural areas.

They are also known to take over innocent people’s homes to use as a base for crime.

Middle class cocaine users have come under fire from a number of public figures, including the country’s most senior police officer Scotland Yard Commissioner Cressida Dick, who pointed to the misery caused by the drugs trade.

Drill music, where rappers taunt rivals with lyrics laced with violence and threats, and the role of social media in escalating disputes have also come under the microscope, as have cuts to youth services and the police.

On Monday Home Secretary Sajid Javid admitted that police officer numbers were “an important part” of the fight against violent crime.

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