Neil Ellerbeck murdered his wife Kate Ellerbeck on November 14th, 2008. Kate received 43 separate injuries in the attack before being strangled to death. Neil was sentenced to 8 years in prison for “manslaughter”. The jury cleared him of murder “on the basis of lack of intent to cause serious harm”; 43 separate injuries which lead to her death but it was still judged a “lack of intent to cause serious harm”. How did we get to a point where 43 separate injuries leading to death aren’t considered intent to cause serious harm?
Neil’s responsibility for the murder of Kate was minimised by the press in a myriad of ways, with their obsession over Kate’s affairs whilst simultaneously downplaying Neil’s own affair. The Telegraph and Daily Mail were both obsessed with how much money Neil earned as an investment banker, as if being a rich white man was more important than his status as a murderer. The very obvious signs of domestic violence were ignored and the quite clear indicator of Neil’s potential to physical violence downplayed. Neil was tracking his wife’s movements. He was recording her conversations. Jealously and controlling behaviour are obvious indicators of a propensity to violence, yet these were minimised in the media.
This is, apparently, part of the Judge’s statement at sentencing:
‘We have studied and dissected a marriage which was obviously in terminal decline. It should have ended in separation and divorce. Tragically it ended in death.
‘The jury have found that you did not intend to kill or cause really serious harm during the long eruption of violence which ended in her death.
‘You achieved a great deal in your life, but it is plain to me there was a darker side of your character – the secretive obsessively jealous husband who spied on his wife, invaded her privacy and contributed to the unhappiness in the final months and years of her life.
‘A husband who knew divorce was coming and would go to almost any length to prevent that from happening.
‘You squirreled money away intending to keep it from your wife. It was the darker side to your character that boiled over.
‘I am sure you intended some harm to your wife albeit not serious harm. I am sure your anger and frustration erupted that morning when it became clear your wife was serious about divorce and it was then you applied constant and deliberate pressure to her neck.’
Neil was sentenced to eight years for the murder of his wife. He served four before being released. He is now living in his former home with his two children. He murdered their mother and only spent 4 years in prison. He now has access to his million dollar home. He has custody of his children. A man who brutally murdered his wife because she asked for a divorce is now living in their former home with their children.
Because, murdering their mother in anger doesn’t constitute a significant risk to the children’s lives.
Because, a middle class white man who violently murdered a woman shouldn’t lose custody of his children.
Because, a middle class white man couldn’t possibly be a risk to his children. After all, no middle class white man has ever murdered his children.
Because, a middle class white man with a clear history of domestic violence against his partner couldn’t possibly be a risk to his children.
The facts that he has already abused the children by forcing them to live in the house where he was abusing their mother, that he has already committed child abuse by killing their mother, and the fact that he is continuing to abuse his children by forcing them to live in the house where he killed their mother with him are all, well, just irrelevant really.
Instead, he gets to move back into his expensive house and pretend that he hasn’t already destroyed the lives of his children.
Welcome to the Patriarchy: where women and children don’t matter.