Impact of Media Reporting of Parental Murder Suicide
Death of Nelson mother and children a ‘tragedy of highest order’
5:01 AM Tuesday Oct 3, 2000
[Media reporting impact analysis]
Rosemary Perkin, the 35-year-old Nelson woman found dead along with her three young daughters in their home, was an ordinary woman living an unremarkable life in suburban Stoke.
Police believe Mrs Perkin killed her daughters Alice, aged 8, Maria, 6, and 23-month-old Cherie in their beds before killing herself in the basement of their Songer Street home some time over the weekend.
Mrs Perkin, described as a housewife, was separated from her husband, Patrick, who still lived in Nelson.
Police immediately started a murder investigation, but soon said they were not looking for anyone else in connection with the killings. The coroner will rule on the deaths.
Police are delving into Mrs Perkin’s medical history as well as analysing a note found in the house for clues to the cause of what they described as “a real tragedy of the highest order.”
They would not say how the mother and daughters died. There were no signs of violence or any kind of struggle in the family home, and Detective Sergeant Wayne McCoy said it appeared the three girls had died in their sleep.
They had no cuts or abrasions, and no weapons were found in the house.
“I don’t believe that the children suffered,” he said.
Detective Sergeant McCoy said police believed they knew what was behind the deaths, but would not give details until after an inquest.
The children were described as “just normal kids” and “good little sportspeople.”
Counselling would be available for pupils when they returned from their holidays next week.
Mr Stephens said everyone was devastated by the news and there was a “complete lack of understanding of what’s gone on.”
The inquest showed that the children had been poisoned by sleeping sedatives, that Rosemary Perkins had been legally prescribed.
To accumulate that quantity of drug, the sedatives had been accumulated over at least a month and possibly longer. If that fact is considered, it shows that the crime was premeditated, sustained and certainly not spur of the moment. There was plenty of time for her to cool off, to seek help, after first having the idea to carry out this crime.
The initial police comments and reporting ended up leaving an image in the public eye, of children not suffering (but they did lose all that remained of their lives). The degree of sustained premeditation was hidden from the public, resulting in serious miscommunication of relative risk factors.
In cases where children die at the hands of a stepfather or father, even if they did die in 10 minutes of pain, in my book the big issue is that they lost all of their life, that should have been ahead of them.
Just exactly the same as Rosemary Perkin’s children lost.
This case is a counterpoint to the Allan Bristol father murders and suicide. (This case led to Sir Ron Davison’s report and DV Act.)
I hear you saying that far more fathers murder their children and are reported in profit media – actually far more stepfathers murder their children violently, but if we include asphyxiations and drug poisonings, then the biggest danger to children’s lives, is from their own mothers.
But wait, I have more: Forget children murdered by their parents! What? Why?
The largest damage to children is done by neglect.
We easily detect neglect to provide food, it eees blooody obvious. But we are not very successful at detecting and responding appropriately to child emotional neglect. This danger happens to many, many tens of thousands of children, year in and year out. In the long run, it underlies most insane violence, to men and to women, inability to work, or to care for children.
Child neglect underlies the underperformance at schools, by 10 to 20% of our children. Even though teachers are better trained than they have ever been, their ability to lift up the bottom segment of our children is dropping backwards. What is the weak link?
Parents who don’t respond frequently to their children, who don’t stimulate their children’s development, with toys, meeting other people, playing with them”¦. Parents who are more interested in their own fun, than developing their children.
Babies cannot say what isn’t happening in their home, they can’t write to CYFs, they can’t describe what they have never seen.
Protection of babies must be proactive, not responding to small children who are having trouble to learn at school. This is responding 5 or more years too late. Babies should only be left with parents who care for babies and know how to care for babies and actually want to care for babies. Parents who know how to make stable relationships and maintain stable relationships, at home and at work.
The familycaught$ greatly increases the developmental hazard to children and babies in particular, by facilitating the restriction of these babies relationship to fathers and wider family.
I would prefer that we licensed parents to care for children (especially young babies) and let anyone drive on the roads and fly planes.
There is much more to being a parent, than touching up any drunk boy, getting him aroused and claiming DPB as of right. MurrayBacon – axe murderer.
I see many parallels in this with the Bristol case. And an unpublicised case in my own town of Wanganui about the same time. In this case the separation ad been extremely acrimonious. There was a prolonged (Family) court battle over custody (Dare I say possession) of the children ending up with the husband gaining custody. The mother was dead (prescription) drug overdose within a month.
The commonality I see is a drawn out battle for “Day to Day” care. In my case while the children survived, how much did they suffer? Unfortunately I have lost total track. Thank you Murray, this is all so sad!
“While Edward Livingstone’s actions were quickly condemned in the media and by pro-feminist organisations as being the actions of a monster and the result of violence against women with protection orders, Rosemary’s murders were considered to be simply a ‘tragedy of highest order’.
Detective Constable Michael Breen said that on the Tuesday before the deaths, Mrs Perkin attended a Family Court hearing to determine her husband’s access rights to his children, and that she was angry and upset about the court’s decision.
She made a decision to have dinner with her father and after he left Mrs Perkin gave each of her daughters seven sleeping pills crushed in a glass of water, put them to bed and smothered them with their pillows. A classic case of “if I can’t have them, nor will you”. Mrs Perkin’s doctor of 13 years had discussed suicide with her in the weeks leading up to the deaths and she had told him she could never hurt her children. Clearly, given the set of circumstances that followed, she could.”
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On the issue of child neglect, this information is the result of the Youth’12 Health and Wellbeing of Secondary School Students in New Zealand survey undertaken by the Adolescent Health Research Group. It came out in August 2013. It shows that child neglect is harmful at all ages (although the earlier it starts, the worse the long-term impact of course).
– 50% say they don’t get enough time with mum (work, busy, housework).
– 37% say they don’t get enough time with dad.
– 29% live in 2 or more homes.
– 92% say they are OK with life, but 29% (female) and 18% (male) self-harm.
We have some serious parenting issues in NZ – our priorities are all wrong. It stems from our attitudes.
What to do about it? I just don’t have the answers…
Dear Rachel, thank you for your comments.
What can I do about it? (Please note my subtle addition..)
In my opinion, most people don’t respect the value and importance of caring well for our children. Many people speak of babyminders, childminders. This mindset undervalues the importance of caring well for our babies and children.
As a society, we allow mothers or fathers to remove children from the marital home unilaterally. Our legislation is unclear on this issue and on this point alone, does more harm to children, than the good that might be achieved by all the rest of the familycaught$ put together.
People experienced and knowledgeable in parenting and in the last 50 years researchers too, speak of the value to children of a secure, stable, loving and developing surroundings, yet we permit unilateral destruction of that environment, by either parent.
Although people have poured scorn on staying together for the sake of the children, it did actually protect children far better than the present unilateral family destruction scheme has. Children’s needs seem to have been lost in the familycaught$ bun fight.
In my opinion, well negotiated divorce can offer the best of both of these worlds, when mental health isn’t raising its ugly head. As a society we are now offering much better mental health treatment and offering it more generously. We still have a long way to go.
Why then are children not being better protected?
The answer lies in the vacuum of relevant skills and integrity in the familycaught$. Unfortunately, we pay them to prey on families and break them up, hugely to the detriment of the children.