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Senseless deaths


Once again, another young life has been taken from family and friends, in a horrific way. A 23 year-old woman was stabbed by her ex-boyfriend, who broke into the sanctuary of her home. Her life wiped out in a matter of minutes. A child left behind to be deprived of the loving smile of a mother on his first day of school, the comforting arms around him when he falls off his first bicycle and the soft words of congratulations when he learns to say the alphabet. What's so horrific about this case is that a three year-old boy may have witnessed his mother's death.

Once again, another young life has been taken from family and friends, in a horrific way. A 23 year-old woman was stabbed by her ex-boyfriend, who broke into the sanctuary of her home. Her life wiped out in a matter of minutes. A child left behind to be deprived of the loving smile of a mother on his first day of school, the comforting arms around him when he falls off his first bicycle and the soft words of congratulations when he learns to say the alphabet.

What's so horrific about this case is that a three year-old boy may have witnessed his mother's death.

Has there been an increase in murder-suicides in this province in recent years? Or is it that we are talking about it and hearing about it more? The more recent publicized cases have mostly involved men killing women and then themselves and involved intimate partners.

In 2006, a double shooting took place in Head of Bay d'Espoir where a man killed his partner of seven years and then shot himself. A few months earlier another murder-suicide had occurred in Hermitage, another central Newfoundland town.

Three additional cases were confirmed murder-suicides by the RCMP in Avondale, Arnold's Cove and Port aux Basques.

The most publicized incident took place in August 2003, when Dr. Shirley Turner killed herself and her son Zachary by jumping into the ocean at Conception Bay South. She had been extradited to the U.S. to face murder charges for killing her former boyfriend, Dr. Andrew Bagby. She was committed to jail, in Newfoundland, then gave birth to a child while here. She was released under a doctor's care and had custody of the young boy, while waiting to see if her appeal on the extradition would come through. It was then she took her and her son's life.

However, this recent case raise another concern - about family violence and violence against women. In the last two decades much public attention has been given to family violence from the perspective of the victims. There are places to go and people to talk to to get help and there are shelters. But that leaves another question - are these resources accessible to all women in the province, especially to those in smaller communities?

Cara Transition House, located in Gander, is the only shelter for central Newfoundland. Difficult as it may be for a woman to pick up her family or just herself and seek refuge from an abusive relationship, it could be more difficult to leave the familiarity of one's community.

The young woman murdered this past weekend may not have a victim of an abusive relationship, but statistics show many murder-suicide victims are.

Whatever the reasons for this senseless act, as a society we have to ask ourselves if we could have prevented this tragedy.

Can all levels of government and we as the people who elect those law-makers do more to help put a stop to these needless deaths?

Wendy Houlihan

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