Image Credit : FreeDigitalPhotos – hin255

published: 14 January 2020

Luke and Ryan Hart found out their dad had murdered their mother Claire and sister Charlotte – and then killed himself – via a BBC news alert. It was July 2016 and neither son lived in England at the time. 

“As soon as we saw the news that gunshots had been fired in the swimming pool car park in Spalding, where we grew up, we knew what had happened,” Luke tells me in the living room of the home he now shares with Ryan and their two dogs.

The local police soon confirmed the brothers’ fears, and they were told to fly home. “We knew our dad was controlling – but until that moment, we had never thought he was capable of murder.” They’d never seen him being violent, so what had changed?

In the following weeks, details began to surface about the events preceding the attack. For one, that their father had left a violent, 12-page “note”. For another, that 50-year-old Claire and 19-year-old Charlotte had moved out of the family home just four days beforehand with the financial support and help of Luke and Ryan. Or that their father had also killed one of the family’s dogs in the preceding weeks.

“It took a while, but over the coming months we started to understand that our dad’s behaviour had followed a common pattern for domestic homicides,” says Luke. Both he and his brother are now domestic abuse campaigners.

A poster they saw at the local police station, explained a concept they’d never heard of before: “coercive control”. Suddenly, they felt their experience shift into focus.

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