'Heinous' crimes of abducted, murdered children examined in study
More than 150 children in Canada have been abducted and murdered between 1970 and 2010, but it is still a rare occurrence, a Canadian Centre for Child Protection study says.
The centre released preliminary findings on Wednesday from a new report, Abducted Then Murdered Children: A Canadian Study.
The study examines 155 murders between 1970 and 2010 involving victims age 16 and younger who were abducted before being killed.
The purpose of the study is to better understand the demographics of the victims and gain insights into the offenders to help identify additional prevention and intervention strategies, the centre stated on its website.
"We hope that the stories of the children in this project will serve to educate and to remind us all of the inherent vulnerability of children and why we must do more to stop offenders who wish to exploit that vulnerability," said Lianna McDonald, executive director of the Winnipeg-based centre.
While cases of child abduction that end in murder are extremely rare, "the apparent randomness and heinous nature of such crimes creates an atmosphere of fear and vulnerability, undermining the public's sense of security," the centre's website states.
The report was timed to be released on Wednesday, the 30th anniversary of Canada's participation in International Missing Children's Day.
"This study offers critical education and lends itself to prevention tools that can be very useful to families, educators, the parole system, law enforcement and the justice system in developing programs and policies," said Lesley Parrott, whose 11-year-old daughter Alison was abducted from her Toronto home in July 1986 and later found murdered.
"It's important to acknowledge and reinforce that for children to be abducted and murdered by a stranger in Canada is a rare occurrence. However, there is some very interesting and concrete learning to be had in evaluating these cases."
The study, which is the first of its kind in Canada, involved an examination of instances involving the abduction and subsequent murder of a child by someone other than the child's parent or other relative.
- 84 per cent of victims were female (130).
- Average age of the victims: 11.6.
- 43 per cent of victims were 14 to 16 years old.
- 92 per cent of offenders were male.
- Average age was 25.9, with 22 per cent under 18.
- 69 per cent were under 30.
- 55 per cent had a previous criminal record and of those, 29 per cent had a prior offence of violent or sexual offence against a child.
- Motivation for abducting the child was determined to be sexual in 77 per cent of instances that involved a convicted offender.
- 41 per cent of the abductions occurred in summer (June, July or August).
- 45 per cent occurred on a Friday or Saturday.
- In 68 per cent of instances where an approximate abduction location was established, it occurred within the child's own neighbourhood.
- 36 per cent of instances involved prior contact between the offender and the victim.
- Children appeared to have been taken by force in 18 per cent of the instances.
- In 60 per cent of the cases where time could be determined, 70 per cent of victims were murdered within three hours of being abducted.
The centre suggests a number of ways to keep your children safe, including:
- Act immediately if you believe your child is missing. Time is very important if a child has been abducted. While someone is reporting to police, immediately mobilize others to canvas the area in which the child was last seen.
- Supervision is important. Depending on age, development and environments, parents need to consider levels of adequate supervision. For older children, it is important for parents to stay in touch and have frequent communication (e.g. texting) with their children.
- Teach your child safety habits and strategies. One of the most important safety strategies is the "Buddy System," as there is increased safety in numbers.