Once Again, A Tabloid Is Under Fire For Victim-Blaming A Woman Who Was Killed By Her Husband

‘Hen-pecked husband beat wife to death with crowbar after she mocked his erectile dysfunction,’ read the papers headline on the story.

Daily Mirror

by Georgia Aspinall |
Updated on

The Daily Mirror has been condemned by a domestic abuse charity after reporting on a man who killed his wife with the headline ‘Hen-pecked husband beat wife to death with crowbar after she mocked his erectile dysfunction.’ They have since changed the headline in response to the backlash.

David Pomphret, 51 is currently on trial for murder after his wife, Ann Marie Promphret, 49, was found dead in the stables they owned in Warrington, Cheshire. He has denied murder but admits to manslaughter on the grounds of a ‘temporary loss of control’.

He says that after both him and his daughter suffered years of abuse at his wife’s hands, he ‘snapped’ and hit her over the head 30 times with a crowbar during an argument about home repairs.

‘She ranted at me for being a bad parent, calling me f****** useless,’ he told the court. ‘Called me limp and useless. Bit embarrassing - we have been having, I have been having, erectile dysfunction. I was not performing very well. Marie was at this point raging, absolutely raging, finger pointing, screaming. She then slapped me across the face.’

He alleges that the last thing he remembers is reaching out and grabbing her hood, then being next to her battered body with a crow bar in his hands. ‘How did you feel, having seen her on the ground?’ Richard Pratt QC, his defence lawyer, asked him. ‘Awful. I had just killed my wife. I was just ... horrified.’

The court heard that his wife suffered from depression, Asperger's syndrome and was receiving treatment for cancer at the time.

These are the details many media outlets are choosing to focus on of this trial. His defence, his portrayal as a ‘quiet man who finally snapped’ after a 22-marriage that saw him suffer verbal and physical abuse. The details that lead to headlines like The Daily Mirror’s that seemingly sympathise with a man who could beat the mother of his children to death. But they miss out crucial information.

They miss out that Pomphret has described his marriage as ‘happy’ in court, that his wife had been hospitalised the week prior to her death – although there are no explanations as to why – and the entire argument of the prosecution; which rests on the idea that Pomphret is lying about not just blanking out the incident but Ann-Marie’s character too.

But the details of this particular case aren’t necessarily what matter, what matters is the fact that regardless of how sympathetic a journalist may be towards a man accused of murder, reporting on domestic abuse cases responsibly is essential.

To headline an article about a woman being murdered by her husband with a strong implication that her nagging was the reason why – and a further implication that her ‘abuse’ was mocking his erectile dysfunction not verbal and physical assault – is highly irresponsible. It’s something domestic abuse charity Safe Lives has reiterated.

‘This headline is absolutely shocking,’ read a tweet from the charities account. '”Hen-pecked” is not phrase that belongs in 2019 full stop - let alone to describe a man who has murdered his partner. How we talk about domestic abuse matters, the media have to do so much better than this.’

It would have been so easy to neutralise this headline, and even to include allegations of abuse in doing so if that felt integral to the story. Yet, they chose to sensationalise an issue that sees two women in the UK killed each week and contribute to a persistent culture of violence towards women.

They chose to sensationalise an issue that sees two women in the UK killed each week

Not only do headlines like this force more victims into silence when they see how men who kill women can be emancipated by the media, but it also provides a justification to all of the abusers who now feel validated in their continued abuse.

And it's not just The Daily Mirror. In fact, there have been so many instances of irresponsible reporting on domestic abuse that there are multiple studies into the impact of it. A 2016 investigation into domestic violence coverage by The Sun compared to The Guardian - by The Conversation - found that 'the most commonly identified theme derived from our newspaper research was how The Sun appears to hold women responsible for their own abuse. '

And in that same year, a report by researchers at the University of Hertfordshire into media coverage across the UK concluded that: 'The discursive regime operating in sections of U.K. press coverage of domestic violence not only blames victim action as causal in violence, but also blames victim inaction for not standing up to abusers or leaving them.'

We cannot sit idly by any longer as risks to women’s lives are treated so carelessly, not when domestic violence killings continue to hit record highs. Responsible reporting can quite literally save lives, and headlines like these are what put them in danger.

If you are suffering from domestic abuse and need help, please call Refuge on 0808 2000 247

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