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‘Hidden homicides’: campaign calls for review of cases where women fell from height

<span>Fawziyah Javed, seen here on her graduation day, was pushed from Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh by her husband, who was found guilty of murder.</span><span>Photograph: Family handout/Police Scotland/PA</span>
Fawziyah Javed, seen here on her graduation day, was pushed from Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh by her husband, who was found guilty of murder.Photograph: Family handout/Police Scotland/PA

Campaigners are calling for an immediate review into cases where women have fallen from a height to ensure domestic abusers cannot get away with murder.

There could be as many as 130 “hidden homicides” a year in England and Wales, the Killed Women campaign group estimates, in which women were murdered by a partner or family member but their deaths were officially recorded as accidental or suicide.

Related: ‘You were told’: Killed Women report shows deaths could have been prevented

The new campaign, called Fallen Women, is also urging police forces to track the numbers of cases where a woman has fallen from a height and for domestic abuse to always be a key line of inquiry in the investigation process.

The call comes at the launch of a Channel 4 documentary, The Push: Murder on the Cliff, telling the story of Fawziyah Javed, a Leeds lawyer who was killed when she was pushed from Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh by her abusive husband.

Kashif Anwar is serving a life sentence for murdering Javed, who was 17 weeks pregnant, in September 2021, after escalating abuse. Javed had twice been to the police about Anwar with secret recordings of his threats and was in the process of leaving him, having consulted a divorce lawyer.

She survived the fall long enough to tell a bystander Anwar had pushed her, providing a key piece of evidence for the prosecution.

Her mother, Yasmin Javed, told the Guardian: “The prosecutor actually said that, had Fawziyah not left that testimony that he pushed Fawziyah, they still would have looked into it but it would have been harder to get that conviction.

“I must admit, that did worry me. I started to think about how many more women must have been murdered this way and not been able to give that testimony?”

She said her daughter’s murder had been carefully planned by someone who did not realise Javed had already been to the police and collected a catalogue of evidence against him. “He thought he was going to be home and dry,” she said.

Anwar is still maintaining that the death was an accident, a line that could have become the official narrative had there not been so much evidence against him.

Killed Women, a campaigning network of bereaved families, believe Javed’s case is an exception and that there could be many more cases of women being pushed by abusers. These deaths would fall within the estimated 130 murders disguised as accidental deaths or suicide each year in England and Wales that are not being fully investigated.

This estimate was extrapolated by the criminologist Prof Jane Monckton Smith from data from one police force, obtained by Tortoise Media, which counted 15 sudden, unexplained deaths over a five-year period where domestic abuse markers were present.

One campaigner, who cannot be named because her family member’s alleged killer was never prosecuted, said: “Unfortunately, we feel from working with families in this network that really sloppy mistakes from the police have cost any hope or option of a prosecution or successful conviction.

“So things such as allowing the alleged perpetrator to have time between the fall and being arrested to contaminate or stage the scene to make it look accidental or suicidal.”

She said falls from a height were sometimes not investigated by homicide teams, especially when the woman did not die immediately, and therefore specialist skills and expertise were not there at a crucial stage of evidence gathering. In addition, she said families’ concerns about domestic abuse were not generally considered a big enough factor on their own to launch a murder investigation.

“What’s catastrophically disappointing in respect of the cases of fallen women and other hidden homicide deaths is that there is a lack of professional curiosity or even effort to identify domestic abuse as a key line of inquiry within the investigation process. So we’re actually missing a large body of evidence which could support successful conviction and prosecution further down the line.”

She added: ​​“There’s something really chilling about a family advising that they are worried a male perpetrator of domestic abuse has killed their loved one and that person is still within our community.”

The two-part documentary The Push is on Channel 4 at 9pm on 3 and 4 March.