Number of women and girls killed in England and Wales at highest level in 14 years

The number of women and girls killed in England and Wales has risen to its highest level in 14 years, official figures show.

There were 241 female victims of murder, manslaughter or infanticide in the 12 months up to March 2019 - a 10% increase on the 220 recorded the year before - and the highest total since the year ending March 2006.

And almost half - 48% - of the victims were killed in a domestic homicide, with the suspect a partner or ex-partner in 38% of cases, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Women aged 16 years and over were more likely to be killed by a partner or ex-partner, while male victims were more likely to be killed by a friend or acquaintance, according to the ONS report.

Overall, the number of killings fell by 5% - the first decline since 2015.

The fall was driven by a drop in male homicide victims, which were down by 11%, from 484 to 429, the ONS said.

This was partly due to 2018's figures including the victims of the London and Manchester terror attacks, and the Shoreham air crash.

The most common method of killing continued to be stabbing, with 259 homicides committed with a sharp instrument, down by 8% on the previous year.

Figures also showed an increase in the number of crimes committed involving firearms. There were 9,787 offences in the year ending March 2019 - a 4% rise compared with the previous year.

There were 33 fatalities resulting from offences involving firearms - three more than the previous year.

Of all the offences involving a firearm, the weapon was fired in 51% of cases, and in most other cases (47%) it was used as a threat.

Six in 10 offences were recorded in five metropolitan police force areas - the Metropolitan Police, West Midlands, West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside.

Victims' Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird, said it was "not surprising, though it is deeply troubling, that these figures show that 38% of these women victims are killed by their partner or ex-partner".

She added: "The Domestic Abuse Bill, which is due to return to Parliament before Easter, must be seen as an opportunity to tackle this long-standing issue once and for all."

Alex Mayes, external affairs manager at charity Victim Support, said: "It is deeply disturbing to see that more women are being killed, in part due to a rise in homicides as a result of domestic abuse.

"These statistics highlight the fatal impact of domestic abuse, and show how much more needs to be done to tackle abuse and keep victims safe."

And Hannah Gousy, head of policy and external affairs at Crisis, said: "This is truly shameful. We can and must do better than this."