A recent BBC headline read: “Derrylin fire: ‘Strange’ story of Daniel Allen who killed family”. The word ‘strange’ is supposed to frame the context that it is unusual that someone who had entered a suicide pact would be the sole survivor.

Instead, I think it reads as a murder mystery headline designed to encourage clicks.

Since 2018, I have read with sorrow and horror about Daniel Allen’s actions that day in Derrylin.

I cannot imagine the trauma that the family have endured at the loss of Denise, Sabrina, Roman and Morgana – a trauma compounded by some of the narratives which have been allowed by some in the media.

In my view, after 13 years working in Women’s Aid, this is not ‘strange’, or unusual.

Rather, this is a clear example of coercive and controlling intimate terror.

“Coercive control is establishing in the mind of the victim, the price of her resistance” (Evan Stark, author, sociologist, and forensic social worker).

Four in five perpetrators of fatal domestic abuse are known to the police, three in five for domestic violence, with more than a third known to other agencies.

The house has since been demolished, much like a house in Lammy which was also framed as a ‘house fire’ in public discourse, before the stomach-churning truth emerged.

Lorraine and her children – Caroline, Sean, Bellina, Clodagh and James – were murdered by Arthur McElhill in November, 2007, and yet just 11 years later, the actions of Daniel Allen are framed as ‘strange’.

When will we learn? Key indicators of the perpetrators risk include controlling and coercive behaviour, and separation or the likelihood of the relationship ending.

In our attempts to rationalise horrific acts of murder against women and their children, we ‘other’ the perpetrator, and despite the many leaps in our public consciousness and awareness of violence against women and girls, we continue to rattle out the same narratives about victims, rooted in our own bias.

Far from the public vigils for Natalie McNally or Chloe Mitchell, instead we have tolerated public language and language in a courtroom that frames Denise, her children and grandchild as living an ‘itinerant’ existence.

That a mother, her babies, and her grandchild are viewed as nomads, travelling from place to place in a deceptive move to avoid the children going into care, is as cynical a narrative as it gets, and places a level of responsibility on the victims which should not be tolerated.

The reality of coercive control tells us that it is predictable for an abusive man to isolate his victims, including geographically.

It is predictable for an abusive man to exploit a victim’s fear of Social Services to isolate her from seeking help.

It is predictable for an abusive man to isolate children from education, or to enforce silence on them when they are not in the home.

It is predictable for them to monitor all activities, even grocery deliveries.

It is not ‘strange’ for a coercive controller to complete the ultimate act of control if there are signs that the victim is planning an escape, or thinking about ending the relationship.

Media reports tell us that Daniel informed another woman that the relationship with Denise had ended.

Whether this is true or not is irrelevant – rather, it speaks to his perception of losing control.

The harsh truth is that in our attempts to rationalise and ‘other’ the actions of Daniel Allen, and men like him, we create a clear victim hierarchy where the actions of the victims become part of the rationale behind their murders.

Women are painted as secretive, neglectful and on the run, complicit in the deaths of their family through a suicide pact following a dark interest in rough sex.

Some have even gone so far as to dissect a victim’s artwork and paint it as some sexual fantasy, as if art could excuse or explain away femicide.

The truth is that the perpetrator seeks to set the narrative – a narrative that is open to change and refinement as the evidence emerges.

It was telling that some of the first words from Daniel Allen’s mouth were “A promise is a promise”.

Crucially, we are told that he quickly informed the PSNI that he was a paranoid schizophrenic, despite never having been diagnosed as such, and no supporting evidence emerging after lengthy assessment to support the claim.

Immediately, the perpetrator mounts his defence, seeks to diminish his responsibility, and to flip the script on the victim. Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender (DARVO).

And what of the ‘promise’? What is the purpose of the alleged suicide pact which initially extended to include Sabrina?

This is designed to frame the victim as an active participant in the violence and abuse that killed them.

While it may reduce a charge or indeed a sentence, it should not cloud our understanding.

On March 13, 2024, a report into the scale of domestic homicides in England and Wales includes the suspected suicides of victims of Domestic Violence.

Of 242 domestic abuse-related deaths between April, 2022, and March, 2023, 93 were suspected victim suicide following domestic abuse.

There is a clear need to prosecute perpetrators for domestic abuse after a victim’s suicide.

Indeed, in England and Wales, Domestic Homicide Reviews are being renamed as Domestic Abuse-Related Death Reviews to ensure that these victims are reflected.

An inquest into the death of Kellie Sutton in 2017 overturned a Coroner’s Court finding that she had died by suicide, to return a conclusion of unlawful killing after she took her own life following domestic abuse.

Domestic Homicide Reviews in Northern Ireland currently do not include suicide, but the Department of Justice has affirmed its commitment to do so.

Months before Denise, Sabrina, Roman and Morgana were killed by Daniel Allen, Luke and Ryan Harte spoke in Fermanagh, clear that “what their father did was not unpredictable, random, or unstoppable ... It was part of a familiar pattern of male violence, carried out by a man with what Luke described as ‘traditional masculine views’. Lance Hart was an ordinary man, who had no mental illness; he was like many other ordinary men who kill their families.”

Their mother and sister, Claire and Charlotte, were murdered by their father before he took his own life.

He had actively looked at media coverage of men who kill their families in the months leading up to their deaths, and found that, by and large, public discourse sought to rationalise and empathise with these men.

It is common to delve into the lives of victims in a desperate attempt to explain.

Do not permit these abusive men to set the narrative. In all cases of fatal domestic abuse, it is imperative that we pivot to the perpetrator.

Denise, Sabrina, Roman and Morgana, rest in peace.

Kerrie Flood is Development Manager at Fermanagh Women’s Aid.