What really drives a man to murder his own children?

Twelve days ago, four-year-old River and seven-year-old Nyobi, were killed when their father’s caravan exploded.

A few days later, police confirmed what their mother, Kath Hinder, already knew: The children weren’t just killed. They were murdered by their father, Charlie Hinder, who also died in the explosion. The explosion, likely caused by a device that Hinder had placed in the van, was so powerful that it blew out windows in houses 60 metres away and 55 homes had to be evacuated.

In all of the media coverage of the story, there was one statement that stood out; one statement that truly gets to the heart of what happened to this family last week:

When asked about the wellbeing of Kath Hinder, the children’s mother, Mount Isa District Officer Superintendent Russell Miller told AAP on Friday: “She was resigned to the fact.”

Charlie Hinder with River and Nyobi. Image via Twitter.

Kath had told the police that Hinder had done it intentionally. She knew her ex-husband was to blame. She knew that he had murdered their children. She knew it wasn’t an accident.

Charlie and Kath Hinder were separated, but Charlie had been living in a caravan in Kath’s front yard. The couple’s children slept in the caravan with him on nights when Kath worked nights in a local mine. They loved their “sleep-overs” with Dad. Until the night when he methodically rigged up the device that would kill them.

Kath knew that her ex-husband had killed their children because, like so many of these cases, this murder was most likely about her. It wasn’t about the child victims – it was about hurting their mother in the most vicious way possible.

The children were the victims of a horrible crime – but, make no mistake, Kath was also the intended victim of this violence. She wasn’t injured in the explosion, but it was a brutal assault on her by her ex-partner.

Caravan explosion Mt Isa
“The explosion, likely caused by a device that Hinder had placed in the van, was so powerful that it blew out windows in houses 60 metres away and 55 homes had to be evacuated.” (Image via Queensland Police)

Some people have claimed that fathers who kill their children are somehow the result of Australia’s family law system. Barry Williams, president and founder of the Lone Fathers Association (who received Queen’s Birthday Honours this year) had this to say about Arthur Freeman, the man who threw his four-year-old daughter, Darcey, off a bridge: “It’s a terrible thing what happened to that poor child, in front of the other children too, but The System is to take blame for some of this…”

But, Williams and his cohort of disgruntled fathers’ rights activists, who gee each other up in the murky backwaters of the internet, are very, very wrong.

These murders are not about custody. They are not about The System. They may happen in the context of family disputes, but many of these fathers who kill their children have access to their children and choose to kill them on scheduled visits. Charlie Hinder had regular access to his kids and he lived in their front yard. Luke Batty’s father was watching his son play cricket after school in 2014 when he brutally beat him to death. Arthur Freeman was on a custody visit with his children when he pulled his car over and threw his four-year-old daughter, Darcey, off the West Gate Bridge in 2009. Robert Farquharson’s ex-wife Cindy had offered to let the kids spend time with him on Fathers’ Day, even though it didn’t fall on one of his custody weekends. That was the last time she saw them alive and she will regret that decision for the rest of her life.

Luke Batty’s father was watching his son play cricket after school in 2014 when he brutally beat him to death.

These dads don’t kill their kids because they were sad about custody or because they were disappointed about a Family Court ruling.

These dads killed their kids because they want to get back at their ex-partners. They wanted to hurt them. And this is the way that hurts them the most. These are bitter, hateful revenge killings, pure and simple.

Two months before he killed Darcey, Arthur Freeman told his ex-wife that she would “regret it” if he ever lost custody of his children. On the day that he threw his four-year-old daughter from a bridge, he rang his ex-wife and told her to say goodbye to her children. “You’ll never see your children again,” he said.

Arthur Freeman promised his ex-wife she would “regret it” if he lost custody. Two months later, he threw his daughter Darcey off a bridge.

When police asked Charles Mihayo, 36, why he had murdered his daughters Savannah, four, and Indianna, two, in Victoria last year, Mihayo simply gestured in the direction of his ex-wife and replied: “You’ll have to ask her”. When police checked his computer, they found that Mihayo had recently searched “How can I kill my ex-wife” on Google.

When Sydney man, Ramazan Acar stabbed his two-year-old daughter Yazmina to death he wrote on his Facebook page. ”Bout 2 kill ma kid.” Two minutes later he wrote “Pay bk u slut”. He then phoned his ex-partner Rachelle D’Argent and asked her how she wanted her daughter to die and then said, ”Payback’s a bitch. How does it feel?” Acar put his daughter on the phone and Yazmina told her mother that she loved her before Acar ended the call. He then stabbed the child in the chest and stomach, leaving her to die slowly and painfully.

Before Ramazan Acar stabbed his daughter Yazmina to death, her wrote ’bout 2 kill ma kid’ on his Facebook page.

On Fathers’ Day in 2007, when Robert Farquharson swam away from his sinking car, with his three children drowning inside, he refused a bystander’s offer of a phone to call 000. Instead, he asked for a lift to his ex-wife’s house so he could tell her in person that her children were dead.

Rober Farquharson killed his children Jai, Bailey and Tyler on Father’s Day 2007.

These deaths are called murders, or in some cases murder-suicides, but in truth they are more than that.

When men kill their children in this way, they are committing a calculated act of violence against women.

These murders are the vicious acts of men who think that they own their children and who believe that they are entitled to do whatever they want to them in order to meet their own cruel agenda against a women who they feel have betrayed them. They believe they have power of life and death over their children and the right to torment their ex-wife.

These acts are the end-point of a demented revenge fantasy in which these men punish women for the crime of not loving them enough or in the way that suits them.

Savannah and Indianna Mihayo were murdered by their father, Charles Mihayo.

The men who kill their children aren’t victims of The System.

The victims are Jai, Bailey and Tyler Farquharson and their mother Cindy Gambino. They are Darcey Freeman and her mother Peta Barnes. They are Savannah and Indianna Mihayo and their mother. They are Yazmina Acar and her mother Rachelle D’Argent. They are Luke and his mother Rosie Batty.

And now they are River and Nyobi Hinder and their mother Kath.

If this post brings up any issues for you in relation to family violence, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

If this post brings up issues for you in relation to suicide, or you just need someone to talk to, please call Lifeline on 131 114. You can also visit the Lifeline website here and the Beyond Blue website here.

Do you believe fathers who kill their children should be considered ‘victims’?

Read more on family violence:

Today, we remember Phil Walsh and all of the victims of family violence.

Rosie Batty appeals for more media freedom to report on family violence.

Family violence: “We are talking the talk but not walking the walk.”