There are few things in life more shocking than a parent killing their child. Numerous reasons have been offered by adults who have carried out such a heinous act, ranging from mindless acts of violence to serious mentally debilitating conditions. What is perhaps the most shocking and disturbing aspect of the following list is the amount of cases wherein parents have murdered infant children and even babies.
It is surprising just how common 'filicide' - the deliberate act of killing a son or daughter - actually is. Reports of distressed fathers murdering their children due to the breakdown of a family unit are depressingly commonplace. Filicide has been recorded throughout history: The famous 18th century Russian Emperor Peter the Great could be accused of filicide, having thrown his own adult son in prison on charges of treason, where the young man was brutally tortured and eventually died. Another renowned Russian Tsar, Ivan the Terrible, killed his son in a fight.
A more insidious form of filicide has become more widely reported in recent years, in the form of honor killing. Often perpetrated by members of Asian or Middle Eastern families, this frequently involves male members of a family murdering a female member because of her refusal to enter an arranged marriage, although homosexual family members have also been killed under the practice of honor killing. Many cases of a father killing his own daughter in cold blood because of her desire to make her own choices have sadly occurred.
Regrettably, the following truly disturbing list is not exhaustive and may not even contain the worst cases of filicide, which might escape unreported in the more isolated areas of the world. But these are 10 cases of parents murdering their own flesh and blood that can be deemed utterly, earth-shatteringly shocking. Reader discretion is advised.
10 Marvin Gay, Sr. : Killed his son.
Although Marvin Gaye was 44 years old when his father shot and killed him, it was a shocking event which rocked the world. Gaye was one of the most famous and respected soul singers of all time. He had enjoyed a string of hits worldwide and his voice was regarded as almost heavenly in its quality. But on April 1, 1984 his father, Marvin Gay, Sr., shot his famous son twice, after a family argument. Gaye was killed and Gay, Sr. was given a six-year suspended sentence with five years probation, thanks to a plea bargain.
9 John Sharpe: Killed his wife and two children.
Sharpe was an Australian man who destroyed his family in what he claims was a moment of madness, but the method of his destruction suggests he knew exactly what he was doing. He slew his wife by firing spears from a spear gun into her head whilst she slept and then proceeded to do the same thing to his 19-month old daughter, Gracie, a few days later. His wife was five months pregnant at the time, so Sharpe actually murdered three people. For his horrific crimes he received life imprisonment (two consecutive terms) in 2004 and has to serve at least 33 years.
8 Ceri Fuller: Killed his three children.
In 2013, an Englishman called Ceri Fuller decided to commit suicide because of marital problems he was struggling to deal with. But before leaping to his death, the unhinged father murdered his three young children. His son, Samuel, was just 12 years old, whilst his girls, Rebecca and Charlotte, were only eight and seven-years old, respectively. The three children were stabbed to death with a hunting knife by the man they trusted most in the world, in a case which shook the British nation.
7 Megan Huntsman: Arrested for the murder of six babies.
In a recent grizzly case, this Utah resident was arrested in April 2014 and charged with the murder of six infants. Bodies of the babies, all believed to be Huntsman's children, were discovered in containers in a garage. A seventh infant's body was also found, although Huntsman claims this tragic child was stillborn. The murderous mother strangled or suffocated her own babies and now faces six first-degree murder charges.
6 Deanna Laney: Killed two of her sons.
Laney was declared insane after murdering her children in the yard of their Texan home in 2003. She smashed her sons' heads in with rocks, claiming that her actions were demanded by God. Joshua was just eight and Luke was just six when their mother killed them in such shocking fashion. Her third son Aaron, who was just 14-months old, miraculously survived his mother's crazed attempts to kill him, although he suffered grave injuries and brain damage. Astonishingly, Laney was released from Kerrville State Hospital in 2012.
5 Mick Philpott: Killed six children, of which five were his own.
In 2013, Philpott, his wife Mairead and Paul Mosley were jailed due to their involvement in the deaths of six children. The thoughtless trio had set fire to a house in Derby, UK, that had been the Philpott family home. The plan was to set fire to the house, rescue the children sleeping inside and then frame one of Philpott's former partners. Tragically, Jade (10), John (nine), Jack (seven), Jesse (six) and Jayden (five) were all killed in the arson attack, whilst their half-brother Duwayne (13) died a few days later from the injuries he sustained. Philpott was jailed for life; Mairead Philpott and Mosley each earned a sentence of 17 years.
4 Andrea Yates: Killed her five children.
Texan Yates had a history of mental illness, which came to a head when she decided to drown her five children in a bathtub, in 2001. Noah (seven), John (five), Paul (three), Luke (two) and Mary (six months) became the unfortunate victims to their mother's disturbed mind. She was found not guilty of murder due to insanity but was sent to various state mental hospitals.
3 Fred & Rose West: Killed at least two of their children.
The serial killers from Gloucester in England turned their house at 25 Cromwell Street into a house of horror which held the secrets to the torture and murder of many innocent women. Fred West was charged with 13 murders (it is believed he committed many more) but killed himself in 1995 whilst being detained. His wicked wife, Rose, is expected to spend the rest of her life behind bars. She murdered Fred's step-daughter Charmaine, whilst it was Fred who abused and then killed Rose's daughter Heather.
2 Chris Benoit: Killed his wife and child.
Other members of this ghoulish list have killed more, either through mental instability or the sheer presence of evil intent. But few were as shocking as this murder-suicide carried out by the Canadian professional wrestler Chris Benoit. The 40-year-old athlete had been a two-time world champion, was four times WWF/E Intercontinental Champion and was worth millions of dollars. But in 2007, Benoit murdered his wife and proceeded to kill their seven-year old son, Daniel. The wrestler later hung himself, ending a tragic event that shocked the world.
1 Joseph & Magda Goebbels: Killed their six children.
Joseph Goebbels was a powerful leader in the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler's Germany. He was the propaganda minister, a man deeply involved in the Final Solution, and a close associate to the Führer himself. When it became obvious that Germany was going to lose the Second World War, Goebbels found himself trapped in Hitler's Berlin bunker, with his wife and six children. As the Soviet army advanced into the war-torn capital the parents fed cyanide capsules to their sleeping children, regardless of the fact that there were still ways the family, or at least the children, could have escaped the crumbling city. Helga (12), Hildegard (11), Helmut (nine), Holdine (eight), Hedwig (six) and Heidrun (four) were murdered by their infamous parents, who took their own lives shortly afterwards.