Online hate spurred on our father to kill our mother and sister, say his sons

'He believed that just because he was a man he was entitled to having a wife to serve him who met his every wish. He never believed what he was doing was wrong – even murdering mum and Charlotte,' says Ryan Hart

Maya Oppenheim
Women's Correspondent
,Maya Yagoda
Monday 27 May 2019 10:55 BST
Online hate spurred on our father to kill our mother and sister, say his sons

Online networks where misogynistic hate are routinely shared spurred on a domestic abuser to murder his wife and daughter with a sawn-off shotgun, his two sons have said.

Lance Hart, 57, killed his 50-year-old wife and 19-year-old daughter before turning the weapon on himself in a swimming pool car park in Spalding in Lincolnshire in 2016.

Mr Hart, who was described as a “cold, calculated, scheming man” by a coroner but as a “nice guy” who was “always caring” and “good at DIY” by the media after the murders, subjected his wife to a campaign of domestic abuse and coercive control for 27 years before carrying out the killing.

The murders happened five days after the brothers had helped their mother Claire and sister Charlotte escape their father after saving up their own money to do so for years.

Luke and Ryan Hart say that it was their father’s gendered view of the world which ultimately led him to murder his daughter and wife of 25 years.

The brothers, who describe their father as a “domestic terrorist” and their situation of abuse as a “domestic hostage”, say their father’s patriarchal views were linked to the fact his own mother was a “typical 1950s housewife” and was “very submissive” to her husband.

Claire and Charlotte Hart (Luke and Ryan Hart)

“She did all the cleaning, all the cooking and did not drive and just served her husband,” 28-year-old Ryan said. “Our father saw that growing up and he tried to replicate it in our family. It was not that he had been through anything difficult. He just grew up with an expectation of women and families from five or six decades ago. He did not really inherit any trauma. He just inherited the belief system.”

He added: “Despite society changing, he refused to change his beliefs. Our father believed that his birthright as a man was power over women and children so he believed that just because he was a man he was entitled to having a wife to serve him, who met his every wish. He never believed what he was doing was wrong – even murdering mum and Charlotte.

“In his murder note, he justified his actions because he believed that we had destroyed his world view – that we were going against what he was entitled to. In his view of the world, us disobeying him was punishable by death. He had no ability for introspection at all. There was not a single point in his life that he doubted what he was choosing to do.”

Mr Hart’s control included financial abuse, isolating his family, accusing his wife of being gay or having an affair if she met friends after work, stopping her from applying for promotions at work, refusing to let her go on holidays, including going to watch her son Ryan’s triathlon in Turkey, and banning his sons from talking to their aunt and uncle for ten years. Their mother’s revolved around a “rigid schedule” he created for her which involved doing chores and being home at a certain time.

Confronting domestic abuse: Ryan Hart, left, Luke Hart (Luke and Ryan Hart)

“Growing up, our father created numerous trivial rules, like filling the kettle up. If it was not full he would go absolutely mental for hours. He was always trying to find better ways to have control over us,” Luke, his 29-year-old brother, added.

He said his father looked at conspiracy theories on the internet and spent a great deal of time on “misogynistic” closed forums which did not have a specific agenda but attracted people who were anti-government.

“They were self-pity parties,” he said. “Online hidden closed forums of men who think they are subverting the government. But they are pathetic. They just complain about women, complain about power, complain about the world they did not succeed in because of supposed problems with the world not them”.

He said his father subjected his mother to financial abuse throughout their relationship and after the murders, they found out he had given away over £10,000 to friends from the internet in an attempt to control the family by keeping them “cash poor”.

“At the time it made no sense why he was giving money away,” he added. “Not to charities but to random men. When we found out afterwards it was like ‘why the f**k would you do that’ but actually it is very clear that our father valued control over anything in the world and what he was effectively doing was paying for control of our mother. By giving money away, it made sure there were no collective assets in the relationship, so our mother could never leave because she was only earning five or six grand a year. He was a low-status male in the public world but he was a high-status male in the private world because he had domination of his family.”

Charlotte Hart as a young girl (Luke and Ryan Hart)

Mr Hart had sole control over the family’s bank accounts and all of his wife’s spending was scrutinised, with her having to provide receipts for everything, his brother Ryan added. He said his father saw him and his brother’s earnings as a threat to “the chains he had around our mother” and wanted to minimise their money too.

The brothers, who are both engineers, said they were left deeply disturbed by the media’s coverage of their father’s murders. They said the letter, a 12-page note found on a USB stick in his car, their father left behind was a byproduct of months of researching online actual family murders and “taking the media justifications”.

Luke said: “The media call it a suicide note. We call it a murder note. but really it is a manifesto – a political manifesto these men write when they kill their families. It was a manifesto about a gendered view of the world that the media was very happy to echo and give coverage. Whereas if someone creates a racially abusive manifesto and goes on to commit a crime, the media says ‘oh should we not publish it’. But when domestic abusers do it they just publish it willy nilly. Mum and Charlotte were the ones who were questioned in the media coverage, our father was given justifications, not a single question was asked of his behaviour.”

Lance Hart spent time on ‘misogynistic’ internet forums (Spalding Guardian/SWNS)

He said that neither he or his brother had a proper relationship with their father – saying that he believed Mr Hart had simply seen children as vehicles through which one can establish control over women.

Neither of the brothers saw their father’s behaviour as domestic abuse at the time – with Ryan explaining his father was so calculating that he eventually started thinking that he himself was the problem.

Ryan and Charlotte Hart (Luke and Ryan Hart)

“You start to normalise yourself to the abuse and actually start to believe it is not abuse and it is just me unable to satisfy the rules that are in place in the world,” he said. “I guess by the time you are able to really comprehend what is going on you are so intertwined in the abuse that you start to believe that you are the one that needs to change.”

Society needs to shift the focus onto controlling behaviour, he said, rather than violence when tackling domestic abuse, because control is the ultimate aim of abusers.

“We just thought domestic abuse was something that was miserable but not lethal and actually we found out in research afterwards that domestic abuse is hugely dangerous in our society,” Luke added. “Nearly a quarter of all murders are domestic homicides and women and children are at most danger of being killed in their own homes. One thing that really struck us was the fact 100 women every year are killed by partners or ex-partners which is almost ten times terrorist-related deaths. The key thing to identify is that this is deadly. We are always following the abuser but a third of domestic homicides have no history of violence. They all have a history of control but a third of them don’t have a history of violence like ours.”

Claire Hart endured more than two decades of coercive control (Luke and Ryan Hart)

The brothers, who have gone on to become prominent campaigners on the issue of domestic abuse, said that it was their mother and sister who had helped them learn how to be a force for good in the world.

“From mum and Charlotte, we learnt that even in an environment of hate and suffering, you can apply yourself and you do not have to give in and just be an excuse which our father was,” Luke added. “He was just an excuse. That is all he ever was. But mum and Charlotte created themselves, in spite of that environment, into incredible people and we use them as examples.”

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