Back in April of 2016, two 14-year-old lovers became the youngest double murderers in England’s history. Kim Edwards and her boyfriend, Lucas Markham, killed Edward’s mother, 49 year-old Elizabeth, and younger sister, 13-year-old Katie, in a brutal stabbing that took place in Edward’s home in Spalding, Lincolnshire. It was Markham who stabbed Edwards’ mother and daughter, however, a jury found Edwards equally culpable for the crime, plotting their deaths three days before with Markham at a McDonalds near her house.
Two young lovers plotting and carrying out the murder of one of their mothers: it sounds like something from Shakespeare. Our teenagers are still reading Romeo and Juliet around the age of 14, the age Juliet has almost reached in the play. Feelings of love and sexuality are felt for the first time around this age, and felt intensely. Perhaps you remember: this age is rife with theatrical drama. Romeo and Juliet are written as teenagers for a reason; their obsession with one another trumping all else in their lives, including, yes, their lives themselves.
But Edwards and Markham did not read Shakespeare after Markham killed Edwards mother and sister. Instead, they ate ice cream, took a bath together, had sex, and then watched four Twilight movies.
In the Twilight series, a teenaged girl falls in love with a troubled, brooding vampire whose danger is obvious. It is a dramatic love story, not anywhere near the quality of Shakespeare, but a modern, harrowed love story nonetheless. A love story that says, This love matters above all else. It matters more than your friends, more than your family, and most certainly, more than your own well-being. More than your own life.
The courts heard testimony that the pair had planned kill themselves with an overdose of pills, Edwards leaving a suicide note that read: "F*** you, world. I want to be cremated and want our ashes scattered at our special place".
Like the Parker-Hulme murder and the Slenderman stabbings, as well as the murder of Gypsy Rose’s mother by Gypsy and boyfriend, these two teenagers appear to be living in a sort of unreality. Their flippant and unconcerned behaviors just after the murder, as well as their confessions of how and why this tragedy occurred, shows a terrifying, chilly disconnect, and a misunderstanding of the severity of their crimes and their future punishments.
Their motives? As adolescent as it gets. Both Markham and Edwards claimed that Elizabeth tried to break them up, and the killing was done in the name of their love. Edwards also had another motive: she was jealous that her mother loved her sister more. The jury heard from the defense that Edwards was suffering from a mental disorder, but that did not stop them from handing down a 20-year sentence for both teens (which has since been reduced to 17 through an appeal), claiming that Edwards was sane at the time of the crime.
The way that the teenagers pushed one another to murder is incredibly, for lack of a better word, teenaged. This seems to be the best evidence of a poor understanding of not only the finality and reality of death, but also of consequence. In her confession, Edwards stated: "[Markham] was joking. Then he realized I wasn't joking. Then he said he wasn't joking either and it escalated from there."
A joke that turned into a murder. It almost sounds like a series of dares. Markham used a kitchen knife to kill both Elizabeth and Katie. In his confession, he stated: "I went into her mum's room and stabbed her in the neck while she was asleep on her side and smothered her face with a pillow.” And then, “I went into Katie's room – which is the same room as Kim's – and I thought I stabbed her, but… I'm not a hundred per cent sure," he recalled. "It was, like, her on a mattress and then I smothered her face with a pillow too." The reason that Markham murdered Katie was because they didn’t want her to call the police. When asked if that was the only reason for her death, he replied, “Pretty much.”
The courts rejected the excuse that Edwards was suffering from adjustment disorder, claiming that the murder was planned in detail prior, and that Edwards was able to understand what she was doing. In a statement she told police: “He constantly asked me if I wanted to go through with it and I was, like, yes and I asked him and he said yes. We decided on the Sunday, but I had felt like murdering for quite a while.”
"I was okay with it. Just the fact that it happened so quickly that, like, gave me peace of mind cause like, you know, it wasn’t like torture or anything," Edwards said during her confession. She also stated that she did not regret the murders. Police stated that neither Edwards nor Markham expressed remorse of any kind when they were found by police, and continued the callous behavior through the confessions, trial, and even sentencing. No emotion was shown when the verdict was handed down.
When asked about whether she was glad her mother was dead, Edwards responded, “Yes, because my mum doesn’t have to deal with me anymore, being like, you know, suicidal, and she doesn’t have to wake up worrying every morning to see if I’m still alive.” She continued, “And my sister doesn’t have to go through all the heartbreak and all the emotions and stuff.”
Clearly Edwards’ thinking is incredibly warped. Whether she believes the statements around what she appears to see as a mercy killing, or if she is attempting to garner sympathy, will probably never be known. Regardless, this seems to be yet another case of Folie à deux, or The madness of two, in which delusional symptoms are shared between two people. What is more (sometimes wonderfully) delusional than young love? Just watch Twilight. Just read Romeo and Juliet. Do so in the realm of reality, of consequence, and the romance starts to disintegrate.
Consultant forensic psychiatrist Philip Joseph told the court: “If they hadn’t got together and had the intense, toxic relationship, [the murders] would never have happened. This is clearly a planned, controlled killing – there is control all the way through it. Bonnie and Clyde, that sort of intense attraction, emotional closeness – them against the world. It’s that sort of thing that led on to this.”
Perhaps the Elizabeth and Katie would have met the same fate eventually, but it seems unlikely that without Markham, Edwards would have followed through with the murders. She couldn’t do it, she told police, but Markham could. What if they had never met, had never started a relationship, had never watched movies like Twilight that give our youth an elevated, unhealthy view of young love as eternal, desperate, important above all consequence? Hey, I knew the feeling too. I love the young romantic drama of TV and movies, but luckily, I was able to keep my head on straight. But sometimes two people meet that already have a darkness inside them, already have a kernel of something psychotic. And the sharing of this darkness leads to the delusion of prosecution. The world is against young love, they think. They will do whatever it takes.