Episode 4 – The Coronation Street Killer

Of all the crimes humans are capable of, there is perhaps none more unimaginable than a parent killing their own child—or the other way around. Parricide—when a child kills their parent—is the rarest type of murder, accounting for around 3% of all homicides in England and Wales. But in many cases, authorities have missed their opportunity to intervene and prevent the situation from escalating. 14-year-old Daniel Bartlam said he was hearing voices that told him to hurt people—but no one stopped him from actually doing so.

Born on November 11, 1996, Daniel Bartlam grew up in Nottinghamshire, England. As far as we knew, Daniel’s early years were relatively normal—he lived together with his mother Jacqueline and father Adrian in a comfortable, middle-class environment.

But when Daniel was 9-years-old, his parents divorced, and around the same time, the young boy’s behaviour took a turn for the worse. Of course, it is understandable that a child reacts to their parent’s separation and new, unfamiliar family dynamic—but in Daniel’s case, his anger exploded in the worst possible way.

On Easter in April 2011, 14-year-old Daniel ran out of his home in Nottingham together with his 6-year-old brother Dominic and his dog. The brick house that the boys shared with their 47-year-old mother, Jacqueline, was on fire. While waiting for the emergency services, Daniel told the neighbours a masked intruder had escaped his mother’s bedroom through the window. Jacqueline, however, never got out.

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When the police arrived, they took the brothers into protective custody. Daniel immediately told the officers the story of a stranger who had broken into their home, most likely killed his mother and set the house on fire to cover his tracks. While the 14-year-old’s story might have sounded plausible, the investigation soon revealed details that suggested Daniel knew more of his mother’s death than he let on.

Jacqueline’s body was later removed from the family home when the fire was brought under control. She was only identified during an autopsy using dental records as her body was so badly burned. The post-mortem examination showed Jacqueline died before the fire even started—she had been hit several times to the head with a blunt object. It was soon learned that the murder weapon was a lump hammer—which was found wiped clean and inside Daniel’s bedroom.

During the next two weeks, investigators searched the home for more clues. Fortunately, the Bartlam household had not been completely destroyed during the fire. Many things remain intact, including Daniel’s computer. What was found inside the device raised even more questions if the teenager’s story of an intruder was completely made up.

Daniel’s extensive Google search history included subjects like “how to chloroform your little sister” and “how to get away with murder.” Those alone were quite alarming, but investigators also discovered that Daniel frequently visited sites containing images and stories of incest and rape. However, the worst was just to come, as Detective Chief Inspector Kate Meynall said: 

“From his computer, we recovered a deleted story about a character called Daniel Bartlam who killed his mother in the exact same circumstances in which Jacqueline was killed.”

Daniel had literally written down his whole plan on his computer—the character in the screenplay was fed up with his mother, beat her to death with a hammer and set her body on fire. There was no more doubt of who had actually killed Jacqueline, but would Daniel tell the truth himself?

When the detectives questioned Daniel again, his story was indeed different. This time, the teenager admitted he had grabbed the hammer and beat his mother to death in a moment of rage, without planning. Then, fearing the consequences, Daniel had set the home on fire. The investigators, however, knew that this was not yet the whole truth. They kept pushing Daniel, who soon broke and told them what had actually happened.

According to Daniel, he had approached his mother when she had been asleep in her bed. Daniel had then woken Jacqueline up, asking where his new sneakers were. When she replied she did not know, Daniel began hitting her with one of the two hammers he had brought with him. After seven strikes to the head, Jacqueline was gone.

Now, Daniel knew he needed to get rid of the evidence. He covered his mother’s body with newspaper and petrol and set her on fire. Daniel then ran to his brother and took him outside before returning to rescue the family dog. But even though everyone now knew what had happened to Jacqueline Bartlam, nobody still understood why. However, there was someone who was not surprised by the news—Daniel’s stepfather, Simon Matters.

Simon and Jacqueline had been together since 2007, and he had raised his concerns about her son’s strange behaviour more than once. Simon believes that it all started after Daniel’s parents separated, and he was moved to the public school system when Jacqueline could no longer afford the private school tuition. From that point, Daniel was in a downward spiral. According to Simon, Daniel had a disgusting habit of defecating and urinating within the confines of his own bedroom:

“He’d have plastic boxes full of figures (Star Wars and Dr. Who characters), but he’d just urinate in the boxes. He also defecated all over the bedroom and in the boxes and hid towels and stuff that he’d wiped himself with.”

Simon also once found his girlfriend’s underwear hidden in Daniel’s room. Worried, he talked about it with Jacqueline, but she brushed it off as she did with any other issue concerning Daniel, including physically hurting his younger brother.

Criminal Psychologist at Manchester Metropolitan University, Dr. David Holmes, said:

“Jacqui thought Daniel was a slightly stroppy teenager. She didn’t perceive the deeper problem. Most kids have a love-hate relationship with their mothers. Most kids are seeking boundaries. They oppose you so you can set boundaries which make them feel safe and secure.”

Jacqueline tended to tolerate her son’s behaviour rather than oppose it—one of the reasons being that every time she tried to discipline her son, Daniel became violent. More than once, Simon had to physically step in between them. So while his mother was kind and patient—Daniel saw her as an enemy. In his screenplay, Daniel wrote:

“The only place he couldn’t get away with his bad deeds was with his mother, Jackie. So one evening, he made it look as though there was a break-in and murdered his mother with a hammer and then set her and the family home alight.”

It appeared that Daniel had entirely immersed himself in a fantasy world—something he had done since he was just eight years old. According to Simon, one concern he had mentioned to Jacqueline was Daniel’s unnatural obsession with video games and horror movies. The teenager did not do much else than sit in his room, watching Saw, Friday the 13th, and Nightmare on Elm Street. In addition, Daniel enjoyed television shows like Emmerdale and Coronation Street. And while several studies have shown violent media does not cause violence, there are disturbing similarities between Jacqueline’s death and the events of one Coronation Street episode.

In the episode, a stalker named Charlotte Hoyle tries to attack one of the main characters, John Stape, with a hammer. John, however, was able to take the hammer from Charlotte and beat her to death with it. Afterward, he disposed of her body inside a burning car in order to cover up his crime. Unsurprisingly, as soon as the media found out about Daniel’s obsession with the series, he was given the moniker “Coronation Street Killer.”

While Daniel had “no social life” during this time and spent most of his time alone in his room, his problems were noted outside the home too. At school, Daniel was referred to a school counsellor in 2010 following a violent outburst. The teenager actually opened up during the counselling sessions, saying that he was hearing voices in his head that told him to hurt people and seeing visions of killing people.

True or not, we can all agree that everything we know about Daniel Bartman up to this point suggests he was suffering from some kind of mental illness. Daniel displayed signs of Cluster B—antisocial, borderline, and narcissistic— personality traits. He was attention-seeking and manipulative and had a difficult temper. And yet, just six weeks before the murder, Daniel was found to have no mental illnesses during an assessment at a nearby mental health unit in Nottinghamshire.

Furthermore, Daniel was deemed little or no risk to himself or others. But something made him rewatch one of the Saw movies on the evening of April 24, 2011, before retrieving a hammer and murdering his own mother. Daniel has confessed to killing his mother, but he has not been truly honest about why Jacqueline lost her life.

Simon, however, has said he thinks Daniel’s dark obsessions were to blame:

“It seems that Daniel watched so many violent films and video games that he simply lost track of what was real. I’m sure his obsession with these fantasy worlds like films and soaps caused what he did.”

Daniel’s two-week trial began in February 2012 at Nottingham Crown Court. He pleaded not guilty to the murder of his mother, claiming he had been provoked to kill. According to Daniel, Jacqueline had been abusive both physically and verbally, and he had simply lost it that evening. For that reason, Daniel pleaded guilty to manslaughter. His defence, however, was not very effective.

No witnesses had ever seen Jacqueline abuse her children. Instead, she was described as “a wonderful, loving and caring woman … who would always be there to help if anyone was in trouble” by her parents. In addition, it was clear Daniel had planned his mother’s murder—he had definitely not acted in the heat of a moment. The deleted document recovered from Daniel’s computer proved that. Detective Chief Inspector Kate Meynall said:

“The level of violence, degree of planning and extent of his lies is not only shocking, but it is also chilling that a boy of 14 could do this.”

The jury also did not believe Daniel’s many lies and unanimously convicted him of murder on February 9, 2012. During his sentencing in April 2012, the judge described the killing as grotesque and senseless and said it appeared Daniel had wanted to “get away with the perfect murder.” In Daniel’s screenplay, he did get away with it, but in reality, things went quite differently.

In the end, Daniel Bartlam was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 16 years. As you can guess, Daniel has been called many different names after his identity was released after the sentencing. He has been referred to as “Devil Child” and “Savage” and, of course, “Coronation Street Killer.” It is difficult to understand why a child so young would kill their own parents, and the media is swift in trying to find the explanation—often from the wrong place.

There has also been some level of sympathy—perhaps things could have turned out differently if Daniel had received proper help soon enough. Now, as he is serving his sentence, Daniel is supposedly undergoing rehabilitation treatment, and if successful, he can get out of prison when he is still as young as 30-years-old. Only time will tell if Daniel will be given a second chance in life or if he is deemed too dangerous to ever walk free again.

Meanwhile, Jacqueline Bartlam’s family has been trying to come to terms with what happened:

“There are no winners here because not only have we lost Jacqui, but we have lost Daniel too because of what he’s done. We know it was the right result at court but trying to understand how a boy you have loved for 14 years can do something like this is so difficult.

The most difficult part for us and something that only Daniel can answer is ‘why?'” Did Daniel really want to live like villains in the movies and TV shows he loved so much and tried to get away with a perfect murder? Or did he lose it after an argument with his mother, who only wanted the best for her boy? We might never know for sure.

Episode Credits: 

Host – Rhiannon Doe 

Voiceover – Kwesi 

Website layout & design – Fran Howard 

SOURCES

Parricide in England and Wales (1977-2012): An exploration of offenders,

victims, incidents and outcomes

Explanation of parricide and why kids kill parents

Teenager Daniel Bartlam jailed for killing mother with hammer

Daniel Bartman: A Teenage Boy Convicted Of His Mother’s Murder

The Bloody Truth

Mum of Coronation Street copycat killer could have been saved if she’d got son help

The chilling story behind the Nottinghamshire boy who killed his own mum

Daniel Bartlam saw himself as murderous soap character – police

Daniel Bartlam, 15, detained for mother’s hammer murder

The Coronation Street Killer

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