Any murder is heinous, but there is something especially gut-wrenching when a child is responsible. Kids Who Kill: Evil Up Close looks closely at a number of young people who hit the headlines for the worst possible reasons, including Kim Edwards and Lucas Markham – the so-called 'Twilight killers' whose actions sent shockwaves in their native Lincolnshire in 2016.
The case is striking, not just because of the young ages of the killers (they were both 14 at the time), but because of their victims. Namely, Kim’s own mother and sister, Elizabeth and Katie, who were sleeping soundly in their beds when their lives were savagely brought to an end.
Why would a seemingly ordinary teenage girl coldly plan and execute the murders of her family? The possible reasons are complex and perhaps unfathomable. After her arrest, Kim spoke very openly about the deep and intense resentment she’d always felt towards the closeness between her mother and sister – a closeness she felt had relegated her to the sidelines.
'I wanted to get revenge for the way she treated me,' she would tell a psychiatrist. 'I did not feel anything for my mother. She deserved it and I’m glad she’s dead.'
The history of bad feelings apparently went back to 2008, when her mother had hit the six-year-old Kim in a domestic row. After this, Elizabeth Edwards had referred herself to social services, leading to sisters Kim and Katie being temporarily placed in care. However, the file on the family was soon closed, and normal life seemed to resume.
But the relationship between Elizabeth and her eldest daughter was rocky, with Kim threatening to run away and even claiming to support workers that her mother had tried to throttle her. A suicide note made by Kim led her worried mum to arrange for an emergency psychiatric assessment, but they found no signs of mental illness.
The rowing between them was frequent, with Kim alleging that her mother had told her she’d turn out like her father, who’d abandoned the family when she was an infant. The bad feelings worsened when Kim started seeing Lucas Markham, whom her mother didn’t approve of. The young couple ran away from their respective homes at one point, later found sleeping in a forest just north of their home town in Lincolnshire. It seems Elizabeth Edwards could sense ominous things were afoot, at one point describing Kim and Lucas as a 'time-bomb waiting to go off.'
Kim, meanwhile, was descending into deeper misery, and in March 2016 she tried to kill herself with an overdose of painkillers. It was at some point after this that she and Lucas began plotting the deaths of her family members with eerie, methodical detachment.
One night in April 2016, Lucas Markham walked the short distance to his girlfriend’s home, where she let him in through a bathroom window. He then stalked into Elizabeth’s bedroom, where he calmly held a pillow over her face and stabbed her repeatedly in the neck. It was not a quick death – Elizabeth clawed at him and fought for her life. After this, he moved onto Katie, killing her as she slept.
'I thought it would have been better for my sister to die too,' Kim later explained. 'I was not killing my sister out of anger, and I miss her, but I was excited about killing my mother and I was looking forward to it.'
After the killings were done, the couple had sex in the living room and settled down to watch Twilight while eating ice cream – a fact that would lead to lurid headlines about the 'Twilight killers' of Lincolnshire. In fact, they stayed in the house for the next day and a half, being close and coupley while the bodies of Kim’s mother and sister lay bleeding in their beds. It was only when police forced their way in, after the kids were reported missing from school, that the horrific scene was revealed.
'We felt laid back about what had happened,' Kim later said. 'Neither of us felt that bad about it.' Even seasoned detectives were perturbed by the children’s breezy, matter-of-fact demeanour. As Detective Chief Inspector Martin Holvey put it, 'The fact of what happened in those 36 hours after and how they carried on as normal, watching TV, watching a film, going upstairs to use the toilet while people are lying upstairs dead; it beggars belief.'
Was Kim really spurred to such extreme acts by familial resentment? Or was a toxic, Bonnie and Clyde-like connection with Lucas the critical factor? Criminologist David Wilson has bluntly described them as demonstrating a 'high level of psychopathy', singling out Kim’s egocentric belief that she was actually doing her mother and sister a favour by killing them. In Kim’s words, 'my mum doesn’t have to deal with me anymore being like suicidal and she doesn’t have to wake up worrying every morning to see if I’m still alive', while killing Katie saved her from going through 'the heartbreak and just all the emotions and stuff'.
Kim Edwards and Lucas Markham are now serving 17 and a half years behind bars, having carved a dubious place in crime history as Britain’s youngest ever double murderers.