Charlotte Smith was battered to death after she asked her husband for a divorce.

Up to half of all women murdered in the world are killed by their partner, a report by the World Health Organisation has found.

The report shows the extent of domestic violence around the world and the areas where murder rates by intimate partners are highest.

In partnership with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the South African Medical Research Council, WHO looked at studies published over the past 20 years that contain data about intimate partner homicide.

In total, researchers looked at 118 studies from 169 countries, covering 492,340 murders from 66 countries.

Estimates suggest at least one in seven murders are committed by an intimate partner. However, partners are responsible for 38.6% of female murders, compared with just 6.3% of male murders.

The researchers also say these are conservative estimates and that the true figure could be much higher - findings were hindered by a lack of data and a large amount of missing information about the status of the relationship between victim and perpetrator.

One recent case involved British woman Charlotte Smith, 42, who was battered to death with an ornamental elephant after she told her husband, Devendra Singh, she wanted a divorce.

In the trial currently being heard at Stafford Crown Court, Singh, 33, admits killing his wife but denies murder - he says he "lost control" during the attack in September last year.

Philip Bennetts QC, prosecuting, said: "Bone was smashed and shattered time and time again. The amount of force used was effectively off the scale. It was beyond severe - it was extreme."

Domestic violence
Families of women killed by their partners march in Panama City (Reuters)

The WHO report found that global rates of women being murdered by their partners vary widely. The worst areas are south-east Asia (58.8%), high-income countries (41.2%) and the Americas (40.5%).

High-income countries include Australia, Canada, England, Wales, France, Germany, Italy, and the US, along with a number of others.

Rates were lowest in the eastern Mediterranean region (14.4%) and the western Pacific region (19.1%).

Murders of men by partners were highest in high-income countries (6.3%). In most regions, prevalence was less than 2%.

Heidi Stöckl, from LSHTM, said: "Our results underscore that women are disproportionately vulnerable to violence and murder by an intimate partner, and their needs have been neglected for far too long.

"Such homicides are often the ultimate outcome of a failed societal, health, and criminal justice response to intimate partner violence

"More needs to be done, particularly to increase investment in intimate partner violence prevention, to support women experiencing intimate partner violence (most women killed by a partner have been in long-term abusive relationships), and to control gun ownership for people with a history of violence."

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