When Homeschoolers Turn Violent: Hannah Bonser
Series note: “When Homeschoolers Turn Violent” is a joint research project by Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. Please see the Introduction for detailed information about the purpose and scope of the project.
Trigger warning: If you experience triggers from descriptions of physical and sexual violence, please know that the details in many of the cases are disturbing and graphic.
On February 14, 2012, 26-year-old Hannah Bonser stabbed a 13-year-old girl to death in an unprovoked attack in Elmfield Park, Doncaster, in the United Kingdom. The victim, Casey Kearney, was a complete stranger to Hannah.
Hannah had been in and out of mental care services for 10 years since the age of 16. She had a history of mental health problems, substance abuse, and a childhood plagued by sexual abuse and neglect. These problems went back to her childhood, where she was homeschooled in a Mormon family. She was raised by “Mormon parents who were allowed to home school her despite warnings of neglect. When social workers visited her home at one point they found rooms ‘full of dead cats and excreta.’” At the age of 10, she was placed in public school; at the age of 13, she was removed from her family and placed in foster care; at age 16, she became homeless.
Just a month before the murder, Hannah said that “she had been hearing voices since she was seven years old but that they were now ‘worse than ever.’” In spite of that, Hannah was discharged from specialist mental health treatment a mere two weeks later. She was discharged despite signs that her mental health was worsening. In fact, Hannah had “repeatedly told doctors and nurses she was hearing voices and feared she was going to harm someone in the weeks before she murdered Casey Kearney.”
An independent review of care Hannah received throughout her life noted major mistakes and failures on the part of multiple individuals and organizations. Hannah was nonetheless found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
View the case index here.