ONE in four killings by a partner or family member involves a victim over the age of 60, according to new research.

The study, by Durham University, challenges the assumption that older people are not at risk, or at very low risk, of violent offences resulting in missed opportunities to spot and prevent violence against the elderly.

It found most victims were female while the majority of the killings happened in the victim’s home.

Study author Dr Hannah Bows, the university’s assistant professor in criminal law, said: “Older people in our society are not immune to violence but there is an assumption that they are not as much at risk of violence as younger people. Ageist stereotypes also mean older victims are often overlooked by police forces, health professionals and other key agencies.”

All 49 police forces in the UK responded to a Freedom of Information request asking for the total number of homicides between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2015 involving a victim over 60 as well as information about the gender of the victim and the perpetrator, relationship between them, location of the murder and the method of the killing.

Key findings showed there were 221 cases of domestic homicide - meaning older victims make up one in four of all domestic homicides in England and Wales.

It found 67 per cent of victims were female and in 46 per cent of cases the perpetrator was a partner or ex-partner.

In 44 per cent of cases the perpetrator was an adult child or grandchild and the majority of victims were killed in their own home.

Published in the British Journal of Social Work, the study also found the most common methods of killing were stabbing (36 per cent), strangulation (16 per cent) and assault with a weapon (11 per cent).

The study recommends more training and improved risk assessment for social workers, police forces and health professionals to help spot signs of potentially dangerous relationships, including those between parents and adult children.

Dr Bows added: “It is clear that violence against older people is much more common than we might think and better awareness and risk assessment may be needed to tackle this.”

Richard Powley, head of safeguarding at Age UK, said the research shone a light on the issue.

He said: “This important research throws new light on a troubling and previously hidden aspect of later life, and provides further evidence that issues of domestic violence and homicide by intimate partners and family members do not disappear as we age.

“At Age UK we have partnered with specialist domestic abuse organisations to help raise awareness of this issue, and this research highlights the urgent need to develop effective multi-agency responses across all sectors.”

In September, it was announced that the Law Commission will carry out a review of hate crime which may include ageism.