At least a quarter of all murders committed in Malta in the last five years were related to domestic violence, according to a court expert on a number of homicide cases.

Marie Therese Camilleri Podesta, a professor of anatomy, said eight of the 32 homicides were linked to domestic violence, although the actual figure could be much higher as a number of cases remained unsolved or unproven.

“Identifying such cases is made harder by the fact that victims will often cover up for their attacker,” she said, recalling one case where a victim on the brink of death repeatedly insisted she had simply fallen down the stairs.

During a conference on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women earlier today, Prof. Camilleri Podesta said autopsies she had carried out showed a level of anger towards victims which differentiated it from other crimes.

Across Europe, one in three women has been a victim of physical or sexual violence.

“Seven women are killed in Europe every day by someone in their family – it’s an epidemic,” said Joanna Maycock, secretary-general of the European Women’s Lobby.

“Violence against women is a structural and pervasive strategy to maintain men’s control over women’s lives and bodies, and it needs to be tackled as such.”

Ms Maycock said that although there had been significant progress, it had proven very difficult to keep violence against women on the European agenda.

Despite calls for a comprehensive strategy on gender equality, the EU had actually taken a step backwards and was now talking only of a draft working paper.