Homicide-suicide offences: description, classification and short case studies

Publication Date03 Aug 2015
AuthorJoakim Sturup,Shilan Caman
subjectMatterHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology,Criminal psychology
Homicide-suicide offences: description,
classification and short case studies
Joakim Sturup and Shilan Caman
Dr Joakim Sturup is a
Criminologist at the National
Board of Forensic Medicine,
Institutet and Stockholm
University, Sweden.
Shilan Caman is a Behavioural
Scientist and Phd-Student
at the National Board
of Forensic Medicine and
Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.
Purpose Although homicide-suicide (H-S) offences are rare, they have remarkably tragic consequences.
The purposes of this paper are to: examine the background characteristics of H-S offenders (including
previous offending history and psychiatric elements); describe the crime-scene behavior and examine the
motivational aspects of the offences; and to establish the reliability in the outlined typologies.
Design/methodology/approach The study consists of case series of all H-S offenders in Sweden,
January 1, 2007 to December 31, 2009 (n ¼13), and data was collected from medico-legal autopsy reports,
police investigations and three national databases.
Findings Of all Swedish homicides, 5.5 percent consisted of H-S cases, and the rate of H-S was
0.05 per 100,000 inhabitants. Seven of the offenders had had previous contact with a psychiatric service,
however, the average time between the last contact and the offence was slightly more than fouryears. Three
of the offenders had previously been convicted of a violent crime and nine of the 13 offenders were involved in
serious marital conflicts during the time of the offence. In conclusion, the study supports the notion that cases
of H-S are mainly associated with intimate partner homicides, rather than suicide or other homicides.
However, the offences were not always directly aimed toward the (former) spouse, but instead carried out
through a proxy (such as a common child).
Originality/value The study adds in-depth knowledge by using a qualitative approach in an otherwise
scarce area of research.
Keywords Homicide, Suicide, Victimization, Murder-suicide, Homicide-suicide, Intimate partner homicides
Paper type Research paper
Homicides followed by suicide, most often called homicide-suicides (H-S), are also known as
murder-suicide, extended suicide, or dyadic death. H-S is rare compared to other major violent
crimes (Manning, in press), however, the outcomes and consequences are extremely tragic.
The definition of H-S differs between studies, and the time between the homicide and the suicide
has been operationalized from 24 hours to up to 30 days (Harper and Voigt, 2007; Liem, 2010).
In this study the definition of H-S is; a homicide offence followed by the offenderssuicide within
24 hours and before or at the time of the arrest. The issue of H-S has drawn a lot of scientific
attention (Marzuk et al., 1992; Liem, 2010). In short, around 8 percent of all homicides
in industrial countries consist of H-S, and the rate is reported to range from 0.01 to 1.33 per
100,000 inhabitants (Large et al., 2009).
With a few exceptions, Swedish research on H-S is scarce and the only population-based study,
conducted by Lindqvist and Gustafsson (1995), only examined the northernmost of Sweden
during 1970-1981. The study found that 10 percent of all homicides consisted of H-S. Moreover,
they found that the rate of H-S was 0.2 per 100,000 inhabitants and that the rate of child H-S
was 0.07 per 100,000 inhabitants. In a more recent study that examined spousal homicide
Received 29 January 2015
Revised 29 June 2015
Accepted 29 June 2015
DOI 10.1108/JCP-01-2015-0002 VOL. 5 NO. 3 2015, pp. 177-187, © Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 2009-3829
PAG E 1 7 7

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