Methods of homicide in England and Wales: A comparison by diagnostic group

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    Background: International literature has examined the offence characteristics of homicide in the general population, but there has been limited research investigating diagnostic differences between perpetrators who commit homicide by differing methods. Objective: To investigate the methods of homicide by people with different psychiatric diagnoses and to explore the offence characteristics of perpetrators with schizophrenia, in a seven-year (1997-2003) national sample of homicide perpetrators in England and Wales. Results: Of the 3930 homicide perpetrators identified, over a third (36%) used a sharp instrument. The use of firearms was rare. Methods of homicide differed significantly between diagnostic groups. Perpetrators with schizophrenia were more likely to use a sharp instrument and predominantly killed a family member or spouse in the home; a significant majority were mentally ill at the time of the offence. Perpetrators diagnosed with affective disorder were more likely to use strangulation or suffocation. Alcohol dependent perpetrators used hitting or kicking significantly more often, primarily to kill acquaintances. Finally, drug dependent perpetrators were more likely to use non-violent methods, particularly poisoning. Conclusion: Methods of homicide are affected not only by the social and behavioural characteristics of the perpetrator and victim, but also by the perpetrator's psychiatric history and diagnosis. © 2009 Taylor & Francis.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)286-305
    Number of pages19
    JournalJournal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


    • Firearms
    • Homicide
    • Knives
    • Mental illness
    • Method
    • Psychiatric diagnosis


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