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“Murder–Suicide” or “Murder–Accident”? Difficulties with the Analysis of Cases

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Abstract: 

Homicide where a perpetrator is found dead adjacent to the victim usually represents murder–suicide. Two incidents are reported to demonstrate characteristic features in one, and alternative features in the other, that indicate differences in the manner of death. (i) A 37-year-old mother was found dead in a burnt out house with her two young sons in an adjacent bedroom. Deaths were due to incineration and inhalation of products of combustion. (ii) A 39-year-old woman was found stabbed to death in a burnt out house with her 39-year-old de facto partner deceased from the combined effects of incineration and inhalation of products of combustion. The first incident represented a typical murder–suicide, however, in the second incident, the perpetrator had tried to escape through a window and had then sought refuge in a bathroom under a running shower. Murder–accident rather than murder–suicide may therefore be a more accurate designation for such cases.
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Keywords: accident; arson; dyadic; forensic science; gasoline; homicide; murder–suicide

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Forensic Response Section, SAPOL, Adelaide, Australia. 2: Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia. 3: Forensic Science SA, 21 Divett Place, Adelaide, SA, 5000, Australia.

Publication date: 2010-09-01

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