Stranger homicide

Prevalence

  • In England and Wales (1999-2003), The victim was a stranger to the perpetrator in 435 homicides (20% of the total sample)1
  • The perpetrators and victims of these homicides were more likely to be young men below the age of 25 and the method of homicide was less likely to be a sharp instrument, and more likely to be hitting and kicking
  • Stranger homicides by women were rare (7%). Only one of these women was mentally ill at the time of the offence, although over two-fifths (8 cases, 44%) had a lifetime history of mental disorder including 3 (17%) with drug dependence 1 
  • We have previously reported a large rise in stranger homicides but no rise in the number committed by people with mental illness. 1 Perpetrators of stranger homicide were less likely to have a lifetime history of mentaldisorder, mental illness at the time of the offence or contact with mental health services

Mental illness

  • In a study of stranger homicide 1996-1999, the NCI found the most common diagnoses of perpetrators was personality disorder (11%), followed by drug dependence 2
  • 5% of stranger homicide were committed by people with schizophrenia

Patients who kill strangers

  • In the last Annual Report3 we reported that in England there were an average of 8 stranger homicides per year, in Wales patients killed a stranger in 2 cases across the time period, and in Scotland the number ranged between 1 and 5 cases per year. There was 1 case in Northern Ireland 4

Comment

  • Stranger homicides are more likely to be related to alcohol or drug misuse by young men and not serious mental illness

References

1. Five year Report of the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness.Avoidable Deaths 2006. (http://www.bbmh.manchester.ac.uk/cmhr/research/centreforsuicideprevention/nci/reports/avoidable_deaths_full_report_december_2006.pdf)

2. Shaw J, Amos T, Hunt IM, Flynn S, Turnbull S, Kapur N, Appleby L. Mental illness in people who kill strangers: longitudinal study and national clinical survey. BMJ 2004;328:737–40 (http://www.medicine.manchester.ac.uk/mentalhealth/research/suicide/prevention/nci/publications/) doi: 10.1136/bmj.328.7442.734 Pubmed id:15044289

3. National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness. Annual Report 2011. (http://www.bbmh.manchester.ac.uk/cmhr/research/centreforsuicideprevention/nci/reports/annual_report_2011.pdf)

4. National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness: Suicide and Homicide in Northern Ireland 2011. (http://www.bbmh.manchester.ac.uk/cmhr/research/centreforsuicideprevention/nci/reports/northern_ireland_full_report_june_2011.pdf)