An analysis of victims of homicide and other forms of violent death in Victoria

Criminology Research Council grant ; (41/88)

This investigation was based on an analysis of case studies of homicides which uses as its data source the files of the State Coroner's Office in Victoria. The project covered the years 1985 and 1986 and has been based principally on an analysis of the nature of the social interaction between the victim and the offender. As a result of the analysis, three major themes were identified within which virtually all homicides could be classified. These included:

  • killings where there was some link of intimacy which connected the victim and offender;
  • killings which resulted from a confrontation which developed between two or more males; and
  • killings which occurred during the committing of another crime.

As well as examining these three main themes in homicide in Victoria, cases were analysed within the classical divisions of homicide described by other authors including the role of victim participation and precipitation, and analysis of weapon used and the differences between stranger homicides and homicides involving family, friends or acquaintances. In addition to the clear-cut homicide cases a number of other deaths were investigated in view of their association with the traditional application of laws relating to homicide. These deaths included deaths in the work place involving the possibility of negligence and culpability on the part of the employees and employers.

This study confirms findings elsewhere in the world that in reality homicide is very different from the image given of it in the media. In many cases the victim and offender were socially linked through some bond of intimacy. Few cases were found that involved strangers.

The report suggests that it is clear that the simple separation of homicide cases into 'domestic' and 'strangers' is not sufficient to allow an adequate understanding of the dynamics of the interactions that occur between offenders and victims and this study represents the application of one form of new classification to these deaths.