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Dyadic Death: Homicide followed by Suicide in Yorkshire and the Humber by Marilyn J Gregory


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Marilyn J Gregory's presentation from the British Sociological Association Death, Dying and Bereavement Symposium - November 2009

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Dyadic Death: Homicide followed by Suicide in Yorkshire and the Humber by Marilyn J Gregory

  1. 1. <ul><li>Marzuk (1992) says that homicide-suicide (sometimes called dyadic death) has occurred ‘when a person has committed a homicide, and subsequently commits suicide within one week of the homicide’ </li></ul><ul><li>In this presentation I will briefly outline dyadic death as a regional, national and international phenomenon, and will consider </li></ul><ul><li>Prevalence </li></ul><ul><li>Perpetrator and victim characteristics </li></ul><ul><li>Homicide-suicide and social class </li></ul><ul><li>Theoretical perspectives </li></ul>Dyadic Death: Homicide followed by Suicide in Yorkshire and the Humber Dr Marilyn J Gregory, University of Sheffield
  2. 4. <ul><li>Comparison of two time periods in Yorkshire and the Humber: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Cohort 1: 1975-1992 (Milroy 1993, 1994) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cohort 2: 1993-2007 (Gregory 2009) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Examination of Forensic Science Service Records </li></ul><ul><li>Compilation of anonymised case studies from Coroner’s files </li></ul><ul><li>Review of international literature </li></ul>
  3. 5. <ul><li>Homicide followed by suicide is relatively rare when compared to separate incidents of both homicide and suicide (Harper & Voigt 2007, Shaw & Flynn 2003) </li></ul><ul><li>Whilst homicide and suicide rates vary considerably between countries, rates of h-s tend to vary a good deal less. </li></ul><ul><li>When a person commits suicide following a homicide, the victim of the homicide is most frequently their intimate partner (Dawson 2005, Milroy 1994, Easteal 1994) </li></ul>
  4. 7. <ul><li>Cohort 1, 1975-92 had 52 incidents with 65 victims, averaging 2.8 incidents per year. 42 incidents had a single victim; 6 incidents had 2 to 4 victims (Milroy 1993). </li></ul><ul><li>Cohort 2, 1993-2007 had 30 incidents with 37 victims, averaging 2.0 incidents per year; 26 incidents had a single victim, 4 incidents had 2 to 3 victims. </li></ul><ul><li>A study in England and Wales 1988-92 had 144 incidents with 180 victims, an average of 29 incidents per year (Barraclough et al 2002). </li></ul>
  5. 8. <ul><li>Most likely to be male: Cohort one (94%); Cohort two (100%); </li></ul><ul><li>Older than the typical 28 year old homicide perpetrator: Cohort one mean age 49; Cohort two mean age 43. </li></ul><ul><li>More likely to be white than the typical homicide perpetrator: 96% in Cohort one, 90% in Cohort two, compared to 80% of homicide perpetrators generally. </li></ul><ul><li>These findings reflect those of a variety of international research studies (eg Harper and Voigt, 2007, Hanzlick and Kopenen, 1994, Le Comte and Fornes 1998) </li></ul>
  6. 9. <ul><li>In cohort one, 10:52 cases had a history of domestic abuse, including two cases of sexual abuse of the children </li></ul><ul><li>In cohort two,17:30 cases had a history of domestic abuse, including one case of sexual abuse within the family and one case in which the victim was a 16 year old boy involved in a sexual relationship with a 52 year old man </li></ul>
  7. 10. <ul><li>It is well documented that in abusive relationships, the woman leaving often triggers further abuse </li></ul><ul><li>This is true in both these cohorts in the cases characterized by domestic abuse </li></ul><ul><li>Even in cases with no pattern of previous abuse, the woman (or male sexual partner) leaving was often the trigger for the incident </li></ul>
  8. 11. <ul><li>Paucity of data on social class and homicide for UK </li></ul><ul><li>Homicide Index records social class of victims at time of death but not perpetrators </li></ul><ul><li>Brookman’s research (2003), in depth analysis of 54 cases of male on male homicide revealed that 30% of offenders were unemployed at the time of the homicide. No offenders were professionals or skilled workers </li></ul>
  9. 12. <ul><li>Dobash et al (2004) found when comparing male on male (MM) homicide offenders to intimate partner (IP) homicide offenders, that IP offenders were more ‘conventional’ than MM offenders on a number of measures. The IP group: </li></ul><ul><li>had fewer problems in their childhoods </li></ul><ul><li>had a greater level of education </li></ul><ul><li>were less likely to have a persistent pattern of offending </li></ul><ul><li>were significantly more likely to be in employment </li></ul>
  10. 13. <ul><li>Looked at a rise in the rate of H-S in Chicago between 1875-1910 </li></ul><ul><li>Similar profile to modern HS perpetrators </li></ul><ul><li>Concentrated in skilled and semi-skilled sector </li></ul><ul><li>Motives were gender-related. </li></ul><ul><li>For women being sick and unable to care for their children was central </li></ul><ul><li>For men, public failure and humiliation in economic terms and </li></ul><ul><li>Loss of control of family circumstances </li></ul>
  11. 14. <ul><li>Particular socio-economic circumstances in which the rise of large-scale manufacturing was eroding the status of middle ranking skilled and semi skilled workers in turn of the century Chicago </li></ul><ul><li>These HS perpetrators had embraced respectable goals and ambitions in family and work life </li></ul><ul><li>When these were threatened, they reasserted control in a final act of destruction </li></ul>
  12. 16. Source:
  13. 17. <ul><li>Messerschmidt (1993: 85): ‘crime by men is a form of social practice invoked as a resource, when other resources are unavailable, for accomplishing masculinity’. </li></ul><ul><li>Daly and Wilson (1988:161): ‘intrasexual competition is far more violent among men than among women in every human society for which information exists’ </li></ul><ul><li>Doing masculinity provokes internal conflict for men, eg: ‘the feeling of vulnerability precipitated on entering a significant emotional relationship’ (Jefferson 1994) </li></ul>
  14. 18. <ul><li>Masculine possession and control is a dominant theme in the Y&H cases: </li></ul><ul><li>The perpetrator in case 2/1998 who strangled his partner and smothered their son and daughter 7 and 10, left a note by his partner’s body addressed to the new man in her life: ‘fuck off you Irish bastard you are not getting my Jane or my kids.’ </li></ul><ul><li>In case 2/1994 where the man killed the couple’s three daughters and himself he left a note which said: ‘I will not have any other person acting as dad to my girls.’ </li></ul>
  15. 19. <ul><li>Emotional vulnerability is so dreaded that the perpetrator would rather die than face the painful recognition of his emotional vulnerability, exposed by the loss or impending loss of his partner. </li></ul><ul><li>In case 2/1998 the perpetrator who strangled his wife and killed himself with car fumes, left a note to his father in law, saying: </li></ul><ul><li>‘ I love Mary with all my heart and soul. Trevor please forgive me. Life is nothing without her.’ </li></ul>
  16. 20. <ul><li>Both the historical and the modern day HS perpetrators are men with a very similar profile; older than the typical homicide offender, more often in skilled/semi skilled employment, married and white </li></ul><ul><li>They respond with homicide-suicide when ways of accomplishing masculinity hitherto available to them, are removed </li></ul><ul><li>This helps us to understand the behaviour of the majority of HS offenders who are in blue collar jobs and the case with which the presentation opened, where the perpetrator was a wealthy business man </li></ul>
  17. 21. <ul><li>There is societal ambivalence toward the violence which underpins masculinity </li></ul><ul><li>Some HS perpetrators have achieved masculinity through violence throughout their relationship but others have not. For both these groups the final loss of control is resolved by the decision to commit the HS </li></ul><ul><li>The resolution to kill himself provides the perpetrator with a sort of ‘suicidal abrogation’ in which he is freed to kill the objects of his distress and he does so in a single, two stage act. </li></ul>