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Staged Suicides

Technology has advanced, a lot in the last decade. Hacks to make things easier, in every field are now available at the click of the ‘enter tab’ on the PC/Laptop. It makes one wonder, can people get away with homicide, by staging it as a suicide. Let’s consider situations where this line of action can benefit the criminal(s):-

If a government officer, becomes a dissident, & is likely to expose the truth about corrupt activities by high officials, in such cases can the secret service agents, get rid of him, & get away with it?

If a millionaire has a psychiatric disorder, can his relatives, stage a suicide to hasten the inheritance of his wealth?

Can the police, cover up the death of an inmate, due to torture, as a case of suicide?

Can an influential politician who sexploited a young mentally challenged child, stage a suicide, to cover up the crime?

 If a doctor was barbarically harassed by other doctors, & the truth about this gets out, can the other doctors stage a suicide to save face?

A staged crime scene involves deliberate alteration of evidence by the offender to simulate events that did not occur for the purpose of misleading authorities. Features of staged suicides included: weapon arrangement and simulating self-injury to the victim; rearranging the body; and removing valuables. 1

In 1998, Mallach and Pollak, studied homicides staged and hanging suicides. Even though they believed staged suicides were rare, these authors suppose that many occurrences were reported in the German literature. The case Mallach and Pollak reviewed was that of a 23-year-old man who killed his 58-year old father by strangling him with an electric cable until the son thought his father was dead. Then the son created a hanging noose, tied it to a staircase handrail, and hanged his father from there. Upon autopsy, the medical examiner’s findings disputed the cause of death by hanging idea because the congestion in the victim’s face along with head injuries were inconsistent with death by hanging. The victim had both a horizontal ligature mark and a noose mark and blood was seen at the scene as well in a location inconsistent with a hanging death. Mallak and Pollak stressed the importance of intricate medical examination when a body is recovered by what appears to be death by hanging.2

Additionally , Adair and Dobersen (1999) argued that investigators rarely encounter a homicide staged as suicide but that most homicides if staged as suicide involve a firearm. Interestingly the second part of their opinion is supported by Ferguson’s (2011) findings that firearms are the most utilized weapons in staged suicide.2

Hazelwood and Napier (2004) conducted a survey study entitled Crime Scene Staging and Its Detection. Hazelwood and Napier argued that crime scene staging is a recognized phenomenon and that the frequency of crime staging is more common than is reported.2

 

Truth is always strange, stranger than fiction.”-Lord Byron

According to the WHO statistics each year approximately one million people die from suicide, which represents a global mortality rate of 16 people per 100,000, or one death every 40 seconds. The statistics also state that nearly 30% of all suicides worldwide occur in India & China.

Now how many of these suicides could be staged?

If we go by what Hazelwood & Napier concluded, staged suicides could be under reported. For example, if the victim is a psychiatric patient, it would be easier to assume he committed suicide. Psychiatrists will be more than ready with their statistics stating how often their patients are likely to commit suicide!!

In political murders (especially in corrupt countries like India), it is easier to get rid of evidence, bribe the Forensic expert, & create false evidence as well!! Bribe the media, & if needed a false case of harassment against some acquaintance of the person, which resulted in ‘the suicide’, can also be fabricated!!

Custodial torture causing death of an inmate, by police, can be easily fabricated to mimic a suicide. The investigating officer can (& most probably will) support the conclusion that the inmate committed suicide! There was a Human Rights Watch article which clearly stated that at present deaths in police custody, in India, go unpunished!!3

Needless to mention that a dissident, who is targeted by the government will be declared to have committed suicide, or claimed to be found dead ‘under suspicious circumstances’!!

 So the questions remain…How do we confirm, if a suicide was staged or not?? How should provisions for repeat autopsy be modified in possible homicides staged as suicides?

References

  1. Staged Homicides: An Examination of Common Features of Faked Burglaries, Suicides, Accidents and Car Accidents, Journal of Police & Criminal Psychology,Sep 2015, volume 30,issue 3,pp 139-157

 2. Crime Scene Staging Dynamics in Homicide Cases By Laura Gail Pettler

3. https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/12/19/india-killings-police-custody-go-unpunished

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