Homicide in Denmark 1992-2016

Research output: Book/anthology/dissertation/reportPh.D. thesisResearch

The dissertation concerns the manner of death “homicide” as seen from the perspective of forensic medicine. In three studies, homicides are approached going from a broad overview of all homicide methods (Study I) to a narrow focus on the findings in the group of homicide victims killed by sharp force trauma (Study II) and how developments in medical treatment have impacted the group of victims killed with stab wounds (Study III). The studies are based on autopsy reports of homicide victims killed in Denmark during 1992-2016.

Study I: Homicide in general
1,417 homicide victims were included. The most common homicide methods were sharp force trauma (33.2%), gunshots (22.2%), blunt force trauma (21.9%) and asphyxia (17.6%). There was a significant decrease in the annual number of homicides in all the four most common homicide methods and for homicidal events with single and multiple victims during the period. Two thirds of the victims were male, while nine in ten offenders were male. There were clear differences between male and female victims, with a large proportion of female victims killed in a family setting and a large proportion of male victims killed by a friend/acquaintance in the setting of nightlife/intoxication.

Study II: Sharp Force Homicide
471 homicide victims were killed by sharp force trauma, the most common homicide method. Most sharp force homicides occurred inside, often committed with a kitchen knife. Female victims had more sharp force wounds, stab wounds and defense wounds than male victims. There were clear differences in the number of injuries between various homicide types and thereby between male and female victims. The thorax was the most commonly injured region, often with injuries to the lungs and heart.

Study III: Stab wounds and better treatment
428 homicide victims died from stab wounds. The decrease in the annual number of stab wound homicides only affected victims with a single stab wound and not victims with multiple stab wounds. The victims of single stab wound homicides differed from victims of multiple stab wound homicides in the severity of injuries, level of treatment and survival time. Despite the decrease in single stab wound homicides, the survival time has increased from the first to the last half of the period and the proportion of victims undergoing surgery before dying has tripled. This indicates that faster and better medical treatment could be responsible for the decrease in single stab wound homicides and thus possibly for the decrease in stab wound homicides in general.
The three studies demonstrate that homicide epidemiology is ever changing and follows general developments in society. The broad overview (Study I) will hopefully serve as a spark for further specific studies in forensic medicine, as well as a basis for policy development related to interpersonal violence. The specific studies of homicides by sharp force trauma (Study II and III) should serve as a reference in death investigations and daily autopsy work, but also as a link to understanding the underlying factors that direct the broader homicide statistics.
Translated title of the contributionDrab i Danmark 1992-2016
Original languageEnglish
Place of publicationAarhus
PublisherAarhus Universitet
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

    Research areas

  • homicide, forensic medicine

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