Murder-suicides involving children: a 29-year study

Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 1999 Dec;20(4):323-7. doi: 10.1097/00000433-199912000-00002.


Review was undertaken from February 1969 to January 1998 at the State forensic science center (Forensic Science) in Adelaide, South Australia, of all cases of murder-suicide involving children <16 years of age. A total of 13 separate cases were identified involving 30 victims, all of whom were related to the perpetrators. There were 7 male and 6 female perpetrators (age range, 23-41 years; average, 31 years) consisting of 6 mothers, 6 father/husbands, and 1 uncle/son-in-law. The 30 victims consisted of 11 daughters, 11 sons, 1 niece, 1 mother-in-law, and 6 wives of the assailants. The 23 children were aged from 10 months to 15 years (average, 6.0 years). The 6 mothers murdered 9 children and no spouses, with 3 child survivors. The 6 fathers murdered 13 children and 6 wives, with 1 child survivor. This study has demonstrated a higher percentage of female perpetrators than other studies of murder-suicide. The methods of homicide and suicide used were generally less violent among the female perpetrators compared with male perpetrators. Fathers killed not only their children but also their wives, whereas mothers murdered only their children. These results suggest differences between murder-suicides that involve children and adult-only cases, and between cases in which the mother rather than the father is the perpetrator.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Fathers
  • Female
  • Forensic Anthropology
  • Homicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Mothers
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • South Australia / epidemiology
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*