Slater and Subramanyam: An autopsy study on injuries in homicidal deaths due to weapons


Introduction

According to United Nations’s global study on 'homicide', it is defined as the intentional act of taking another person’s life, not including killings that occur within warfare and other such conflicts.1 One of the earliest study conducted on the psychology of homicide has defined criminal homicide as a collective transaction, in which an offender, victim and possibly an audience engage in an interchange which leaves the victim dead,2 but how these transactions were at times organized and not so in other cases remains a puzzle. Studying the characteristics of these transactions, which varies from region to region always helps to throw light on the pattern of homicides. India, a land of union with diverse culture has recorded 28, 918 cases of murder in the year 2019 with disputes as the main motive of most of the homicide cases followed by personal vendetta or enmity as second most cause of homicides as per the National Crime Record Bureau.3 With ever growing rate of homicidal cases in a developing country like India, studies on various characteristic features of homicide helps the forensic experts as well as the law investigating officers to interpret the injuries and the pattern of homicide with confidence. Thus the present study was conducted to explore the types of injuries, type of weapon and anatomical region of the victim affected and to compare them with the demographic profile of the victims.

Materials and Methods

This is a retrospective cross-sectional study conducted at a tertiary care center in Pondicherry. The study included all homicide cases autopsied in the hospital where a definite weapon was used. Autopsied cases between 2004 to 2019 were taken. It excluded suspected burn cases of dowry death, suspected homicidal poisonings and cases with advanced decomposition changes, obliterating the injuries. The data was obtained from police inquest and post-mortem reports. In each case, the injuries were studied and categorized according to its type; thereby the type of weapon used in each case was documented. The anatomical distribution of the injuries was also studied and analyzed. Various attributes like fatal injuries, type of weapon used, and anatomical distribution of fatal injuries were analyzed and correlated with age and gender of the victim. The study was conducted after approval of Institutional research and ethics committees.

Results

Out of 2556 cases autopsied in the study period, 74 (2.89%) cases were homicide cases with weapon. Male victims outnumbered female victims with a ratio of 4:1 (Figure 1). The commonest age group is 21 years to 30 years (37.84%). (Figure 2). On analyzing the region affected, 88% of victims had injuries in their head, followed by 53% on neck and various other regions as shown in Table 1. It was also observed that 78% of victims had injuries in more than one region and only 22% of victims had injuries involving only one anatomical region.

Figure 1

Gender wise distribution of homicide cases in the present study

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Figure 2

Age group wise distribution of the homicide cases in the present study

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On analyzing the type of injuries, majority of victims had chop injuries (48%) among the sharp force weapon induced injuries followed by abrasions (40%) among blunt force weapon induced injuries as tabulated in Table 2. On analyzing the type of weapon, it was found that in 59.45% of cases more than one type of weapon was used and in 40.54% cases single type of weapon was used. Among the type of weapons, sharp weapon and pointed weapon were used in most of the cases (64.86% & 27.03% respectively) as shown in Table 3. On analyzing the gender with choice of weapon, it was found that majority of male victims had sharp force weapon induced injuries and most of the female victims had blunt force weapon induced injuries as shown in Figure 3. Age group wise choice of weapon was also analyzed and tabulated as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 3

Gender wise choice of weapon of the homicide cases in the present study

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Figure 4

Age group wise choice of weapon of the homicide cases in the present study

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Table 1

Region wise distribution of injuries among the homicide cases

Region

Number of cases

Percentage

Head

65

87.84%

Neck

39

52.70%

Chest

27

36.49%

Abdomen

20

27.03%

Upper limb

43

58.11%

Lower limb

23

31.08%

Table 2

Various modes of injury among the homicide cases

Type of Injuries

Number of cases

Percentage

Abrasion

30

40.54%

Contusion

26

35.14%

Laceration

28

37.84%

Incision

12

16.22%

Stab

20

27.03%

Chop

36

48.65%

Table 3

Type of weapon among the homicide cases

Type of Weapons

Number of cases

Percentage

Sharp

48

64.86%

Pointed

20

27.03%

Blunt

49

66.22%

Discussion

During the present study period, a total of 2556 cases of unnatural deaths were autopsied. Out of which 74 were homicide deaths by weapon accounting for 2.89%. The frequency of homicide cases in other studies conducted at various other parts of India showed the homicide rate to vary from 4% to 7%.4, 5, 6, 7 Low incidence of homicides rate was documented in studies conducted at Nigeria- 3.1%,8 South Carolina, USA - 5.9%.9 High incidence of homicide cases (23%) were reported by studies conducted by Rajeev Kumar in Varanasi, India10 and in a study conducted on Turkish population (21%).11 In our study a rate of homicide of 2.89% was recorded, which is lower than in other studies as we have included only homicide cases where weapon was used.

In the present study male victims accounted for 81% and female victims accounted for 19% with a ratio of 4:1. This observation is similar to most of the studies where male victims outnumbered females in a ratio of 3:14, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13 to 5:1.14 Highest male preponderance of 95% was also reported in a Brazilian study.15 The reason for less preponderance in female victims are mainly due to the socio cultural restriction prevailing in various parts of India and in other parts of the world which rarely involves females in violent behavior and on the other hand males are mostly involved in law breaking activities.

In the present study the commonest age group of victims is 21-30 years (37.84%) followed by 31-40 years (21.62%). This is similar to various other studies conducted in India4, 5, 7 and in studies conducted at adjoining Asian countries like Pakistan,16, 17 Malaysia18, 19 Sri Lanka20 and in studies conducted from Nigeria, 8 Turkey,11 South Africa,21 Ireland.22 This homogeny in young individuals being victims of homicide all over the world could be due to vivacious mind-set of risk taking and aggressive behavior of them as they are at the prime of their physical health.

In our present study on analyzing the region of victim affected, it was found that 78% of cases have fatal injuries in more than one region and 22% of cases have fatal injuries in only one region. This observation was similar to studies conducted by Behera et al.4 Shivkumar et al,5 Mohanty et al,7 Gupta, S. and Prajapati13 and in Study conducted at Nigeria8 and South Africa.21 Most of the victims having fatal injuries at more than one region show the firm intention of the assailant to kill the victim. Among the various regions, fatal injuries were present in head and neck in 88% and 52% respectively. This finding is similar to studies conducted by Vij et al,14 Buchade and Mohite.23 Chest region was commonly involved in studies conducted at Delhi and Pakistan17 where firearm injuries on chest were observed. These observations show that head, neck, and chest are considered as vital areas by the assailants and striking at these regions make certain of victim being killed with maximum assurance.

On analyzing the injuries in our study, 65% of victims had more than one type of injuries and 35% of victims had only one type of injuries. Injuries produced by sharp and pointed weapons (chop wound 36%, incised wound 12% and stab wound 20%) were present in 68% of victims, whereas injuries produced by blunt weapon (Abrasions 30%, Laceration 28% and contusion 26%) were seen in 49% of victims. In 44% of cases injuries with both types of weapons were found. These findings are similar to studies conducted by Shivkumar et al,5 Mohanty et al,6 Padmaraj et al,24 Gupta et al,12 Vij et al.14 and in studies conducted at Malaysia,18 Ireland22 and in Canada.25 Firearm induced injuries were the commonest type in studies published from certain parts of India4, 6, 10, 13 and in studies conducted in other countries like Pakistan,16, 17 Nigeria8 and in Turkey.11 The choice of weapon in most cases being sharp cutting weapon shows the easy availability of weapons in the study region and also the culture of non-availability of firearms.

On analyzing the type of weapon, it was found that, majority of injuries in male victims (72%) were produced by sharp weapons, whereas majority of injuries in female victims (57%) were produced by blunt weapons. These findings were similar to a study conducted by Behera et al.4 where the sharp weapon induced injuries were common among males, followed by injuries with firearms and blunt weapon injuries being common among female victims. On further analyzing the choice of weapon with age groups, in extremes of ages (i.e.) below 10 years (100%) and above 60 years (62.5%), majority of injuries were found to be blunt weapon induced, whereas in middle age groups the majority of injuries were sharp weapons induced. Very few studies have compared the age group with the choice of weapon.4, 26, 27 The study conducted by Behera et al. also found similar findings with sharp weapons and firearm induced injuries in adult age groups and blunt weapon induced injuries and asphyxial injuries in extremes of ages. In a study conducted at Bangkok, Thailand,26 firearm injuries was commonly noted in all age groups. Also, a study conducted among child homicide cases in Leeds27 revealed that blunt force injuries were most commonly present followed by asphyxial injuries.

Conclusion

On analyzing the homicidal transaction happened in this region of the country, it was found that the male victims outnumbered female victims with young adult age group of 21 to 30 years being the most victimized age group. The type of injuries and thereby the type of weapons used also varied with each age group. Though multiple anatomical regions were involved in most of the cases, the anatomical region head was most targeted region in majority of the victims. It was also observed that the type of injuries and choice of weapon also varied in accordance with the gender and age of the victims. This study has its own limitations as it was confined to very small area, and it has not included homicidal cases with suspected history.

Source of Funding

None.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

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Article History

Received : 21-08-2021

Accepted : 01-09-2021

Available online : 18-09-2021


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https://doi.org/10.18231/j.ijfcm.2021.032


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