Fatal fires: fire-associated homicide in Australia, 1990-2005

30 Aug 2007

The use of fire in homicide is a particularly heinous crime, involving burning of the victim before or after death. It is thought to be a relatively rare phenomenon and, as such, little is known about its nature and extent in Australia. Over a 16-year period there have been 4,943 homicide incidents in Australia; of these 100 have been identified as fire-associated. Analysis shows that, while homicide trends over this period have declined, the proportion of fire-associated homicides has increased significantly; a trend which has also been observed overseas. The majority of arson homicides occured where fire was a direct weapon used to kill the victim (68%); a further 29 percent involved fire as a secondary element. This report identifies key differences in the characteristics of offenders and victims between these two forms of homicide. The increasing proportion of fire-associated homicide justifies continued monitoring of this phenomenon over time.

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