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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 60  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 122-125  

An autopsy study of pattern and yearly trend of homicide in Warri, Nigeria

1 Department of Pathology, Igbinedion University, Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria
2 Department of Morbid Anatomy/Histopathology, Delta State University Teaching Hospital, Delta State University, Abraka, Nigeria
3 Department of Morbid Anatomy/Histopathology, Central Hospital, Sapele, Delta State, Nigeria

Date of Web Publication21-Aug-2019

Correspondence Address:
Obiora Jude Uchendu
Delta State University Teaching Hospital, Delta State University, Abraka, Delta State
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/nmj.NMJ_142_18

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Background: Homicide is a common cause of unnatural death and an index of the level of security of the state. The aim of this study was to analyze all autopsied unnatural homicide cases in Warri, Nigeria from 2003 to 2016 with emphasis on age, sex, regional distribution of injury, and circumstance of death. Materials and Methods: Six hundred and seventy-four cases were studied and relevant information extracted from police and autopsy records. These information were analyzed using SPSS 21. Results: Unnatural homicide cases accounted for 69.1% of 975 medicolegal deaths autopsied in this region, with a male to female distribution of 14:1. The mean age of the victims was 33.2 years with the highest incidence occurring in the 3rd decade. Firearms, sharp weapons, blunt weapons, suffocation, and burning were the methods used in 426 (63.2%), 162 (24.0%), 73 (10.8%), 11 (1.7%), and 2 (0.3%) cases, respectively. The chest, the head, and the neck were the most common parts of the body affected representing 275 (40.8%), 162 (24%), and 52 (7.7%) of cases. Conclusion: Unnatural death as a result of homicide is very common in the study area and mainly perpetrated using firearms and sharps with young males being the most vulnerable age group. The head, chest, and neck are more commonly affected regions of the body.

Keywords: Autopsy, cause of death, firearm, homicide, injury

How to cite this article:
Nwachokor NF, Uchendu OJ, Ijomone EA. An autopsy study of pattern and yearly trend of homicide in Warri, Nigeria. Niger Med J 2019;60:122-5

How to cite this URL:
Nwachokor NF, Uchendu OJ, Ijomone EA. An autopsy study of pattern and yearly trend of homicide in Warri, Nigeria. Niger Med J [serial online] 2019 [cited 2021 May 13];60:122-5. Available from: https://www.nigeriamedj.com/text.asp?2019/60/3/122/264955

   Introduction Top

According to Black's law dictionary, the act of killing one person by another (whether lawful or unlawful) is called homicide. Lawful homicide includes death inflicted in the cause of defending the security of a nation, state mandate execution, death associated with arrest, self or property defense. Unlawful homicide includes murder, manslaughter, suicide, and infanticide.[1]

The incidence of homicide is highly variable across countries with a global incidence of about 6.2/100,000 in the year 2012, 31% of the cases occurring in Africa.[2] These reports are however not homogeneous across Africa due to the inherent data deficit, as most of these mortalities are attributed to South African data.[2]

The relatively high homicide rate in Africa is attributed to decades of political violence, inequality, organized crime and gangs, armed robbery, food insecurity, economic instability, unemployment, and poor implementation of the rule of law.[2],[3]

The consequences of homicide are legion. The potential years lost, economic cost, posttraumatic stress disorders, and insecurity are some consequences.[4] The homicide rate in a region is also an index of the level of security in the state under investigation.[3],[5]

Nationally, there is a paucity of centralized information on the profile of homicides with pockets of data arising from hospital-based data autopsy studies in different regions of the country. This study is the first of its kind in Warri, the commercial capital of Delta state and is focused on the yearly trend and pattern of unlawful homicides in this region.

   Materials and Methods Top

The authors have been responsible for providing autopsy services in Warri and surrounding communities in the 14 years (January 1, 2003–December 31, 2016) covered by this study. These autopsies were performed in the various government and private mortuaries in this region, following authorization by the coroner.

Information such as gender, age, type of weapon used, and injury pattern were extracted from the autopsy reports and police records of all murder and manslaughter cases in Warri, Delta State. The information, in addition to the yearly trend, was subsequently analyzed using IBM Corp. Released in 2012. IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows, Version 21.0. (Armonk, New York, USA). The results of the analysis are presented in tables and charts.

Prior to this study, the approval to carry out this research was obtained from the Ethical Clearance Committee of Central Hospital, Warri (Reference number: CHW/ECC VOL1/12).

   Results Top

Six hundred and seventy-four unlawful homicide cases were encountered in this study, accounting for 69.1% of the 975 medicolegal autopsies performed in that region during the study. This represents a mean incidence of about four cases monthly. The detail of yearly distribution is shown in [Table 1].
Table 1: Yearly trend of unlawful homicides in Warri, Nigeria

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The gender and age distribution of homicide victims is shown in [Table 2]. The victims consist of 629 (93.3%) males and 45 (6.7%) females representing a male:female ratio of about 14:1. The mean age of the victims is 32.2 years. Most victims were in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th decades of their lives representing 33.2%, 31.2%, and 15.7% of the cases, respectively.
Table 2: Age and sex distribution of homicide victims in Warri

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The weapons of executing these homicide cases are shown in [Table 3]. Firearms, sharp weapons, blunt weapons, suffocation, and burning were the methods used in 426 (63.2%), 162 (24.0%), 73 (10.8%), 11 (1.7%), and 2 (0.3%) cases, respectively.
Table 3: Age and methods of homicide in Warri

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The body parts wounded is shown in [Table 4]. The chest, the head, and the neck were the most common parts of the body affected, representing 275 (40.8%), 162 (24%), and 52 (7.7%) of cases, respectively. The involvement of multiple regions of the body was seen in 42 (6.2%) cases.
Table 4: Regional distribution of injuries among homicide victims

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   Discussion Top

Our study showed that unlawful homicides are relatively common in this region, accounting for 69.1% of medicolegal deaths. Earlier studies from other parts of Nigeria show that homicide accounts for 3.1%–45.3% of medicolegal autopsies.[6],[7],[8],[9],[10] The relatively higher rate in the index study may be attributed to the effects of decades of oil exploration, political violence, militancy, inequality, rapid urbanization and the increasing rate of unemployment, armed robbery, and kidnapping.[11]

We also observed a marked gender discrepancy among homicide victims with an M: F ratio of 14:1. There is a general observation of male dominance among homicide victims globally, with an M: F ratio of about 4:1.[2] In other parts of Nigeria, the M: F ratio for homicide victims ranges from as low as 3:1 in Benin city to as high as 16:1 in Kano and Jos.[3],[7],[8],[10] The relatively higher M:F ratio in the Northern part of Nigeria (Jos/Kano) may be related to Islamic religious practice associated with a lower level of female engagement in the labor force or outdoor activity that may expose them to homicide-related risk factors.[12] The overall polarized male involvement in outdoor activity, drug and substance abuse, involvement in crimes, the patriarchal family system, and gangsterism are attributes that may account for the predominance of male victims in this region,[11] while the sociocultural norms and preference of females for indoor activities tend to be protective of the female gender.[13]

Our study also shows that majority of the male and female victims were youths, with about 72% of them being below the age of 40 years. This is in consonance with other reporters both locally and globally.[2],[7],[14] The peak incidence corresponded with the 3rd and 4th decades for females and males, respectively, and the 3rd decade for all the victims combined. The earlier peak for the females may be attributed to the age-related sexual, economic, and psychological attractiveness of the victims as targets of homicide.

Firearm was observed as the most common means of homicide victimization in this study, accounting for 63.2% of the cases. This observation was also shared by Akhiwu in Benin City,[7] Obiorah in Port Harcourt,[14] and Eze in Ibadan.[10] In some publications, especially in the Northern part of the country, however, sharp weapons were predominantly used.[14],[15],[16],[17] From these observations, it can be concluded that firearms are the preferred choice in the southern part of the country while sharp weapons are more common modes in the Northern part of the country. Carriage of daggers is common in the Northern Nigeria, predisposing to its use in offensive and defensive situations.[3] By the same analogy, this underscores the ready availability of small arms, especially in the southern part of the country. By and large, the fatality of the injury caused and the efficiency of the health-care system are two important factors that determine the outcome of homicide attempt.[3] Decades of militancy and oil reserve control in the Niger Delta, cultism, armed robbery, assassination, kidnapping, and ominous health-care system will be blamed for the trend in this region.

The most common anatomic locations affected by penetrative firearm injury were the chest and the head accounting for 195 (46.9%) and 92 (21.6%) cases. The chest and the neck were the most common targets for sharps, accounting for 76 (46.9%) and 30 (18.5%) cases, respectively. With respect to blunt trauma-related homicides, injuries affected the head or multiple regions in 42 (57.5%) and 26 (35.6%) cases, respectively. In general, the fatality of these injuries may be related to the extent of vascular trauma which correlates strongly with the extent of blood loss; and the importance of the organs to the victim's survival.

   Conclusion Top

This study has shown that homicide was mainly perpetrated using firearms and sharps with young males being the most vulnerable age group. The head, chest, and neck were the more commonly affected regions of the body. Injury lethality, weapon availability, as well as the degree of efficiency of the health-care system, are variables that determine the outcome of these cases.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Garner BA. Black's Law Dictionary. 8th ed.. St. Paul Minesota: West Publishing Co.; 2004. p. 751.  Back to cited text no. 1
United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime. Global Study on Homicide. United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime; 2013. Available from: http://www.unodc.org/documents/gsh/pdfs/2014_GLOBAL_HOMICIDE_BOOK_web.pdf. [Last retrieved on 2019 Jun 08].  Back to cited text no. 2
Obiorah CC, Atanda AT. Influence of socio-cultural factors on homicide: The Nigeria case study. J Forensic Res 2013;4:186.  Back to cited text no. 3
Stafford M, Chandola T, Marmot M. Association between fear of crime and mental health and physical functioning. Am J Public Health 2007;97:2076-81.  Back to cited text no. 4
Bhupinder S, Kumara TK, Syed AM. Pattern of homicidal deaths autopsied at Penang hospital, Malaysia, 2007-2009: A preliminary study. Malays J Pathol 2010;32:81-6.  Back to cited text no. 5
Amakiri CN, Akang EE, Aghadiuno PU, Odesanmi WO. A prospective study of coroner's autopsies in university college hospital, Ibadan, Nigeria. Med Sci Law 1997;37:69-75.  Back to cited text no. 6
Akhiwu WO, Nwafor CC, Igbe AP. A 20 year retrospective analysis of medicolegal deaths in a tertiary hospital setting in Nigeria. Niger J Clin Pract 2013;16:535-9.  Back to cited text no. 7
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Mandong BM, Manasseh AN, Ugwu BT. Medicolegal autopsies in North central Nigeria. East Afr Med J 2006;83:626-30.  Back to cited text no. 8
Rafindadi AH. A study of sudden medico-legal deaths in Zaria. Niger postgrad Med J1998;5:28-30.  Back to cited text no. 9
Eze UO, Akang EE, Odesanmi WO. Pattern of homicide coroner's autopsies at university college hospital, Ibadan, Nigeria: 1997-2006. Med Sci Law 2011;51:43-8.  Back to cited text no. 10
Uchendu OJ, Nwachokor FN, Ijomone EA. Audit of medico legal death in Metropolitan city of Warri, Nigeria. Int J Forensic Med Invest 2017;3:29-37.  Back to cited text no. 11
Dogan NK. Gender inequality in muslim majority countries: Myths versus facts. Acta Oecon 2016;66:213.  Back to cited text no. 12
Mohanty S, Mohanty SK, Patnaik KK. Homicide in southern India. A five-year retrospective study. Forensic Med Anat Res 2013;1:18-24.  Back to cited text no. 13
Obiora CC, Amakiri CN. Autopsy study of traumatic/violent deaths in rivers state of Nigeria. Port Harcourt Med J 2014;8:40-9.  Back to cited text no. 14
Mohammed AZ, Mandong BM, Manasseh AN. A review of 101 homicide cases in Jos, Nigeria. Niger Postgrad Med J 2003;10:13-5.  Back to cited text no. 15
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Emovon AC, Lambo TA. A survey of criminal homicide in Nigeria. Scand J Soc Med 1978;6:55-8.  Back to cited text no. 16
Fatoye FO, Eegunranti BA, Fatoye GK, Amoo G, Omoaregba JO, Ibigbami IO. Socio-demographic and offence-related characteristics of homicide offenders in a Nigerian prison. East Afr Med J 2001;78:35-9.  Back to cited text no. 17


  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4]


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