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View Full Version : If you wanted to fatally stab someone and make it look self-inflicted...



AyJay
06-08-2011, 08:41 AM
What would be the best method?

My work-in-progress is fantasy, set in an ancient type of civilization, so the method doesn't have to pass the scrutiny of modern forensic experts. Just wondering if it's believable to have a fatal wound, say to the heart, be accepted as a desperate suicide attempt.

The murderer is someone regarded as reliable, and he could spin the situation as suicide (no witnesses). The victim is a proud, military sort of man, so--on impulse--I don't think it's a stretch that he would end his life in such a violent way.

I'm aware of the hari-kari method, but that seems like something difficult to simulate for a murderer. Soldiers fall on their swords--so I've heard--but I imagine the positioning has to be just right for a relatively quick death, which this situation requires.

Or does it make more sense for the murderer to slit the victim's throat, if that's easier for a suicidal person to accomplish? The key is for the death happens quickly, and it's a single, fatal wound so the victim doesn't have the ability to cry out for help and thus alert others to what happened.

Thanks in advance for your morbid postulations.
Andy

areteus
06-08-2011, 12:41 PM
You may be more likely to argue accidental death - fell and impaled on some railings, for example.

For suicide, swords are rarely used (Japan being the exception) because they are so unwieldy to use on yourself. Knives are more likely (a dagger to the wrists, for example, or even stabbing in the gut or between the ribs - though that is hard to argue as suicide and would therefore look suspicious). It all depends really on how suspicious the investigators are - how willing are they to simply beleive the easy story and let it go? Are they a bunch of Lestrades or a bunch of Sherlock Holmes?

Slitting throat is also hard to do yourself... think about the angles involved. Why make it difficult to do an already difficult thing?

Now, to my mind, unless there has already been a murder involving a stabbing (say they got in to an argument, there was a scuffle, a knife comes out...) and they are trying to cover it up you would not use this method to fake a suicide (unless there is already a cultural thing involving that - in which case, being stabbed with your culturally important suicide weapon is more likely to be taken as suicide than murder).

AyJay
06-08-2011, 04:09 PM
Thanks Areteus!

My first choice is the murderer stabs the victim with a dagger, between the ribs, and I'm thinking I could work in some foreshadowing that people in this culture (being militaristic) know how to kill others (and themselves) that way.

The murder does happen during an argument, a confrontation which--if it went another way, the murderer wouldn't have struck--so it was premeditated but 'on the fly' at the same time.

I guess it's ultimately up to readers to decide if I render the situation decently, but besides the victim being a man of political/social importance, there are circumstances that would make his desperate act of guilt/contrition believable. And he has political enemies who benefit from his death, and there's not much time, nor the man power (and no Sherlock Holmes) for an extensive investigation.

PinkAmy
06-08-2011, 04:49 PM
Stabbing yourself to death with one stab in the torso is really unlikely, because of the angle your arm would have to be and most people would probably balk before or on impact.

skylark
06-08-2011, 05:00 PM
What would be the best method?

My work-in-progress is fantasy, set in an ancient type of civilization, so the method doesn't have to pass the scrutiny of modern forensic experts. Just wondering if it's believable to have a fatal wound, say to the heart, be accepted as a desperate suicide attempt.

The murderer is someone regarded as reliable, and he could spin the situation as suicide (no witnesses). The victim is a proud, military sort of man, so--on impulse--I don't think it's a stretch that he would end his life in such a violent way.

I'm aware of the hari-kari method, but that seems like something difficult to simulate for a murderer. Soldiers fall on their swords--so I've heard--but I imagine the positioning has to be just right for a relatively quick death, which this situation requires.

Or does it make more sense for the murderer to slit the victim's throat, if that's easier for a suicidal person to accomplish? The key is for the death happens quickly, and it's a single, fatal wound so the victim doesn't have the ability to cry out for help and thus alert others to what happened.

Thanks in advance for your morbid postulations.
Andy

If he stabbed the guy in the heart and then manipulated the body to fall face down, for instance putting his hands on the hilt of the dagger/whatever, it might look like an awkward way to commit suicide but it would look as if that was what he had done.

Cathy C
06-08-2011, 05:08 PM
Actually, PinkAmy, it happened fairly recently. It was profiled in an episode of "Dr. G: Medical Examiner". A man stabbed himself to death in his kitchen in front of his son. It's episode #7.1 called "Wounded." (http://www.tv.com/dr.-g-medical-examiner/wounded/episode/1358546/summary.html) The son was accused of murder but insisted it was suicide. It would be really good for you to watch the episode, AyJay, because it gives some great insights into wound position and the investigation of the death. Even in historicals, it's always good for the investigators to be smart. Healers who dealt with stab wounds every day from swordplay would be able to outthink the ordinary layman. :)

sk3erkrou
06-08-2011, 05:21 PM
You may be more likely to argue accidental death - fell and impaled on some railings, for example.

For suicide, swords are rarely used (Japan being the exception) because they are so unwieldy to use on yourself. Knives are more likely (a dagger to the wrists, for example, or even stabbing in the gut or between the ribs - though that is hard to argue as suicide and would therefore look suspicious).

Actually, in Japanese culture, when a samurai would kill himself, they would use a long knife to disembowel themselves, and then someone else would use a sword to cut their head off. I would definitely say that they should use a knife rather than a sword. Depending on the fighting style, many people would carry a dagger with the sword. If the character carries a rapier, they would either have a buckler (small shield) or dagger for defense.

AyJay
06-09-2011, 04:39 AM
Great lead, Cathy. I will check it out.

PinkAmy - I agree, it sounds intuitively far-fetched to me, which is why I put the situation out there for reactions.

But, as a minor plot point, I'm going to play around with the scene and see if it feels like I can get away with it. The thing is: the murderer is the last person to see the victim alive, and he reports the "suicide" immediately, and there's no reason to believe he would be lying, so...

HarryHoskins
06-09-2011, 06:04 AM
Ask Elliott Smith.

Stoneghost
06-09-2011, 08:32 AM
It is easy to slit your own throat or kill yourself with a stomach wound if you know where to hit and most importantly if you have the right type of blade. The most important factor in this the type of knife.

A short single edge knife could easily be used to slit ones throat holding the back of the knife to the thumb. Conversely killing someone with the same knife would probably require the knife to be held backhand to produce the same wound effect.

Similarly, any blade or broad blade in the gut, slightly to the left side of the body, would cut the descending aorta, a non-broad blade would need to moved once initially penetrated. That can be hard to do, but not necessarily. Once again this depends on the type of blade, a longer sharper blade you could kill yourself with a gut strike with a flick of your wrist. In something like seppeku with a shorter blade they put the knife in and then moved it. That was difficult and not everyone could do it as I understand it anyways. Killing someone and making it look self inflicted here would be more difficult, but I would assume the easiest way would be with a broad blade (like a kitchen knife) that didn't require lateral movement to hit the aorta.

Falling on ones sword refers to the Roman method of suicide for legionaries who would place their gladius on the ground fact up, usually holding it, and then pull themselves down on it either into their descending aorta in the guy or through their mouth, soft palette and into their brain. Murdering someone with the former I would imagine would be quite difficult since the angle one kills with a gladius is very different than the angle one would kill ones self. Keep in mind a gladius is so short it is by some classifications a knife, not a sword.

I think the biggest problem with your conceptualization of the problem, and most others based on their answers, if that you don't really understand how easy it is to move through soft tissue with sharp metal when you're trying to hurt someone and have even a basic concept of how to strike. Flesh won't offer much resistance, it would be like cutting through squishy air. It is that ease of transit of hard metal through soft flesh that you would need to communicate to make it believable.

mirandashell
06-09-2011, 10:20 PM
How about the femoral artery in the thigh? That would be easy to cut, wouldn't it? And you bleed out pretty quickly.

Bufty
06-09-2011, 10:28 PM
Stab them, then impale the body on a stake embedded in the ground so the stake enters or exits the stab wound. No? Ah well.

mscelina
06-09-2011, 10:32 PM
My best thought on this?

Grab the other person's arm and slice their wrist--up and down, not across. That's such a standard suicide method that no one would really question it. Then, restrain the other person until they lose consciousness and give his other wrist the same treatment.

Nivarion
06-09-2011, 10:34 PM
How about the femoral artery in the thigh? That would be easy to cut, wouldn't it? And you bleed out pretty quickly.

If the guy keeps his weapon sharp enough, and it has enough weight it is *possible* that he'd have cut that fatally.

That one spurts blood, the killer would have to be careful or he might leave tracks. Just takes a single boot print not belonging to the victim.

I had a friend who got a job as a cutco knives salesperson. They boast insane sharpness of their knives, and indeed they have them.

However, as far as effectiveness of use goes, my knives did all of tests they had trained him to show with similar and in one case better results.

About that moment I was holding one and commented that I did not like the handles and thought they were too slick, which could lead to dropping.

Of course, I had just washed my hands at this point, and dropped it. Cut me to the bone in two fingers of my left hand, and gave me a decent gash through my pants above the knee. My fingers still hurt sometimes.

Needless to say, I did not buy the knife, but the anecdote here was shared to say, had that knife, or one of mine, gotten me on the inside of the leg with a full on blow like that It *could* have cut the femoral.

If I panicked and didn't know what to do, lived alone and didn't own a phone it is likely* I could bleed out from that wound.

A lot of uncertainty in it actually happening though. Humans are astoundingly resilient for all the things that kill us.

AmsterdamAssassin
06-10-2011, 12:47 AM
Hara-kiri is not the official name, but a description: kiri means slashing and hara is the center of the body, located about two fingers under the belly button. The official name is 'seppuku'. For 'seppuku', a samourai would need permission from his liege lord, who could grant permission or order the samurai to live on in shame.

If you bury a sword with the handle/grip in the ground and the tip sticking up, you can drop yourself on the tip to kill yourself.

WriteKnight
06-10-2011, 02:55 AM
Just to think outside the paradigm of blades and blood letting - what about suicide by hanging? Creep up behind the victim and garrote them. Then hang their body from a branch or railing? Requires more forethought- might need to bring a rope or spot a curtain sash - but there's no blood. It's 'silent', and hard for a non-modern forensics to distinguish.

Just a thought.

AyJay
06-10-2011, 03:54 AM
Wow. Such great morbid ideas. I'm frightened a bit by what I started.

Hanging or wrist-slashing do make more sense. I don't feel like my villain has time to do them, since--as mentioned above--it's an impulsive kill.

So I'll try to write the stabbing first. Since this is fantasy, there's also a magical element: the blade could be cursed to be more fatal. So that helps on one hand, I think, since the murderer doesn't have to hit a vital organ precisely. On the other hand, to look like suicide, not magic, it should approximate a deadly self-inflicted wound.

If that doesn't feel right, I could go the shove-off-the-balcony route. The downside with that is: how could the murderer be certain the fall would be fatal? Unless I drastically change the scene location, the only available fall is maybe 50 or so feet.

Quentin Nokov
06-10-2011, 04:35 AM
Stabbing yourself to death with one stab in the torso is really unlikely, because of the angle your arm would have to be and most people would probably balk before or on impact.

If I might also note: gut wounds are slow killers. It takes infection to kill you unless you hit the renal (?) artery. There's a major artery somewhere in the torso, I'm not sure which it is or where particularly.

Does the victim have to be stabbed. That's my question. Because what if the victim was strangled -- he won't be able to cry out then -- and after death, the murderer makes a deep incision into the wrist, making it look like a suicide?

Bill Conan
06-10-2011, 06:28 AM
I think paying attention to blood spray patterns for stab wounds is important, as well as convincingly putting the murder weapon in the 'victim's hands. Having the character plan an explanation for the blood would help. i.e. impulsive kill, oh my, blood everywhere on me.....but maybe I can pretend to be staunching the wound like a healer would!
One potential problem is that the only bleeding wound which is guaranteed to quickly (less than 5 minutes) make someone dead/unconscious is an injury to carotid artery (neck). In order for someone to lose the ability to verbalize, the blood supply to the brain needs to be cut off. The other bleeding injuries described will certainly cause death....but they take a while.
I'd say you should definitely consider your character restricting the bloodflow/windpipe- if you're worried about your victim crying out, then you need to stop their ability to move air over their vocal chords.

Bill Conan
06-10-2011, 06:35 AM
Does the victim have to be stabbed. That's my question. Because what if the victim was strangled -- he won't be able to cry out then -- and after death, the murderer makes a deep incision into the wrist, making it look like a suicide?

Yeah, without a firearm to blow up the brainstem, faking a suicide becomes much harder eh? Especially since it is quite difficult to cover up evidence of strangulation- garrotes and hands leave pretty strong marks of foul play.

Bill Conan
06-10-2011, 06:41 AM
If that doesn't feel right, I could go the shove-off-the-balcony route. The downside with that is: how could the murderer be certain the fall would be fatal? Unless I drastically change the scene location, the only available fall is maybe 50 or so feet.

Its pretty easy to knock someone out with a blunt object (no worries about them crying out), beat them to death and then throw them off. I think it happens fairly often in crimes of passion too- bash someone's head in, look around in panic and then throw them off- and it works fine if the body is bashed enough at the bottom- then the original foul play injury doesn't stand out. 50 feet does do some very serious damage- and if the scene doesn't look right, the killer can always add in a few more artful bashes/body manipulations.

(gosh this is morbid)

Nivarion
06-10-2011, 10:38 AM
(gosh this is morbid)

You think this is bad? I once helped someone figure out how many meals you could make out of an adult human being.

I was beaten to it, but I did want to mention that if he strangles him its gonna be hard to make it look like suicide. The force it takes to kill by strangulation bruises the throat. A garrote would be better, since it could latter be used to hang the victim.

But as you said, it would be awkward for the character to be carrying one of those.

A 50 foot balcony shove would have a similar effect as being hit by a car at 40 MPH. I'd say that would do the trick.

AmsterdamAssassin
06-10-2011, 12:01 PM
With throwing someone from a balcony, don't think there's nothing for forensics to distinguish between suicide and 'defenestration (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defenestration)'.


Since this is fantasy, there's also a magical element: the blade could be cursed to be more fatal.

In Japan there were two smiths whose swords were almost equal in quality, however, the swords of smith Masamune were considered 'katsujinken', the sword that gives life. The other swords by smith Muramasa were considered 'unlucky'. The way to determine, even without checking the name on the tang, was to plant both swords in a river. Leaves drifting on the surface of the river would glide by the 'lucky' sword, but the 'unlucky' sword would cut the leaves in half.

Here, I found the Wikipedia entry on this legend:

Legends of Masamune and Muramasa

A legend (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legend) tells of a test where Muramasa challenged his master, Masamune, to see who could make a finer sword. They both worked tirelessly and eventually, when both swords were finished, they decided to test the results. The contest was for each to suspend the blades in a small creek with the cutting edge facing the current. Muramasa's sword, the Juuchi Yosamu (10,000 Cold Nights / 十千夜寒) cut everything that passed its way; fish, leaves floating down the river, the very air which blew on it. Highly impressed with his pupil's work, Masamune lowered his sword, the Yawarakai-Te (Tender Hands / 柔らかい手), into the current and waited patiently. Not a leaf was cut, the fish swam right up to it, and the air hissed as it gently blew by the blade. After a while, Muramasa began to scoff at his master for his apparent lack of skill in the making of his sword. Smiling to himself, Masamune pulled up his sword, dried it, and sheathed it. All the while, Muramasa was heckling him for his sword's inability to cut anything. A monk, who had been watching the whole ordeal, walked over and bowed low to the two sword masters. He then began to explain what he had seen.
"The first of the swords was by all accounts a fine sword, however it is a blood thirsty, evil blade, as it does not discriminate as to who or what it will cut. It may just as well be cutting down butterflies as severing heads. The second was by far the finer of the two, as it does not needlessly cut that which is innocent and undeserving." In another account of the story, both blades cut the leaves that went down on the river's current equally well, but the leaves would stick to the blade of Muramasa whereas they would slip on past Masamune's after being sliced. Or alternatively both leaves were cut, but those cut by Masamune's blade would reform as it traveled down the stream. Yet another version has leaves being sliced by Muramasa's blade while the leaves were repelled by Masamune's, and another again has leaves being sliced by Muramasa's blade and healed by Masamune's.
In yet another story Muramasa and Masamune were summoned to make swords for the Shogun (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shogun) or Emperor and the finished swords were held in a waterfall. The result is the same as the other stories, and Masamune's swords are deemed holy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy) swords. In one version of the story Muramasa is killed for creating evil (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil) swords.
While all known legends of the two ever having met are historically impossible, both smiths are widely regarded as symbols for their respective eras.

gan_naire
06-11-2011, 09:00 AM
Just thought I'd add this, while studying Criminal Justice, my teacher told me about one of his first crime scenes was a man who had stabbed himself over 60 times in the torso with an ice pick while sitting in a bathtub. He survived enough to finally slit his wrists to finish himself off.

As for the slitting of the throat, it just seems too far fetched to even try to pull off. Maybe a stab to the throat or something.

Stoneghost
06-12-2011, 12:46 AM
I'm really curious as to why so many people find the idea of silting ones own throat so implausible.

gan_naire
06-12-2011, 01:04 AM
It's not implausible, but if memory serves (which I wouldn't guarantee it with me haha) when someone commits suicide, they either want one or two things; for it to be quick and painless, like a gun or they want to watch themselves die, like slitting their wrists or feel death coming up from having overdosed.

Slitting your own throat ofcourse can be done, but what kind of depressed person wants to do that? Also, with most people that go with suicide, there's still a big fear factor with them. The last thing they want is to suffer through a failed attempt and have to live with the shame and constant reminder.

I was meaning that it seems far fetched to slit your throat simply from the view point of the person doing it. Also, there are two main things nobody wants to experience no matter how much they hate life, being burned and suffocating, also being eaten alive (but that's another subject since it isn't really a suicide). If you slit your throat, you'll suffocate on your own blood and it can be off putting even for a suicide freak.

It also adds to the whole "watching as they die" deal. If they go the route of a slow type suicide, they want to experience it. Hard to do that with a slit throat, where you'd be freaking out more that you couldn't breathe as opposed to bleeding out.

Eggle
07-28-2011, 10:51 AM
AyJay:
It depends on the context - what if it's implied that the victim had temporarily lost their sanity....(no sane, healthy person would attempt suicide anyway)
The murderer could force the victim to write a suicide note at knife-point, or do some other crazy stuff which would lead others to question the victim's sanity. that would make the 'suicide' believable.

Buffysquirrel
07-28-2011, 06:08 PM
The problem for me is that making the murder look like a suicide would be best done if the killer had planned it that way in advance. As you state later in the thread that this is an impulse killing, the chances of it coincidentally looking anything like suicide are pretty small.

If your killer stabs the man on impulse, he could try using a suicide-by-sword setup to cover up his actions. If the sword is larger than the knife blade, if carefully positioned it could destroy surface evidence of the first wound. However, he's still going to have to explain away all the blood on himself.

Bufty
07-28-2011, 07:04 PM
Telling or convincing a victim he's going to die is a pretty good way of making him try to live.


AyJay:
It depends on the context - what if it's implied that the victim had temporarily lost their sanity....(no sane, healthy person would attempt suicide anyway)
The murderer could force the victim to write a suicide note at knife-point, or do some other crazy stuff which would lead others to question the victim's sanity. that would make the 'suicide' believable.