Pathways to homicide: A case linkage analysis of mental health and offending precursors of homicide offenders in Vict


Dr Benjamin Spivak1, Associate Professor Troy McEwan, Dr Margaret Nixon, Dr Henning Hachtel

1Centre for Forensic Behavioural Sciences, Swinburne University of Technology

Homicide is the most serious of violent offences and, while it remains a low frequency offence in Australia, the severe consequences for victims, their families and society overall demands a complete understanding of the antecedents to best inform prevention efforts. Mental Illness and previous criminal behaviour have been studied as antecedents to homicide, however most studies to date have been limited by small sample size and limited detail in the data on mental illness and offending history. This means that the interaction between homicide, prior offending and mental health service contact remains unexamined in any detailed way. Similarly, the best studies to date have been conducted overseas and their findings may not generalise to an Australian context. Improving knowledge regarding the interactions of risk factors and the characteristics of homicide offenders in Victoria can better inform practice guidelines for mental health practitioners, law enforcement personnel, and members of the judiciary. The current paper will report on a recent case linkage study involving all homicides recorded in Victoria between 1st January 1997 to 31st December 2015 and will describe a) the prevalence and nature of mental illness among this cohort; b) the prevalence and nature of previous offending; c) a comparison of factors that differentiate family violence homicides from non-family violence related homicide.


Dr Benjamin Spivak is a lecturer at the Centre for Forensic Behavioural Sciences, Swinburne University of Technology. He has conducted research into areas including jury and judicial decision making, family violence risk assessment, and policing. His current research area of interest is in the forecasting of criminal offending.