Suspicious and Unexplained

Blog Category: The Justice System

The case of MI6 spy Gareth Williams is one of those rare mysteries that seems to defy all logic. It begins with a body, but it is a body within a locked bag within a locked room. Detectives and scientists have marshaled all their resources in an attempt to work out how it happened yet at the end of it we do not even know the cause of death.

Up until the inquest Gareth Williams’ death was not classed as a homicide for the reason that the police could not even be sure anyone else was involved. It was instead classed as ‘suspicious and unexplained’ (although the case was investigated by the ‘Homicide and Serious Crime Command’, often referred to as the ‘murder squad’).

So how many suspicious and unexplained deaths do the murder squad deal with each year? We put in a Freedom of Information request covering the last five years, and this is what came back:

Financial Year Total S/U Deaths Remains S/U Reclassified as Homicide
2011/12 16 16 0
2010/11 20 11 2
2009/10 28 22 3
2008/09 20 10 5
2007/08 31 16 6

The ‘total s/u deaths’ is the number of suspicious / unexplained deaths referred to the Homicide and Serious Crime Command during that year.

This shows that the Gareth Williams case was just one of 20 suspicious / unexplained deaths in the financial year 2010-2011. It is one of 11 such cases that remain classed as suspicious / unexplained.

Cases are more likely to reclassified as time goes by, which explains the increase in the final column. It is also reassuring to know that the decrease in the number of homicides over the last ten years isn’t explained by an increase in cases classed as suspicious / unexplained.

On the other hand, the families of those whose cases remain unexplained must find it incredibly frustrating not knowing exactly what happened. It is only in rare cases like that of Gareth Williams that they are brought under the media spotlight.

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