The Metropolitan Police have issued a list of 290 ‘undetected homicides’ going back to January 1999, following a Freedom of Information request.
When people talk of unsolved murders we tend to think of classic fictional mysteries or the crimes of fiendish killers like ‘Jack the Ripper’.
Deep down, of course, we realise that cases go unsolved every year – Suzy Lamplugh in 1986, Daniel Morgan in 1987 and until recently Stephen Lawrence in 1993. On top of that there are the names of victims who do not get as such mass media attention.
The Metropolitan Police do not use the term ‘unsolved’, preferring to call them ‘undetected’, and include all homicides (manslaughter and infanticide as well as murder). In their own definition:
‘Undetected’ could refer to Homicides which are currently being
investigated, ‘Cold Cases’ which are being reviewed prior to investigation by the Murder Review Group, Homicides where the main suspect has died, Homicides where the case was dropped subsequent to arrest and charge, Homicides where the case was lost at Court or Homicides where the defendant was released on appeal.
The Lawrence case goes to show that the police don’t give up just because they don’t have enough evidence to charge someone immediately. Appeals for information are often issued a year, two years or even ten years after the event. New witnesses could come forward at any time and even ‘closed’ files can be reopened for what is called a ‘cold case review.’
For example, it took 28 years for Wilbert Dyce to be convicted of the murders of Norma Richards and her two daughters in Dalston in 1982. The case was only reviewed because a journalist was writing a book on the England footballer Laurie Cunningham, the brother of Norma’s partner.
Murdermap only recently discovered that the Met had disclosed a list of ‘undetected homicides’ between January 1, 1999, and September 2011 (pdf), following a Freedom of Information request (many thanks to the creators of the London Street Gangs website for pointing us to the link).
The list contains 290 names spanning those 13 years, an average of 22 a year. A few of the names are familiar – Suzy Lamplugh, who went missing in 1986, is listed for May 2000 (presumably because that was when police received information from the girlfriend of the prime suspect) – but most are not.
Some of the cases on the list will have changed from undetected to detected since September 2011 because suspects have been charged. These include Jordan Jackson and Layla Djemal-Northcott (2006) and David Anthony Scott (1999) as well as more recent cases.
Apart from that, the list does provide some interesting insights for the full years 1999 to 2010. The year with the most undetected homicides is 2001 (36) and the lowest 2009 (10). The figures for 2010 (22) and 2011 (24 between January 1 and September 13, 2011) are likely to decrease as investigations continue. The month with the most undetected homicides is January 2007 (6).
The ratio of men to women victims in homicide figure is usually around 4:1, and this is roughly repeated in the undetected figures, although there is a wide variation. In 2008 women represent over 30 per cent of the total undetected, while in 2010 it is less than 5 per cent.
It is also noticeable that Afro-Caribbeans form the largest group among the figures for ‘Ethnic appearance’ as determined by the police.
The table below compares the undetected to total homicides for the five years between 2006 and 2010. The detection rate of just over 92 per cent for 2009 represents the best year for the Met. Although 2010 represents a large increase, this figure would be expected to fall as police investigations continue.
Year Undetected Total Homicides Percentage
2006 24 172 13.95
2007 24 163 14.72
2008 16 155 10.32
2009 10 129 7.75
2010 22 124 17.74
Total 96 743 12.92
Or to put it another way:
Figures for the whole of 2011 haven’t been issued yet, but from our own database we believe the total number of homicides has further decreased to around 113 from 124 in 2010.
The above charts have been created using a Google spreadsheet of totals by year, gender and ethnic appearance for 1999 to 2010. Comments welcome, particularly if you’ve spotted something we’ve missed.