The factors that determine outcomes in the police investigation of homicide.

Stelfox, Peter (2005). The factors that determine outcomes in the police investigation of homicide. PhD thesis The Open University.



This study examines the factors that determine the outcomes of police investigations into homicide. There has been limited academic interest in this area and the research aims to contribute to improved knowledge of the factors involved. An important subsidiary aim is to explore the nature of the homicide investigation process to identify the ways in which this knowledge can best be used by the police

The sample consists of the homicide investigations carried out in a large police force in England during a single year. The research uses a case study methodology to identify the factors that determine why these crimes came to be detected or why they remained undetected. The analysis shows that the majority were detected by the police early in the investigation process as a result of information that was readily available from offenders, witnesses or crime scenes. A minority of cases took considerably longer to detect and a small number remained undetected. The study concludes that there is no single factor that determines this pattern of outcomes. Rather, it is due to the complex interaction of the circumstances in which the crime is committed, the choices made by offenders, the choices made by witnesses and the effectiveness of the police investigation. The unique combination of these factors in each case means that no two investigations are alike. As a consequence, it is concluded that the investigation process does not consist of a series of designed activities which occur in all cases, but is a loose framework within which officers deploy a range of investigative techniques, knowledge and decision making skills depending on the needs of the individual case.

The small sample used in this study means that these findings may not be representative of homicide investigations as a whole. However, the findings are consistent with what would be predicted from the limited literature in this area and provide a basis for a larger study of a more representative sample of investigations.

At the methodological level, the research illustrates the contribution that practitioner research can make to improving performance within the police service.

Viewing alternatives


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions