Archives of Suicide Research

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 285–292 | Cite as

Media and mass homicides

  • Christopher H. Cantor
  • Peter Sheehan
  • Philip Alpers
  • Paul Mullen


A series of seven mass-homicides occurring in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom 1987--1996 is presented in the context of possible media influences. These crimes are exceptionally rare facilitating study based on similarity, time linkage and statements by the assailants. Time linkage suggests three incidents might have occurred through a modelling process. Statements link two incidents -- one not being linked by time. It is argued that modelling may have occurred over a period as long as ten years. A ripple effect with these incidents generating other serious violence may also have occurred. Researchers of media influences on suicide and homicide need to take into account the constraints on findings, in relation to time frames and ripple effects, imposed by macro research designs. The micro perspective afforded by the study of very rare massive publicity linked events may generate new insights. These findings raise ethical dilemmas for the media.

homicide media modelling suicide 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Berman, A. L. (1988). Fictional depiction of suicide in television films and imitation effects. American Journal of Psychiatry, 145, 982-986.Google Scholar
  2. Bollen, K. A. & Phillips, D. P. (1981). Suicidal motor vehicle fatalities in Detroit: A replication. American Journal of Sociology, 87, 404-412.Google Scholar
  3. Bollen, K. A. & Phillips, D. P. (1982). Imitative suicides: A national study of the effects of television news stories. American Sociological Review, 47, 802-809.Google Scholar
  4. Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (1994). Suicide — A resource book. Calgary: Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.Google Scholar
  5. Cantor, C. H. & Sheehan, P. W. (1996). Violence and media reports: A connection with Hungerford? Archives of Suicide Research, 2, 255-266.Google Scholar
  6. Cullen, The Honourable Lord (1996). The public inquiry into the shootings at Dunblane primary school on 13 March 1996. Edinburgh: The Stationary Office.Google Scholar
  7. Deitz, P. E. (1986). Mass, serial and sensational homicides. Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 62, 477-491.Google Scholar
  8. Fekete, S. & Schmidtke, A. (1996). Suicidal models-their frequency and role in suicide attempters, non-suicidal psychiatric patients and normal control cases: A comparative German-Hungarian study. Omega, 33, 233-241.Google Scholar
  9. Gould, M. S., Wallenstein S. & Davidson, L. (1989). Suicide clusters a critical review. Suicide & Life-Threatening Behavior, 19, 17-29.Google Scholar
  10. Gresswell, D. M. & Hollin C. R. (1992). Towards a new methodology for making sense of case material: An illustrative case involving attempted multiple murder. Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, 2, 329-341.Google Scholar
  11. Hallenstein, H. (1988a). Record of investigation into deaths 3436, 3438, 3440–3443, 3622/87. State Coroner Victoria.Google Scholar
  12. Hallenstein, H. (1988b). Record of investigation into deaths 5345–5353. State Coroner Victoria.Google Scholar
  13. Kapardis, A. (1989). They wrought mayhem: An insight into mass murder. Australia: River Seine Press.Google Scholar
  14. Milton, R. (1994). Profile of a mass killer:Wade Frankum at Strathfield Plaza. Bondi Junction: Blackstone Press.Google Scholar
  15. O'Brien, W. (1991). Aramoana: 22 hours of terror. New Zealand: Penguin.Google Scholar
  16. O'Carroll, P. W. & Potter, L. B. (1994). Suicide contagion and the reporting of suicide: Recommendations from a national workshop. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, 43, 9-18.Google Scholar
  17. Phillips, D. P. (1977). Motor vehicle fatalities increase just after publicized suicide stories. Science, 196, 1464-1465.Google Scholar
  18. Phillips, D. P. (1978). Airplane accident fatalities increase just after newspaper stories about murder and suicide. Science, 201, 748-750.Google Scholar
  19. Phillips, D. P. (1979). Suicide, motor vehicle fatalities, and the mass media: Evidence toward a theory of suggestion. American Journal of Sociology, 85, 1150-1174.Google Scholar
  20. Phillips, D. P. (1983). The impact of mass media violence on U.S. homicides. American Sociological Review, 48, 560-568.Google Scholar
  21. Phillips, D. P. (1986). Natural experiments on the effects of mass media violence on fatal aggression: Strengths and weaknesses of a new approach. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 19, 207-250.Google Scholar
  22. Phillips, D. P., Lesyna, K. & Paight, D. J. (1992). Suicide and the media. In R. W. Masters et al. (Eds.), Assessment and prediction of suicide. New York: Guildford Press.Google Scholar
  23. Police Complaints Authority (1990). Report of the police complaints authority on the tragedy at Aramoana. Wellington.Google Scholar
  24. Schmidtke, A. & Hafner, H. (1988). The Werther effect after television films: New evidence for an old hypothesis. Psychological Medicine, 18, 665-676.Google Scholar
  25. Sonneck, G., Etzersdorfer, E. & Nagel-Kuess, S. (1994). Imitative suicide on the Viennesse subway. Social Science and Medicine, 38, 453-457.Google Scholar
  26. Stack, S. (1987). Celebrities and suicide: A taxonomy and analysis, 1948–1983. American Sociological Review, 52, 401-412.Google Scholar
  27. Stack, S. (1989). The effect of publicized mass murders and murder-suicides on lethal violence, 1968–1980. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 24, 202-208.Google Scholar
  28. Stack S. (1990). A reanalysis of the impact of non celebrity. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 25, 269-273.Google Scholar
  29. Westermeyer, J. (1973). On the epidemicity of amok violence. Archives of General Psychiatry, 28, 873-876.Google Scholar
  30. White, G. F. (1989). Media and violence: The case of professional football championship games. Aggressive Behavior, 15, 423-433.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher H. Cantor
    • 1
  • Peter Sheehan
    • 2
  • Philip Alpers
    • 3
  • Paul Mullen
    • 4
  1. 1.Australian Institute for Suicide Research and PreventionGriffith UniversityNathanAustralia
  2. 2.University of Queensland, Australian Catholic UniversitySyndeyAustralia
  3. 3.AucklandNew Zealand
  4. 4.Department of Forensic PsychiatryMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations