Et tu Brute? Most of our great literary murders involve kinslaying, friends who turn on each other, or acquaintances who have a fatal final encounter. Claudius did in his brother Old Hamlet. Desdemona died at Othello's hand. Raskolnikov took an axe to his elderly pawnbroker. Random, impersonal deaths are not hard to come by either. Pick up any war tome. But intuitively, the literary emphasis on the terrible perils of the familiar and the familial makes sense. Our notionally nearest and dearest can fire up the hottest passions. Love, certainly, but also resentment, recrimination, rage.
In many ways, that's the disturbing story told by last year's just released homicide statistics for Scotland. A few facts from the bulletin: there were 62 victims of homicide last year. 78% were killed by an acquaintance (56%), partner (15%) or family member (7%). The gender (im)balance of killers and victims remains striking. Of the 62 people killed last year, 50 were men and 12 women. Chart 10 sets out the decade-long trends on the relationship between Scottish murder victims and their killers, disaggregated by gender. Click for a fuller view.
In 2012/12, 82 people were accused of committing these murders, of which 66 were men (80%). 62% of accused people were thirty or younger. 69% of all homicides happened in a dwelling last year, with 76% occurring in some residential location. In analysing these figures, it is important to remember that homicide statistics offer an account of deaths, not potentially fatal incidents which the polis are able to break up before they escalate, or which paramedics are able to staunch before the victim bleeds out.
But these statistics pose troubling questions about how we think about danger in society, and where we anticipate peril springing from. I'm sure we've all, on one occasion or another, laid hagridden in bed, dreaming of the dark intruder with fatal designs upon us, or our families. Recently, I dreamed I was being chased around an Escher-like domestic maze by a murderous brass minotaur: make of that what you will.
After stranger danger, we are left with the unsettling thought: for many folk, home, family and friends are really where the peril lies.