Australian Institute of Criminology

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New research on contract killings in Australia

Media Release

03 February 2004

New joint research by the Australian Institute of Criminology and South Australia Police Major Crime Investigation Branch has examined attempted and completed contract killings in Australia between the period 1 July 1989 and 30 June 2002. This research is the first national study of the typology of contract killings in Australia, Acting Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology, Dr Toni Makkai, said today.

"This study, which combines a research and investigative perspective examined 163 offences of attempted and completed contract killings in Australia, and found that the most common motive or reason for hiring the services of a hit man was in relation to the dissolution of an intimate relationship," Dr Makkai said.

"Typically, the services of a contract killer are sought by a current or former intimate partner to prevent him/her from pursing a relationship with someone else or in revenge for having done so, or to eliminate a current partner so that they can be with their lover, or gain custody of children if custody is an issue".

Other common motives associated with attempted and completed contract killings were "money/financially motivated", "silencing of witnesses", "revenge", "drugs related", and "criminal networks/organised crime".

The category of "drugs" was one of the least common motives found to be associated with contract killings.

The study also examined the characteristics of the 94 attempted and 64 completed contract killings, and found that the average payment for an attempted contract was about $16,500. The lowest payment specified in a contract was $500 and the highest payment was $100,000.

A firearm was the most common weapon specified to be used in attempted contract killings, and a firearm was five times more likely to be used in completed contract killings than in homicide generally. Despite public perception of its frequency, contract killings make up a small percentage of total homicides in Australia, only 2 per cent during the period examined.