BACKGROUND: In the absence of medical literature reporting on homicide-unsuccessful-suicide (HUS), those cases in which the perpetrator is
referred for forensic psychiatric observation present an opportunity to explore psychiatric features pertaining to the event.
OBJECTIVE: To identify possible contributing psychiatric features in HUS cases.
METHOD: A retrospective, single-centre, descriptive study was conducted, in which we reviewed clinical records of HUS subjects referred for
observation to Weskoppies Hospital from December 2005 to January 2011. We reviewed socio-demographic and psychiatric information.
RESULTS: Nine cases were reviewed. The median age of the subjects was 29 years and 7 subjects were male. Five cases involved family members.
Cases involving couples demonstrated male subjects and cases involving filicide demonstrated female subjects. Only 1 case involved the use
of a firearm. At the time of the incident, 4 of the cases had no psychiatric diagnosis, but did have notable interpersonal difficulties. Psychotic
disorders were diagnosed in 3 subjects, a depressive disorder in 1 subject and a depressive and anxiety disorder in 1 subject.
CONCLUSION: Subjects commonly used less lethal methods than shooting. The high rate of psychiatric disorders diagnosed is in keeping with
court referrals occurring when a mental illness is suspected. Some cases may require specialised probing before psychosis becomes apparent.
Identification of psychosocial stressors and failure of coping mechanisms during periods of strife within an intimate relationship may be a
focus of future research in homicide-suicide cases. Separation should possibly be investigated as an independent factor which promotes the
interpersonal difficulty associated with homicide-suicide.