Uxoricide (from Latin uxor meaning "wife" and -cide, from caedere meaning "to cut, to kill") is the killing of one's own wife. It can refer to the act itself or the person who carries it out. It can also be used in the context of the killing of one's own girlfriend. The killing of a husband or boyfriend is called mariticide.

Rates of uxoricide


Though overall rates of spousal violence and homicide in the US have declined since the 1970s,[1] rates of uxoricide are significantly higher than rates of mariticide (the murder of a husband). Of the 2340 deaths at the hands of intimate partners in the US in 2007, female victims made up 70%.[2] FBI data from the mid-1970s to mid-1980s found that for every 100 husbands who killed their wives in the United States, about 75 women killed their husbands.[3] However, wives were more likely to kill their husbands than vice versa in some US cities including Chicago, Detroit, Houston,[3][4] and St. Louis.[1] Uxoricide rates varied among different demographic subgroups. In the US, 2002 murderers of spouses (husband and wives combined) were 69.4% white, 25.7% black and 4.8% Asian/Pacific Islander and 0.1 American Indian/ Alaska Native.[5]

In the region of South-East Asia, 55% of all murdered women died at the hands of their partner, followed by 40% in the African region and 38% in the Americas.[6] A 2013 study found that 38.6% of murders of women are committed by intimate partners.[7]

Rates of uxoricide seem to fluctuate across western cultures, with approximately seven women being killed per month in England and Wales,[8] approximately four women per month in Australia,[9] and approximately 76 women per month in the United States.[10] Note that these data come from different years and represent raw data, having neither been adjusted for nor indexed by country population.

Psychodynamic explanations


Unconscious conflict


Proponents of psychodynamic theories have offered explanations for the mechanisms underlying the occurrence of uxoricide. It has been suggested that men who kill their partners experience both an unconscious dependence on their wife and a resentment of her. These men wish to leave the relationship, but unknowingly perceive themselves as too helpless to do so, which culminates into a belief that killing the wife is the only way to be free of her.[11] This approach also offers an alternative explanation for instances where a man commits uxoricide and subsequent immediate suicide – the man ends his life not due to guilt, but instead due to his perceived helplessness and dependency.[12][13]

Defense mechanisms


Links have also been established between violence in childhood and likelihood of uxoricide occurring. Psychodynamic researchers argue that being the victim of abuse in childhood leads to being a perpetrator of domestic abuse in adulthood via the route of defence mechanisms – in this case, violence is an unconscious defensive adaption to childhood trauma and other adverse events.[14] Other psychodynamic researchers have reported that Thematic Apperception Tests reveal significant trends of rejection by a mother or wife in men who commit uxoricide.[15] Psychoanalytic dream interpretation has also argued that unconscious conflict manifests into violent outbursts. For example, in one instance one man had experienced and recorded over 200 distressing, mostly violent dreams prior to murdering his wife.

Risk factors


In slightly more than two-thirds of US spousal homicides, a verbal disagreement escalated to homicide.[16]

Marital status


In two studies conducted in Canada and Britain, cohabiting women were found at greater risk of domestic violence and uxoricide than married women. Research has found that cohabiting women are nine times more likely to be killed by their intimate partner than married women. A number of possible reasons for this finding have been studied. Cohabiting women are more likely to be younger, have a lower level of education and are more likely to bring children from a previous relationship into their home with their new intimate partner. In addition to this heightened risk to a mother with stepchildren, the genetically unrelated stepfather also poses a risk to the child; research has shown that children are at much greater risk of violence and filicide (murder of a child) from stepfathers compared to a genetic father.[17] This may be because investment from a stepfather reduces reproductive benefits. Research has found that the presence of stepchildren can significantly increase the risk of uxoricide for women. A large number of filicides are accompanied by uxoricide and suicide.[18]

Additionally, cohabiting relationships have higher separation rates and males in these types of relationships may not feel in control of their intimate partners and may feel threatened by male sexual competitors. Research has found that a large proportion of uxoricide cases follow on from the male believing that his female intimate partner has been unfaithful or the female partner attempting to end the relationship. Research has shown that females often experience increased abuse following the termination of a relationship. An Australian study found that of a sample of uxoricide cases, 47% of women were murdered by their male intimate partner within two months of separating. Sexual jealousy may be a possible reason for this heightened risk following separation.

Partner separation


Another risk factor for uxoricide is estrangement.[19] Women who choose to leave their partner are at higher risk of spousal homicide.[20] These crimes have been termed "abandonment homicides", and are most commonly committed by men with childhood histories of abandonment and trauma, in conjunction with markedly low serotonin levels and frontal cortex damage that contribute to poor impulse control.[21] The male is more likely to kill his mate before she has had the chance to form a new relationship with another man as he fears she will then devote her reproductive resources to a male rival's offspring.[22] Therefore, by killing his partner he will avoid the reputational damage associated with intrasexual competition and will eliminate the chances of another man having access to a high value mate.[20] This also explains why those women who have had children from a previous relationship are at higher risk of spousal homicide compared with those who have only had children with their current partner.[23] The female partner has already devoted her reproductive resources to another man, therefore when she establishes a new relationship, the male becomes involved in the upbringing of another man's offspring which will damage his hierarchical status amongst intrasexual rivals.[22]

The greater age disparity between spouses, the higher risk of spousal homicide.[16] For a male, the damage associated with infidelity is greater when the partner is younger.[24] A woman's fertility decreases as she gets older,[25]: 208  therefore, age is key indicator of reproductive success.[26] As a result, a man will place high levels of importance on a mate with greater reproductive value.[25]: 208  A man is more likely to engage in "hands on" killing methods when the mate has high reproductive value.[27] "Hands on" refers to more violent methods such as using weapons, drowning, stabbing and strangling.[26]

Culture and law

The Ludovisi Gaul killing himself and his wife, Roman copy after the Hellenistic original, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme

Some instances of uxoricide are facilitated by the culture of the victim and the perpetrator. For example, honor killings, whereby a man kills his wife because she has brought shame upon their family, are approved in some male-dominated, patriarchal societies. Approximately 42% of female victims of honour killings worldwide were killed because it was believed they had committed a "sexual impropriety".[28] Other facilitating cultural norms include discriminatory family laws and articles in the criminal code which display leniency towards honor killings.[29] In Turkey, it has been reported that little social stigma is attached to honor killings, and around 37% of those living in conservative areas believe that adulterous women should be killed.[30][31] These attitudes favouring honor killings have also been echoed amongst children and adults in Jordan[32][33] and India.[34] In Uruguay, until 2017 crimes of passion related to adultery were tolerated under Article 36 of the Penal Code (The passion provoked by adultery) – Artículo 36. (La pasión provocada por el adulterio).[35] On 22 December 2017, Article 36 of the Criminal Code was modified to remove the crime of passion.[36] There had been ongoing political efforts to remove this provision from the criminal code since 2013.[37][38][39] Uruguay has a very high rate of killing of women; according to a 2018 United Nations study, Uruguay has the second-highest rate of killings of women by current or former partners in Latin America, after the Dominican Republic.[40]

Uxoricide can also be prevalent in countries where honor killings are not considered acceptable. In South Africa, for example, as many as five women are estimated to be killed each week by an intimate partner.[41] It has been suggested that this high rate of uxoricide is a result of the prevalence of violence in South African society, and how it is deemed socially acceptable in many circumstances – conservative attitudes towards women in this society have been suggested to facilitate uxoricide.[42] Studies conducted in Italy exhibit similar findings, reporting that a man's cultural values concerning the position of women in society links to his likelihood of committing uxoricide.[43]

Effects on children


When a parent kills another parent, children experience significant trauma. The other parent is likely to be in prison or may have died by suicide and therefore, the child will go through significant loss. The child has lost not only one parent but has also lost the other parent who would have helped and supported them through this loss. This type of extreme traumatic event can have serious implications for a child's wellbeing and mental health.[44]

Known or suspected examples

18th century illustration of Matthias Brinsden murdering his wife
  • Cambyses II of Persia married two of his sisters and installed the younger as queen consort of Egypt. During his insanity, he murdered her for weeping for their brother Smerdis, whom Cambyses had murdered.
  • Ptolemy XI of Egypt had his wife and stepmother, Berenice III, murdered nineteen days after their wedding in 80 BC. Afterwards, Ptolemy was lynched by the citizens of Alexandria, with whom Berenice was very popular.
  • Herod the Great had his second wife, Mariamne I, strangled for suspected adultery, though she was innocent of the charges. According to Josephus, regret over this act almost caused Herod to go insane.
  • Roman Emperor Tiberius probably had his second wife, Julia, starved to death in 14 AD, while she was in exile on Pandataria. Their marriage was unhappy, and he had been publicly embarrassed by her adultery years earlier. Her alleged paramour, Sempronius Gracchus, was executed around the same time on Tiberius's orders.
  • Roman Emperor Nero ordered the death of his first wife, Octavia, soon after divorcing her in 62 AD. He also reportedly kicked his second wife, Poppaea Sabina, to death in 65 AD after an argument.
  • Emperor Wen of Western Wei, ordered his first empress, Empress Yifu, to commit suicide after he had deposed her status in 540, due to the pressure of Yuwen Tai and Empress Yujiulu, as well as his puppet status.
  • Minamoto no Yoshitsune, ordered his wife Sato Gozen to commit suicide, since he knew that he lost to his brother Minamoto no Yoritomo, in 1189.
  • Prince John of Portugal, Duke of Valencia de Campos murdered his wife María Teles de Meneses in 1379, after her sister Queen Leonor Teles, fearing for the succession of her daughter Beatrice and her own position as regent, accused her of adultery.
  • King Henry VIII of England had two of his six wives executed: Anne Boleyn on charges of adultery, treason and incest, and Catherine Howard on the charge of adultery.
  • Chongzhen Emperor forced his wife Empress Zhou to commit suicide while the army of the rebel Li Zicheng were approaching the capital through Juyong Pass on April 24, 1644
  • George Forster murdered his wife and child by drowning them in Paddington Canal, London: he was hanged at Newgate on 18 January 1803.
  • Edward William Pritchard (1825–1865) was an English doctor who was convicted of murdering his wife and mother-in-law by poisoning. He was the last person to be publicly executed in Glasgow.
  • The Reverend John Selby Watson (1804–1884) was sentenced to death in 1872 for killing his wife, but a public outcry led to his sentence being reduced to life imprisonment. The case is notable for Watson's use of a plea of insanity as his defence.
  • Kenneth Brown (1837 – 1876), father of Edith Cowan (1861 – 1932; the first Australian woman to become a member of parliament) shot and killed his second wife, Mary (née Tindall). Brown was convicted of murder and hanged five months later.
  • William Henry Bury (1859–1889) was executed in Dundee, Scotland, for the murder of his wife Ellen in 1889. He was suspected by some of being Jack the Ripper.
  • Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen (1862–1910) was an American homeopathic physician hanged in Pentonville Prison, London, England, on 23 November 1910, for the murder of his wife, Cora Henrietta Crippen.
  • George Joseph Smith (1872–1915), the "Brides in the Bath Murderer", was convicted and subsequently hanged for drowning three women, all of whom he had trigamously married, between 1908 and 1914.
  • Herbert Rowse Armstrong (1869–1922), a solicitor in Hay-on-Wye, was hanged for the murder of his wife by arsenic poisoning.
  • Dr Buck Ruxton (1899–1936) murdered and dismembered his wife in Lancaster, England, in 1935.
  • Beat author William S. Burroughs (1914–1997) shot and killed his wife, Joan Vollmer (1923–1951), during a drunken recreation of the William Tell act. Vollmer's death was ruled a culpable homicide after Mexican police investigated.
  • Tommy Zeigler case, 1975.
  • Philosopher Louis Althusser strangled his wife to death on 16 November 1980. He was not tried, on the grounds of diminished responsibility, and was instead committed to a psychiatric hospital. He was discharged in 1983.
  • Richard Crafts of Newtown, Connecticut, was convicted of killing his wife Helle in 1985. The crime became known as the "woodchipper murder" because of the way he disposed of her body.
  • In August 1996, Janet March disappeared from her home in a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee. Her husband Perry was convicted of murdering her despite the absence of her body ten years later, after his father had confessed to helping him dispose of the body, whose location he could not accurately remember.
  • Mark Hacking murdered his pregnant wife Lori Hacking in 2004. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2005.
  • On 10 October 2006, Hans Reiser was arrested and subsequently convicted of the murder of his wife, Nina Reiser.
  • In 2007, Tara Lynn Grant was murdered by her husband Stephen Grant.
  • Professional wrestler Chris Benoit murdered his wife Nancy and their son Daniel over a three-day period from June 22, 2007, to June 24, 2007, before killing himself.
  • On 21 April 1992, Jesse Anderson stabbed his wife, Barbara E. Anderson, thirty-seven times.
  • On 23 October 1989, Charles Stuart shot his pregnant wife in the head and shot himself in the abdomen, claiming to have been the victim of a carjacking. The child was born alive, but later died from injuries sustained in the murder.
  • On 14 May 2001, Anthony Ler manipulated and threatened a 15-year-old youth to murder his wife in order to obtain full ownership of her flat and custody of their daughter in midst of divorce proceedings. Ler was hanged on 13 December 2002 for abetment of murder while the minor was jailed indefinitely due to his age.
  • Cal Harris, of Spencer, New York, was accused of killing his wife Michele on 11 September 2001. He was tried for her murder four times before being acquitted in 2016 by a judge. She has not been seen since the night she disappeared.
  • Mark Winger was convicted in 2002 of murdering his wife, Donnah Winger, in 1995.
  • On 17 May 2004, taxi driver G. Krishnasamy Naidu used a chopper to hack his wife to death and nearly decapitated her at her workplace, and he was found to be suffering from morbid jealousy as a result of his wife's multiple affairs with other men during their 20-year marriage. Krishnasamy was originally sentenced to death for murder, but he was ultimately convicted of manslaughter upon an appeal, and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2006.
  • On 2 December 2005, at his Dover Road flat, 44-year-old condominium caretaker Mohammad Zam Abdul Rashid brutally battered his 38-year-old wife Ramona Johari after he accused her of getting close to a colleague, and the brutal attack caused Ramona to die two days later. Mohammad Zam, who suffered from diminished responsibility induced by frontal lobe syndrome, was sentenced to life imprisonment for manslaughter in September 2006.
  • In December 2009, Susan Cox Powell disappeared, and her body was never found. Her husband, Joshua Powell, was the main suspect of her presumed murder, but he died by suicide in February 2012 after killing their sons. The case was closed in 2013 when police concluded that Joshua and his brother murdered Susan and disposed of her body.
  • Murder of Laci Peterson (2002).
  • In May 2000, Kristine Fitzhugh was murdered by her husband, Kenneth Fitzhugh.
  • In March 2016, 63-year-old Wong Chik Yeok was slashed to death by her 68-year-old husband Kong Peng Yee, who was suffering from a brief psychotic delusion at the time he killed his wife. Kong was jailed for two years in 2017, although the sentence was raised to six years in 2018 upon the prosecution's appeal.
  • Watts family murders (2018).
  • Murdaugh family murders (2021). Richard "Alex" Murdaugh shot and killed his wife, Maggie, and their 22-year-old son, Paul, on the family's hunting estate.

See also

  • Avunculicide, the killing of one's uncle
  • Filicide, the killing of one's child
  • Fratricide, the killing of one's brother
  • Mariticide, the killing of one's husband
  • Matricide, the killing of one's mother
  • Nepoticide, the killing of one's nephew
  • Parricide, the killing of one's parents or another close relative
  • Patricide, the killing of one's father
  • Prolicide, the killing of one's offspring
  • Sororicide, the killing of one's sister


  1. ^ a b Rosenfeld, R (1997). "Changing relationships between men and women. A note on the decline in intimate partner violence". Homicide Studies. 1: 72–83. doi:10.1177/1088767997001001006. S2CID 145179629.
  2. ^ "Understanding Intimate Partner Violence" (PDF). cdc.gov. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  3. ^ a b Wilson, M. I.; Daley, M. (1992). "Who kills whom in spouse killings? On the exceptional sex ratio of spousal homicides in the United States". Criminology. 30 (2): 189–215. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9125.1992.tb01102.x.
  4. ^ Titterington, V. B.; Harper, L. (2005). "Women as the aggressors in intimate partner homicide in Houston, 1980s to 1990s". Journal of Offender Rehabilitation. 41 (4): 83–98. doi:10.1300/j076v41n04_04. S2CID 144665079.
  5. ^ Durose, Matthew R.; Harlow, Caroline Wolf; Langan, Patrick A.; Motivans, Mark A.; Rantala, Ramona R.; Smith, Erica L. (2005). Family Violence Statistics: Including Statistics on Strangers and Acquaintances (Report). U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. p. 19 (table 3.2).
  6. ^ "Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence" (PDF). Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  7. ^ Stöckl, Heidi; Devries, Karen; Rotstein, Alexandra; Abrahams, Naeemah; Campbell, Jacquelyn; Watts, Charlotte; Moreno, Claudia Garcia (September 2013). "The global prevalence of intimate partner homicide: a systematic review" (PDF). The Lancet. 382 (9895): 859–865. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)61030-2. PMID 23791474. S2CID 13880566.
  8. ^ ONS (2015), Crime Survey England and Wales 2013–14. London: Office for National Statistics.
  9. ^ Bryant, Willow; Cussen, Tracy (2015). "Homicide in Australia: 2010–11 to 2011–12: National Homicide Monitoring Program report". Australian Institute of Criminology Monitoring Reports. 83 (8): 1836–2095.
  10. ^ "When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2011 Homicide Data" (PDF). Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  11. ^ Cormier, B. M. (1982). "Psychodynamics of homicide committed in a marital relationship". Corrective Psychiatry and Journal of Social Therapy. 8: 114–118.
  12. ^ Malmquist, Carl P. (2006). Homicide : a psychiatric perspective (2. ed.). Washington, DC [u.a.]: American Psychiatric Publ. ISBN 9781585622047.
  13. ^ Henry, Andrew F.; Short, James F. Jr. (1977). Suicide and homicide. New York: Arno Press. ISBN 9780405095733.
  14. ^ Adams, David (30 June 2009). "Predisposing Childhood Factors for Men Who Kill Their Intimate Partners". Victims & Offenders. 4 (3): 215–229. doi:10.1080/15564880903048479. S2CID 143998374.
  15. ^ Rosenzweig, Saul; Simon, Benjamin; Ballou, Marjorie (1942). "The psychodynamics of an uxoricide". American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. 12 (2): 283–293. doi:10.1111/j.1939-0025.1942.tb05906.x.
  16. ^ a b Mercy, J. A.; Saltzman, L. E. (1989). "Fatal violence among spouses in the United States, 1975–85". American Journal of Public Health. 79 (5): 595–599. doi:10.2105/ajph.79.5.595. PMC 1349500. PMID 2705594.
  17. ^ Harris, G; Hilton, N; Rice, M; Eke, A (March 2007). "Children killed by genetic parents versus stepparents☆". Evolution and Human Behavior. 28 (2): 85–95. doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2006.08.001.
  18. ^ Daly, Martin; Wilson, Margo I. (July 1994). "Some differential attributes of lethal assaults on small children by stepfathers versus genetic fathers". Ethology and Sociobiology. 15 (4): 207–217. doi:10.1016/0162-3095(94)90014-0.
  19. ^ Wilson, M.; Daly, M. (1993). "Spousal homicide risk and estrangement". Violence and Victims. 8 (1): 3–16. doi:10.1891/0886-6708.8.1.3. PMID 8292563. S2CID 1156172.
  20. ^ a b Daly, M; Wilson, M (28 October 1988). "Evolutionary social psychology and family homicide". Science. 242 (4878): 519–524. Bibcode:1988Sci...242..519D. doi:10.1126/science.3175672. PMID 3175672.
  21. ^ Dutton, D.G. (2002). "Personality dynamics of intimate abusiveness". Journal of Psychiatric Practive. 8 (4): 216–228. doi:10.1097/00131746-200207000-00005. PMID 15985881. S2CID 7508496.
  22. ^ a b Buss, D.M; Duntley, J.D. "Evolved Homicide Modules".
  23. ^ Brewer, V.E; Paulsen, D.J (1999). "A comparison of US and Canadian findings on uxoricide risk for women with children sired by previous partners". Homicide Studies. 3 (4): 317–332. doi:10.1177/1088767999003004004. S2CID 145192681.
  24. ^ Shackelford, T.K; Buss, D.M.; Peters, J. (2000). "Wife killing: Risk to women as a function of age". Violence and Victims. 15 (3): 273–282. doi:10.1891/0886-6708.15.3.273. PMID 11200102. S2CID 32075264.
  25. ^ a b Buss, David M.; Schmitt, David P. (1993). "Sexual Strategies Theory: An evolutionary perspective on human mating". Psychological Review. 100 (2): 204–232. doi:10.1037/0033-295x.100.2.204. PMID 8483982.
  26. ^ a b Mize, K.D.; Shackelford, T.K.; Shackleford, V.A. (2011). "Younger women incur excess risk of uxoricide by stabbing and other hands-on killing methods". Personality and Individual Differences. 50 (7): 1120–1125. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2011.01.038.
  27. ^ Mize, K.D; Shackelford, T.K; Shackelford, V.A (2009). "Hands-on killing of intimate partners as a function of sex and relationship status/state". Journal of Family Violence. 24 (7): 463–470. CiteSeerX doi:10.1007/s10896-009-9244-5. S2CID 10440957.
  28. ^ Chesler, Phyllis (Spring 2010). "Worldwide Trends in Honor Killings". Middle East Quarterly. 17 (2): 3–11. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  29. ^ "Honour Killings in Iran" (PDF). Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  30. ^ Rainsford, Sarah (19 October 2005). "'Honour' crime defiance in Turkey". BBC News. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  31. ^ Murat Gezer. "Honor killing perpetrators welcomed by society, study reveals". Today's Zaman. Archived from the original on 19 July 2008. Retrieved 15 July 2008.
  32. ^ "Belief that honour killings are 'justified' still prevalent among Jordan's next generation, study shows | University of Cambridge". Cam.ac.uk. 20 June 2013. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  33. ^ Eisner, Manuel; Ghuneim, Lana (2013). "Honor Killing Attitudes Amongst Adolescents in Amman, Jordan". Aggressive Behavior. 39 (5): 405–417. doi:10.1002/ab.21485. PMID 23744567.
  34. ^ "India 'honour killings': Paying the price for falling in love". bbc.co.uk. 20 September 2013. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  35. ^ "Código Penal". Archived from the original on 2015-07-30. Retrieved 2015-06-14.
  36. ^ "Ley N° 19580".
  37. ^ "Uruguay no condena el homicidio por adulterio". 21 November 2017.
  38. ^ "Violencia doméstica: proponen derogar artículo 36, sobre "pasión provocada por el adulterio"". Archived from the original on 2016-03-06. Retrieved 2021-09-23.
  39. ^ "Nuestro Código exonera homicidio por adulterio". Diario La República.
  40. ^ "Muerte de mujeres ocasionada por su pareja o ex-pareja íntima". 11 January 2016.
  41. ^ Vetten, L. (1995). ""Man Shoots Wife". A pilot study detailing intimate femicide in Gauteng, South Africa". People Opposing Women Abuse, Johannesburg.
  42. ^ Jewkes, Rachel; Levin, Jonathan; Penn-Kekanaa, Loveday (2002). "Risk factors for domestic violence: findings from a South African cross-sectional study". Social Science & Medicine. 55 (9): 1603–1617. doi:10.1016/s0277-9536(01)00294-5. PMID 12297246.
  43. ^ Di Girolamo, F; Nesci, D A (1981). "Uxoricide in Italy (Article in Italian)". Rass Penititenziaria Crim. 3 (4): 481–497.
  44. ^ Alisic, Eva; Krishna, Revathi N.; Groot, Arend; Frederick, John W. (20 October 2015). "Children's Mental Health and Well-Being After Parental Intimate Partner Homicide: A Systematic Review". Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review. 18 (4): 328–345. doi:10.1007/s10567-015-0193-7. PMID 26487567. S2CID 22176806.