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Med Sci Law. 2014 Jan;54(1):8-14. doi: 10.1177/0025802413484140. Epub 2013 Aug 14.

Coroner autopsy study of homicides in Rivers State of Nigeria: 11-year review.

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Anatomical Pathology Department, University of Port Harcourt, Teaching Hospital, Nigeria.


As most developing countries, including Nigeria, grapple with economic crisis, poor human capital development and high levels of income inequality, violent crimes - especially homicides - continue to be a cause for concern. We studied the pathology and demographic distribution of homicides in Rivers State of Nigeria expecting that the findings would be useful in formulating preventive strategies. Reports of homicide autopsies in the state for 11 years were retrospectively scrutinized for age, gender, type of weapon, site of injury, circumstances, mechanisms and causes of death. The data were analyzed using SPSS version 17. Homicides constituted 50.5% of the medicolegal autopsies. Although the overall male:female ratio was 12.4 : 1, there was variation with weapon. Deaths by firearm had the highest male:female ratio of 24.6 : 1. The mean and peak ages were 29.2 ± 11.4 and 21-30 years, respectively, while the range was 1 to 96 years. Firearms were the most common weapons, at 68.9%, hemorrhagic shock and head injuries at 61.5% and 28.2% respectively were the most common mechanisms and causes of death. Armed robbery incidents were the most common circumstances, while the head was the most common site of injury at 48.8%. The homicide rate is high in our environment and most homicides are committed during armed robberies using firearms. Improving medical care and providing emergency medical services will reduce cases of deaths from homicides, most of which occur due to manageable hemorrhagic shock. Increasing the drive towards controlling illegal arms acquisition and possession will reduce the present carnage in the state.


Nigeria; autopsy; coroner; firearms; homicides

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