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How Many Murders in The UK?

Written by, Bojana Atanasovska

Updated February, 9, 2022

News about violent crime can be distressing. It’s one of the reasons why the media doesn’t cover every murder that takes places.

Have you ever wondered how many murders in the UK happen every year or how many of them go unresolved?

We have the answers.

Ten Alarming Murder Facts & Stats

  • England and Wales had the highest homicide count in the UK in 2020/21.
  • 93% of convicted killers between 2018 and 2020 were male.
  • The largest number of deaths was recorded in the 16-24 age group.
  • 64% of all homicide victims were White. 
  • 77% of domestic homicide victims were women.
  • Sharp objects are the most common weapon used for homicide crimes.
  • Around 300 people in England and Wales get a life sentence for murder.
  • In 2020, 15 out of the 27 homicide cases in England and Wales that involved firearms were unlicensed.
  • The total reoffending rates in the UK between January and March 2020 was 24.7%.
  • There are about 20% UK unsolved murders per year.

General Murder Statistics

1.England and Wales had the highest homicide count in the UK in 2020/21.

(Statista, Scottish Government)

England and Wales recorded a total of 600 UK murders 2020/21. 

In Scotland, the police recorded 55 homicides for the same period, the lowest since the country started collecting data, while Northern Ireland saw a total of 22 homicides for the entire year.

2. 93% of the convicted killers between 2018 and 2020 were male.

(Office for National Statistics)

The majority of murders in the UK and worldwide are committed predominantly by men. Most of the convicted suspects in the period between March 2018 and March 2020 in the UK were male and reached a total number of 1023. 40% of them belonged to the 16 to 24-year-old age group, 16% of them were 35- to 44-year-olds, and 5% were in the 25- 34-years-old age group.

Men are also more likely to become victims of a homicide. In 2020, 73% of the victims in 2020 were male and 27% were female.

3. 64% of all homicide victims were White. 

(Office for National Statistics)

15% or 105 of the victims were identified as Black and almost half of them were between 16 to 24 years old. 8% of victims belonged to the Asian ethnic group, 75% of which were between the ages of 16 and 44 years.

4. The number of homicide victims was the highest in the 16- to 24-year-old age group. 

(Office of National Statistics)

There were a total of 142 homicide victims in the 16-24-year-old age group, amounting to a 29% of murders in England and Wales between 2019 and 2020. The 25-34 age group is a close second. These countries recorded 138 victims from this age group and 133 homicide victims from the 35-44 age group. The 45-54 group had the least number of victims, totalling 92 for the entire year.

5. 77% of the domestic homicide victims from 2017 to 2019 were female.

(Office for National Statistics)

The Office for National Statistics’ March 2020 report showed that 46% of female homicide victims died in domestic homicide. Only 7% of male homicide victims died in domestic homicide.

6. At 0.5, England has one of the lowest homicides rates per capita.

(Our World in Data)

Scotland is at 0.9, Northern Ireland at 0.7 and Ireland with 0.6 all of which are positioned in the lower tiers. For comparison, El Salvador has the highest rate of 48.7 homicides per 100,000 as of 2019 and Singapore with the lowest rate at 0.4. 

Methods of Killing

7. Sharp objects are the most common weapon used for homicide crimes.

(Office for National Statistics)

The number of murders in the UK that were committed with a knife or other sharp objects between March 2019 and March 2020 is 275. This number represents a 6% increase from the previous year.

54% of the sharp instrument homicide victims were identified as White and 27% as Black. 

8. The United Kingdom has one of the lowest firearm homicide rates in the world.

(Our World in Data)

How many shootings are in the UK?  Well, England accounted for 0.12 per 100,000 of firearm homicides worldwide. Scotland has a 0.07 firearm homicide rate, Ireland was at 0.06 and Wales had a rate of 0.05.

9. In 2020, 15 out of the 27 firearm incidents in England and Wales were unlicensed.

(Office of National Statistics)

In the majority of homicide cases that involved firearms, the weapons were unlicensed. Only 26% of the firearms that were used as weapons in homicide cases were licensed. Surprisingly, the numbers are going in an upward direction. For example, in 2019, only 3.2% of homicide weapons were licensed.

Sentencing and Convictions

10. 44% of victims in violence against the person offences did not support police action.

(UK Government)

It seems there was a considerable number of violence against the person cases where victims didn’t want the police involved. 19% of violence against the person offences, including criminal offences, were closed due to evidential difficulties and 12.8% of investigations of such cases ended up failing to identify a suspect.

11. Around 300 people in England and Wales get a life sentence for murder

(Full Fact)

The average sentence for murders in the UK is a life sentence. According to UK law, a person that is found guilty of murder has to be given a “mandatory life sentence” if the offender is 21 years old or older. 

England and Wales also release around 300 people a year who have served at least a part of their prison sentence, according to Full Fact.

12. As of 2017, 73 people are believed to be serving a whole life sentence in the UK.

(Liverpool Echo)

Whole life prison sentences are reserved for the most heinous of crimes. These are rare and exceptional cases but some horrific acts can prompt a judge to invoke a whole life sentence. 

Levi Bellfield is the only serial killer in the UK to receive two whole life orders for his crimes. 

13. The total reoffending rates in the UK between January and March 2020 was 24.7%.

(UK Government)

The reoffending rate jumped by 2% compared to the same period in 2019. The juvenile reoffending rate was 34.1 and the adult reoffending rate was 24.1%. 

Murder Stories

14. 23 people were jailed for manslaughter or murder in the UK in 2021.

(Liverpool ECHO)

Some of the perpetrators include a 20-year old and two teenage boys who beat up a man for his Rolex watch, a drug dealer who tortured a man over a cannabis trafficking plot gone wrong, and a terrorist who killed a teacher in Liverpool. 

15. There are at least 15 policemen (serving or former) that have murdered women since 2009.

(The Guardian, Femicide Census)

According to numbers from the Femicide Census, most of them had been their partners. Data from the census also shows between 2009 and 2018, 1,419 men killed a total of 1,425 women and girls.

16. Harold Shipman was a serial killer doctor who killed 250 patients and was considered one of the worst murders in UK.

(All That’s Interesting)

Harold Shipman took the lives of 250 people by injecting them with a lethal dose of Diamorphine. 

He was finally caught after killing a former Hyde mayor, who was 81 years old at the time. 

17. There are about 20% UK unsolved murders per year.

(Office of National Statistics)

Between 2018 to 2020, there was an average of 168 unsolved homicide cases where there were no suspects charged. As of March 2020, there are also 302 criminal offences with pending court decisions.

Bottom Line 

These statistics are never just about how many murders in the UK happen on an annual basis or how many of them remain unresolved. The numbers paint a broader picture of the state of our society, including how and whether it’s changing and tell us when it’s time to take appropriate measures to prevent a worst-case scenario.