Ever since that episode of Veronica Mars, where she is set the class assignment of writing the perfect murder, I’ve been fascinated with the concept. Not because I want to kill someone, but because of the challenge. I don’t know how good police are at investigating murders, but shows like CSI make it look like they’re nearly infallible, because people always leave something behind that links them back to the crime. So what does it take to pull off the perfect murder?
For starters, killing someone in the heat of the moment seems to be the worst idea. You haven’t got anything planned, so when it comes to things like hiding the body, or cleaning up after yourself, you’re in a rush, and unlikely to be thinking straight. Not only that, but you’re limited to the things that you have on you. So when the police come to investigate, and notice the chef’s knife is no longer in its spot in the knife block, and that happens to match the stab wound, it’s not looking too good for you. In Castle, Detective Beckett mentions that when someone goes somewhere with the intention of killing someone, they usually bring their own weapon. That way they know they will have the tools to get the job done. Sure, if you’re murdering someone, you could count on being able to shove them down the garbage disposal at their apartment, but what if it’s blocked up that day, or closed for maintenance? Unless you had the forethought to have a back up body disposal plan, you’re coming close to being in the heat of the moment killer level.
So more TV detective-based ideas. They generally try to find someone who has means, motive and opportunity, i.e. that person must have the capability of performing the murder (e.g. owns a gun of that calibre), has a reason to perform the murder (e.g. scumbag cheated on them for five years), and the person must have had the chance to perform the murder (e.g. alone in a hotel room together).
In reverse order, I’ll start with opportunity. The best way to dodge the opportunity card is to hire someone else to do it – after all, if you weren’t there at the time of the murder, then you clearly couldn’t have done it. Unfortunately, I learned today that even if you are an accomplice to the murder, you still get charged with murder. And I think in the case of hiring someone, there’s also conspiracy to commit murder (but maybe that one only applies when the murder doesn’t actually go through). So if you are going to go this route, you’d better be sure that you are good at cleaning up the paper trail. This is where preparation comes in handy. If someone makes a large withdrawal, it gets noticed. If you withdraw small amounts over a long period of time (especially if you can claim it was for things like buying fruit at the farmer’s market, or other innocuous cash transactions that are difficult to trace), you are less likely to be found out. Of course, you’ll need somewhere safe to store this cash pile that you’re building up, so maybe it’s time to hollow out one of your bedposts.
Another trick that comes up in TV shows is the falsified alibi. Sure, there was a charity dinner that went from 7pm-1am (conveniently when the murder estimated to have happened), but you don’t need to have been there the entire time for people to remember you being there. As long as nobody catches you leaving, they’ll just assume you were there the whole time. But the one that’s my favourite comes from an episode of Monk. The killer has an alibi that he was running a marathon when the murder was supposed to have taken place. His run tracker shows him running the race, and there are photos showing that he was there. Monk suspects that he just attached his tracker to someone else, but his times are unique from every other runner in the race. His trick was that he attached the tracker to the motorcycle filming the racers, and so the tracker would show him at the marathon. However, during a blind spot, he ducked out, changed clothes, and went to kill his ex-wife. After the deed, he rejoins the race further down the track. His mistake though, was not grabbing the tracker back off the motorcycle, which was really stupid. I mean, if he could think of such an elaborate plan, you’d think he’d have thought of retrieving the tracker.
Ooooooh, on Castle they had one where the body had been frozen for a long period of time, so it was hard to pinpoint the time of death. I find it a bit silly that they asked about alibis for years ago. I barely know what I was doing a month ago, much less than five years. I imagine the police wouldn’t be able to hold you for not being able to provide an alibi for an event years ago. I wonder if alibis have a limit. Even most businesses, in the interests of saving space, will only retain surveillance footage for a certain period of time. Storage is cheap, but when you’re recording video, especially from multiple cameras, it adds up!
Personally, I’d go for the falsified alibi. Oh no, I hope this blog post doesn’t end up being used against me in court some day….. Hypothetically, I’d go for the falsified alibi. The issue with the freezing trick is that you’d have to freeze it for a fair amount of time to be able to benefit from them not being able to pinpoint the time of death. In that time, if you are related to the victim in some way, you’ll have to justify their disappearance. If they are discovered missing too early, then the trail to the frozen body is still warm.
Oh, I just had a thought. If you are good at manipulating photos, and the person you want to kill is willing to go on a holiday with you, then you invite them out, kill them, and photoshop some images to make it look like they’re still with you on holiday. It has to be good photoshops though, because those photos are going to be the thing that throws off the murder timeline. The police will think that the person was killed in September, because there are photos of the two of you together throughout August, when in fact, they were killed at the start of August. They will begin the search for the body at the last known location in September, which might be Ayers Rock, based on your holiday snaps, but in reality, the body was left in a hole somewhere in Darwin. And since you had to fly back early, the last time you saw them, they were “alive and healthy”, and there are people who are able to place you in your home city, and not back in Ayers Rock doing the deed. How could you have done it if you never had the time to?
So that’s my hypothetical way of covering the opportunity angle.