Interior Ministry releases in-depth analysis of murder rates in Spain

The three-year study of 632 homicides, the first of its kind, contradicts popular notions on homicide and its links to immigration and race

Catalan police officers at the scene of a murder.
Catalan police officers at the scene of a murder.J. M.
Manuel Ansede

A new report from Spain’s Interior Ministry has produced an in-depth analysis of murder rates in Spain. The 85-page study is the result of three years of investigation into 632 police reports of homicides that “were gathering dust on bookshelves,“ says psychologist José Luis González.

By analyzing more than half of all murders – some of them multiple – committed between 2010 and 2012, the team of 50 researchers were able to create “the first national report on homicide in Spain,” says González, who coordinated the report.

According to the report, only 7% of male victims are killed by women. The majority of murders are men who are killed by men

The report’s findings contradict popular notions on murder and its link to immigration and race. “This is science, not politics,” explains González.

Secretary general of far-right political party Vox, Javier Ortega Smith, has claimed that “there are no figures on men who are killed by women. The figures are hidden because it’s not of interest to recognize that men are also killed by women.” But this data does indeed exist.

According to the report, only 7% of male victims are killed by women. The majority of murders (62%) are men who are killed by men, 28% are women killed by men and 3% are women killed by women.

From 871 cases of domestic violence, 131 were men who killed their female partner or former partner and just 17 were women who killed their male partner or former partner.

The figures however can be misleading because they include young future mothers who hide their pregnancies then dispose of the child for family or religious reasons. The police reports included the murders of 24 babies, 12 committed by women and nine by men.

“What we mainly have are fetuses that appear in trash cans. Cases like the child Gabriel from Almería are very exceptional,” says González, in reference to Gabriel Cruz, an eight-year-old boy who was murdered by his father’s girlfriend earlier this year.

Psychologist José Luis González.
Psychologist José Luis González.Víctor Sainz

Another surprise was the rate of sexual assault in murder cases. According to the report only three of the 661 murder victims (0.45%) were sexually abused before being killed. “Fortunately in Spain, it’s not at all common to sexually abuse a girl and kill her,” says González.

The study found that men committed 89% of murders and accounted for 61% of murder victims. In 69% of cases, the male murderers had a criminal record and in 31% the homicide was related to drugs.

The report found that 35% of murders were committed by foreigners. This figure reached 47% in the case of murders related to criminal activity such as gang violence (59%) and organized crime (95%). But criminologist Jorge Santos explains that this is because “a larger percentage of foreigners are young people, who commit the most murders. It’s nothing to do with foreigners being more violent.”

Murder rate falling

"There are few homicides and the number is dropping. There are increasingly fewer murders," says criminologist Jorge Santos. His report, which is now published on the Interior Ministry's website, shows murders have fallen from 587 in 2003 to 302 in 2015. In Spain, the annual homicide rate is 0.6 for every 100,000 people, much lower when compared to the 1.3 in France, 1.4 in Finland, five in the United States, 19 in Mexico and 30 in Brazil. "We have to share a message of great tranquility. Spain is a very safe country," says psychologist José Luis González.

The president of Vox, Santiago Abascal, suggested two months ago that migrants were to blame for most female homicide cases. “Who is responsible for the murders of women this year? Where do they come from? What nationality are they? Because more than a man’s DNA, cultural problems, immigrants who think that women are objects who can be assaulted, also play a role,” he said in an interview with the Spanish television network Intereconomía.

The new report from the Interior Ministry has the answers to Abascal’s questions: Spanish men committed 68% of murders relating to gender violence and 80% of family or domestic homicides.

“Cross-checking the nationality of the victims with the culprits, it’s apparent that Spanish women die significantly more at the hands of Spaniards (85%) and vice versa. It’s much more probable for a foreign woman (77%) to die at the hands of another foreigner,” the report states.

What’s more, murders associated with criminal activity are the minority – only 18% of the total. Most homicides occur during fights or brawls (22%), as a result of gender violence (21%) or domestic and family abuse (20%). Researchers noticed “a certain seasonality” in murder rates, with figures peaking in September (9.8%) and dropping in November (5.85%). Most murders took place on a Sunday (16.3%) and the fewest on Monday (11.5%). Around 60% of murders happened at night or in the early morning.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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