Torture murder

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A torture murder is a murder where death was preceded by the torture of the victim. In many legal jurisdictions, a murder involving "exceptional brutality or cruelty" will attract a harsher sentence.


Notable individual incidents and successfully prosecuted cases are listed below but torture murder is much more common than this list may suggest. Lynching in the United States—extrajudicial killing by a mob, which often served as a means of racial terrorism—frequently involved public torture of the victim or victims, and was in many instances followed by human trophy collecting, too.[1][2] Moreover, since industrial acid became available in quantity during the 19th century, acid attacks have become a globally widespread method of murder.

In the 21st century, many of the murders of foreigners in and citizens of Iraq and Syria committed by members of the terrorist organization Daesh were preceded by torture. Film footage of the persecution of Muslims in Myanmar documents the aftermath and testimony of torture murder by government forces,[3] and evidence has demonstrated torture murder associated with many other massacres, war crimes, and genocides, both contemporary and historical.


Murder laws worldwide vary a great deal, but a murder involving torture will generally attract a harsher penalty than a murder alone. Legal mechanisms of penalty enhancement vary between jurisdictions. In the laws of Italy, Germany, Norway, and many parts of the United States, there are two or more "degrees" of murder, with wording such as: "...inflicting torture upon the victim prior to the victim's death"[4] typically used to rule that the highest degree should apply. In other jurisdictions, it may be that even if there was just one crime of murder, the sentencing practices and guidelines are such that the aggravating circumstance of any torture will nevertheless allow for a harsher than normal penalty.[5][6]

Notable perpetrators and victims[edit]

Some notable perpetrators and victims include the following. The dates indicate the time of the crime or crimes. This list includes people in positions of power.

Torture murderers[edit]

Torture murder victims[edit]

See also[edit]

Lethal methods of torture[edit]


  1. ^ Tharoor, Ishaan (September 27, 2016). "U.S. owes black people reparations for a history of 'racial terrorism,' says U.N. panel". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 1, 2017. Lynching was a form of racial terrorism that has contributed to a legacy of racial inequality that the United States must address. Thousands of people of African descent were killed in violent public acts of racial control and domination and the perpetrators were never held accountable.
  2. ^ Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror (Report) (3rd ed.). Montgomery, Alabama: Equal Justice Initiative. 2017. p. 14. Archived from the original on 2018-05-10. Public spectacle lynchings were those in which large crowds of white people, often numbering in the thousands, gathered to witness pre-planned, heinous killings that featured prolonged torture, mutilation, dismemberment, and/or burning of the victim. Many were carnival-like events, with vendors selling food, printers producing postcards featuring photographs of the lynching and corpse, and the victim’s body parts collected as souvenirs.
  3. ^ "Myanmar's Killing Fields". Frontline. Season 36. transcript. 2018-05-08. PBS.
  4. ^ Law § 235.20 PEN Part 3 Title H
  5. ^ "Sentencing - Mandatory life sentences in Murder cases". CPS. Crown Prosecution Service. Retrieved 18 July 2017.
  6. ^ "the offence involved gratuitous cruelty". Sentencing Bench Book. Judicial Commission of New South Wales. Retrieved 18 July 2017.