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is this the most dangerous place on earth?
August 31, 2009 3:04 AM   Subscribe

Midsomer seems to be an awfully dangerous place. What percentage of the UK's annual murders occur in this deceptively peaceful village?

So I've seen a couple of episodes of this documentary about life in the English countryside.
Assuming that the film makers were in town at the time of every violent death in the otherwise quaint hamlet, it would seem there are about 15 such deaths there each year. Frankly even this seems cause for great concern. If however, the episodes are an accurate slice of village life it seems that there is about one death a day, which would tally up to about 365 deaths a year.

According to this article the UK had "624 violent murders in 2007"
is there such a thing as a non violent murder? What does that include, murder via negligence? poisoning?

This would seem to indicate that Midsomer is home to somewhere between 2.5% and 60% of the UK's annual murder toll.

Does anyone have more accurate information about the number of days of which the episodes occur and an accurate death tally?

can anyone make a sound logical mathematical case that 100% of all British murders occur here?
posted by compound eye to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
...more accurate information about the number of days OVER which the episodes occur...
posted by compound eye at 3:06 AM on August 31, 2009


[Re: 'this documentary' link: I can tell you're just funnin' us, but it should be clear that The Midsomer Murders is a fictional drama about a made-up place, for those playing along at home.]

Okay: the United Kingdom's Home Office Research Development Statistics page is a good one to start with for fresh stats on this. (You can pretty much skip over what's referred to as the "British Crime Survey;" while I don't know how useful that data is, it's what it says it is, a survey, which is to say it's the results of questionnaires filled out by policemen following up with past victims. I don't think that's precisely what we'd want, since surveys always add something to it; so we skip to the official police recorded crime.)

This [PDF] is the chapter of the latest (2008-2009) report that deals with violent and sexual crime. It states in its first bullet point near the top that the number of homicides in 2008/09 was 648. Please keep in mind that this is not the number of homicides in the UK, but rather in England and Wales. Presumably homicide includes all variety of murder, violent and non-violent, as well as unintentional deaths. It also states under the same bullet point that the number of attempted murders (which I presume includes only attempted but unsuccessful murders) was 575.

Now, not being willing to actually watch The Midsomer Murders for more than five minutes at a stretch, nor even to cull through wikipedia's guide to the 68 episodes there have been so far, you'll have to rely on someone else for the details as to statistical quantities in between the reality and the show. However, I would point out an interesting and I believe significant point of convergence. According to the Home Office report I linked above:
  • There was a fall in the number of homicide offences involving a knife or other sharp instrument (down from 270 to 252) between 2007/08 and 2008/09 but a rise in the number of attempted murders involving a knife (up from 245 to 271 offences). Robbery offences involving knives decreased slightly (from 17,058 to 16,701) in the same period.

  • The number of police recorded offences involving firearms fell by 17 per cent between 2007/08 and 2008/09 and has decreased by 26 per cent since peaking in 2005/06. There was a large reduction in the number of firearm offences resulting in injury (down by 46% in 2008/09) mostly due to reductions in slight injuries and associated with large reductions in the use of imitation weapons (down 41%). There was a small rise in the use of shotguns and handguns (both up 2%).
  • So the number of homicides involving a knife has fallen, whereas the number of offences involving firearms has fallen, as well. This can mean only one thing: fewer and fewer of the murders in England and Wales are committed with knives and guns, whilst more and more murders are committed through the use of more... 'creative' means.

    I think that this does at least show that England and Wales are becoming more like The Midsomer Murders as time goes on: that is, people in those countries are more and more apt to forego the trad blade & pistol and kill each other in outlandishly complex or whimsically urbane ways.
    posted by koeselitz at 3:53 AM on August 31, 2009


    If you take the fact there has been 68 episodes since 1997 (when the show started) and now, and that there must be about one murder an episode, that works out to about 5 and a half a year (let's say 6). Six murders in a year would be less than 1% of the murders in the United Kingdom. If Midsomer had the same average murder rate as the country as a whole, it would have a population of 500 to 600 thousand people. Given that Midsomer is actually a county, that number would be entirely reasonable.
    posted by Sova at 3:54 AM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


    (Or at least that's what I think I'd like to believe the statistics show. An England filled with Masonic-dagger-stabbing fiends and orchid-wielding killers is just somehow more romantic than an England where the violent just tend to get so incredibly pissed that they try to kill each other with doorknobs and things.)
    posted by koeselitz at 3:57 AM on August 31, 2009


    Sova: Given that Midsomer is actually a county, that number would be entirely reasonable.

    Uh, Sova? Check the link there...

    from link: Midsomer (fictional county). Midsomer is an English fictional county that appears in the British TV Series Midsomer Murders, which is adapted from Caroline Graham's series of novels featuring Inspector Barnaby.
    posted by koeselitz at 3:58 AM on August 31, 2009


    Uh, Sova? Check the link there...

    from link: Midsomer (fictional county). Midsomer is an English fictional county that appears in the British TV Series Midsomer Murders, which is adapted from Caroline Graham's series of novels featuring Inspector Barnaby.


    I mean, "actually" a county, and not a town, village, hamlet, district, borough, riding or wapentake. I kinda know that Midsomer is not a real place, but is a made up county, like Rutland.
    posted by Sova at 4:05 AM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


    I'm more worried about the murder rate in St Mary Mead. This is a very small village, with probably no more than 100 inhabitants, yet the number of violent deaths is disturbingly high. According to one estimate, there are four novels and five short stories involving murders in St Mary Mead or the country houses nearby, including the following:

    The Murder at the Vicarage (1930): Colonel Prothero.
    The Thumb-Mark of St Peter (1932): Geoffrey Denham.
    Death by Drowning (1932): Rose Emmott.
    The Body in the Library (1942): Ruby Keene, Pamela Reeves.
    The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side (1962): Heather Badcock, Ella Zielinsky.

    This suggests that there were at least twelve murders in the village between 1930 and 1962. On a very rough calculation, this would imply that for a long-term resident of St Mary Mead, the likelihood of being involved in a murder, either as perpetrator or victim, is somewhere around 30-40%.
    posted by verstegan at 4:40 AM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


    Rutland is real. Also, I have yet to see an episode of Midsomer Murders in which only one person is murdered. If you really want to get accurate, here's the Midsomer Murders body count.
    posted by Kattullus at 4:48 AM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


    You can pretty much skip over what's referred to as the "British Crime Survey;" while I don't know how useful that data is, it's what it says it is, a survey, which is to say it's the results of questionnaires filled out by policemen following up with past victims.

    I'd like to call out this mischaracterisation of the BCS. It's not victim follow-up by the police, it's a solidly-designed survey that is generally considered to give more accurate and useful depictions of crime figures that the recorded police statistics. It has a consistent methodology (unlike law enforcement), and better represents unreported minor crimes.

    Sorry for the slight derail, but I didn't want to leave misinformation uncorrected in AskMe.
    posted by Bodd at 5:13 AM on August 31, 2009


    Rutland is real. Also, I have yet to see an episode of Midsomer Murders in which only one person is murdered. If you really want to get accurate, here's the Midsomer Murders body count.

    Whoa, Rutland is real?!?! No way.

    Anyway, fair enough about the double/triple murders. I don't watch the program, though I might if they did a CSI/Law & Order/Midsomer Murders crossover. I suppose if we take a figure of 200 murders over 12 years, with an annual murder total of 650 in England and Wales, that still gives Midsomer a population of about 1.4 million if we assume it has an average murder rate. Whilst that population is reasonable for some of the larger counties, Midsomer is made out to be a much smaller and more rural place, so it's population is likely quite low, meaning it has a higher-than-average murder rate. Maybe Barnaby will retire to Baltimore, you know, for the quiet life.
    posted by Sova at 5:26 AM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


    Of course Rutland is real - home to the best Weekend Television in the kingdom.
    posted by Abiezer at 6:47 AM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


    Yeah, the key thing is that DCI Barnaby has jurisdiction over an entire police area, which is presumably coterminous with the boundaries of the County of Midsomer (not all are so precisely linked).

    This came up in relation to the recent texting-while-driving PSA, produced by the Gwent Police. I saw American anchors cooing over how neat it was that this was produced by a "local" police department, but the Gwent jurisdiction actually covers four county boroughs and a city, with a total population of about 556,000 -- approximately the same as Las Vegas. Funny, you don't hear these sorts of complaints about CSI. You hear different ones.
    posted by dhartung at 9:25 PM on August 31, 2009


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