Whodunit, Howdunit, Whydunit? How Detectives Think About and Investigate Complex ‘Hard to Solve’ Murders

Martin Innes, Fiona Brookman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter explores the organisation and conduct of the minority of police murder enquiries that are required to engage with the challenges of investigating ‘hard to solve’ criminal homicides. It is suggested that police detectives engaged in such efforts structure their thinking around three core questions. The ‘Whodunit?’ question is focused upon the fundamental task of suspect identification and location, as typically in such cases, the identity of a prime suspect and evidence for their involvement in the fatal violence are difficult to establish. Rather different challenges are posed by the ‘Howdunit?’ question, where the investigative tasks centre providing a ‘high resolution’ account of precisely how the violence was performed. Issues of motive and ‘Whydunit?’ are also important, especially in being able to construct a compelling and persuasive narrative to support prosecution. In the chapter, the significance of each of these questions in shaping and guiding the work of homicide investigators is illustrated by real-life empirical case studies.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge International Handbook of Homicide Investigation
EditorsCheryl Allsop, Sophie Pike
Place of PublicationAbingdon, Oxon
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781003195283
ISBN (Print)9781032047263, 9781032049489
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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