The Hitmen

New researchreported on by Mark Townsend in The Guardian, explores the habitual behavior of a small sample of British hitmen. Here’s Townsend’s summary:

The killers typically murder their targets on a street close to the victim’s home, although a significant proportion get cold feet or bungle the job, according to criminologists who examined 27 cases of contract killing between 1974 and 2013 committed by 36 men (including accomplices) and one woman.

…The reality of contract killing in Britain tended to be striking only in its mundanity, according to David Wilson, the university’s professor of criminology. He said: “Far from the media portrayal of hits being conducted inside smoky rooms, frequented by members of an organized crime gang, British hits were more usually carried out in the open, on pavements, sometimes as the target was out walking their dog, or going shopping, with passersby watching on in horror.”

Researchers found that the average cost of a hit was £15,180, with £100,000 being the highest and £200 the lowest amount paid. The average age of a hitman was 38 with the youngest aged 15 and the oldest 63.

The research also describes some fumbling hitmen, like Jamaican legal clerk Orville Wright, initially hired to murder a woman named Theresa Pitkin. “Wright burst into Pitkin’s flat armed with a knife but after chatting to her decided he could not do it,” writes Townsend. “The judge in Wright’s trial described him as a ‘hitman who lost his nerve’.”

(HT: Marginal Revolution)

Steve Cebalt

"Most hits involved a gun, with three victims stabbed, five beaten to death and two strangled. "

Ten of 27 killings were not by gun. Classic substitution.

I note that the guy who lost his never was wielding a knife. If he'd had a gun he may have just shot it and collected his fee. By comparison, stabbing a person to death is so intimate and personal, I can see how one might lose one's nerve more easily than a triggerman.

The £200 rate seems FREAK-ishly low. I mean, you have to hold someone in REALLY low regard to pay that little to a contract killer to get rid of them. Think about it.


As the article points out, as with most crime-related research, we really only have data on the failures. A successful hitman is one who doesn't get caught.