Arson: The homicidal and suicidal applications of fire

Williamson, John Gordon (2003) Arson: The homicidal and suicidal applications of fire. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

Full text not available from this repository.


This thesis reviews some of the methodologies utilised by Local Authority Fire and Rescue Services and driven in part by the British Government, to reduce fire deaths and injuries.
The reasoning behind this thesis is introduced along with an outline of its objectives. An historical examination of arson is presented along with an analysis as to how it impacts upon our society, and in particular, the financial pressures impinging on the insurance industry.
An exploration of the term 'arson' as well as its legal definition and roots is examined. The increasing number of deliberate fires started by young people in the UK is also highlighted.
Local intervention programmes emerge as a model as well as recommendations for reducing the crime of arson. The deployment of information technology as a tool with which to identilS' problem areas is seen as fundamental to any significant reduction whilst an examination of the financial implications and provision of funding from various sources in order to assist in this reduction is discussed in some detail.
A detailed description of the way that fire and its effluent gases impact upon the human body is presented along with a discussion of the effects of illness, alcohol and drugs.
An exploration and examination of how various professional groups and organisations can become involved in the investigative process is provided and suggestions are made to encourage closer cooperation between all interested parties. A comprehensive appreciation of organisational roles is presented with a view to improving understanding.
Physiological aspects of fire death are examined including an introduction into how bodies burn.
The methodology selected for carrying out the experimental test bums and an explanation of how the final selection of manikins was made is described in some detail. Legislative controls to harmonise with these test bums are then evaluated.
A comparative analysis between homicidal cases involving the use of fire and selfimmolation is presented. They also include a discussion of the difficulties of distinguishing between them and introduce racial and cultural influences.
The main tenet of this thesis is the difficulties of distinguishing between cases of homicide and suicide and how they can sometimes be overlooked or confused. The consequence of this is that perpetrators of this type of crime can remain undetected unless a 'team' approach is utilised by the investigators. Research carried out for this thesis highlights the
difficulties in both the statistical gathering and legal processes.
Case histories set the scene for the proposed test burns in order to provide a benchmark by which to measure findings. The preparation and practical work is also detailed.
Six separate bum tests were carried out using dressed manikins under experimental conditions, details of which were recorded and presented. Comparisons were made between these test bums and actual case histories and similarities between the resulting 'injuries' and case history bums are discussed. Heat sensors recorded temperatures attained during two of these tests and observations showed that clothing type influenced both heat and bum damage to the skin as well as providing an insulating and protective barrier. An analysis of test data is presented.
The experimental results together with a discussion on the practical implications resulting from the thesis are presented. It is hoped that this will assist investigators to analyse and distinguish between homicidal and suicidal cases, which have used fire as a weapon.
It is suggested that fhture research should include more sophisticated versions of manikins used in this thesis. It is further suggested that a mechanism could be incorporated for drawing fire gases into the 'airway' so that further analysis could expand upon the findings presented in this thesis.

Repository Staff Only: item control page