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‘Never just a murderer’

In an interview with Leidraad Alumni Magazine (no. 2, 2019), Marieke Liem states that it is almost impossible to compare between murders. ‘In our society we are inclined to frame murderers as monsters. Sometimes there is a very fine line between perpetrator and victim.’

Marieke Liem, who has been working as a psychologist and criminologist at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs at Leiden University for the last 15 years, conducts research into fatal violence, more commonly known as murder and manslaughter.

List of murders

Her most recent research focusses on an inventory of all murders committed in the Netherlands over the last 25 years. Approximately 5,000 cases with more than 5,000 victims. Gathering all this information was a massive undertaking. ‘There was a huge void when it came to available data;’ according to Liem.’  

Changes in recreational habits

After entering all murders into the database, Liem concluded that relatively few murders are being committed in the Netherlands and that this trend is continuing to fall. Liem and her colleagues have been working on hypotheses to explain the decline. The financial crisis, a rise in the number of divorces, alcohol and drug use, and the demographic composition of the population, all of them did not seem to have an influence on the number of murders. It seems, however, that there is a link between the number of murders committed and the hypothesis Liem is currently working on: the changes in recreational habits.

Fascination for murder

When asked where her fascination for murder comes from, Liem struggles to find an answer. ‘Murders are often surrounded by myths, we are inclined to frame murderers as psychopaths, and murder as something that happens somewhere far away to other people. However, I am convinced that you cannot label murder as something that we simply cannot understand. I believe it is my duty to countermand the most persistent myths.’

You can read the complete interview (in Dutch) here.

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