Iceland saw its first official murder of 2012 this February. A 22 year old man showed up to a police station claiming to have done something awful. Given his history of drug offenses, the police saw reason to investigate. That’s when they found a woman, twice his age, lying on the floor of his home, having been stabbed to death.
Murder is a relatively rare event in Iceland. There are on average two deaths attributed to murder every year, according to data collected by Statistics Iceland over the last three decades. That’s less than one per 100.000 inhabitants, which is amongst the lowest murder rates in the world.
Perhaps it’s simply difficult to kill given that handguns are illegal? Well, this may very well be part of the reason that murders are so rare, but it doesn’t stop a far greater number of people from taking their own lives. There are on average 33 self-inflicted deaths reported per year, according to data collected during this same time period. It should however be noted that suicide is a rather taboo subject in Iceland and such deaths are rarely reported in the media.
While suicide and murder seem like unrelated enough events, perhaps there is a common underlying cause—something pushing people over the edge—as these rates loosely rise and fall at the same time, both peaking in 2000 with six murders and 55 suicides. Then again, perhaps it’s merely a coincidence.