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Monday, August 29, 2016

Crossbow murders are very rare, multiple homicides even more so

Crossbow murders are rare. A triple homicide with a crossbow is so rare they are practically unheard of. To learn more about this recent news development, see Triple Homicide with Crossbow in Scarborough.

The autopsy report for the incident was released today.

The female victim was strangled. Her two sons were stabbed with a crossbow bolt and the other was stabbed with an arrowhead, both wounds were to the neck. It is unclear whether the one son was shot in the neck with a crossbow bolt, or whether he was simply stabbed there using a crossbow bolt like a dagger. The other son was stabbed with an arrowhead, suggesting that they were indeed physically stabbed in such a manner.

The very rare nature of crossbow attacks makes them high-profile incidents, and the Scarborough triple homicide where a crossbow was located on the scene is once again pushing forward conversations on regulating the weapons. However the autopsy reports suggest that the crossbow bolt and arrowhead were merely used as "weapons of convenience", similar to if someone happened to leave an axe laying on a table and a would-be murderer simply picked it up because it was handy.

Though police have been deliberately avoiding confirming whether a crossbow was used in Thursday’s attack, which left three people dead, a crossbow was found nearby, and at the time reports released to the public stated that all three victims were struck by crossbow bolts. While the latter might still be true, the cause of death for one of the victims was still strangulation. And the son who was killed by being stabbed with an arrowhead, as opposed to being shot with a crossbow bolt, suggests that he might have suffered only a minor wound from being shot, and that it was the stabbing in the neck that actually killed him.

Brett Ryan, Suspected Murderer
On Friday, Brett Ryan, 35, was charged with three counts of first-degree murder. His next court appearance is Friday, Sept. 2nd.

There was also a witness to the murders, a fourth person who was stabbed but was later released from hospital. Their testimony will later be instrumental in proving whether the victims were shot or stabbed, who the crossbow was owned by, the motive for the attack, and what actually transpired on a quiet afternoon in sunny Scarborough on August 25th, 2016.

The event is one of only a handful of crossbow related murders in Canada's recent history, and though crossbow-involved attacks seldom occur, their unusual nature makes them high-profile cases, in the same way that "sword stabbing murders" are also quite rare and attract more media attention.

One notable previous case was the fatal crossbow shooting of an abusive father by his son in 2010 inside a Toronto Public Library. That incident involved both a crossbow and a hammer. Zhou Fang was found guilty of second-degree murder and received a mandatory life sentence. To learn more about that incident see Crossbow Murder in Toronto Library.

In 2007, a 26-year-old man was charged with murder and attempted murder after his mother was killed and father injured in a crossbow attack in St-Cesaire, Que.

In 1998, a man was shot in the head with a crossbow in his Hamilton home, but thankfully survived.

In 1991, Ottawa lawyer Patricia Allen was killed with a crossbow by her estranged husband.

Internationally, crossbow deaths have also made headlines, including a suicide in 2015 in England, and the case of Stephen Griffiths, a British man who lured, murdered and ate the flesh of several women in 2009 and 2010, later referring to himself as the "crossbow cannibal" in an attempt to win fame for himself.

In the wake of Thursday’s attack, local crossbow hunters and enthusiasts say they’re not happy the conversation is once again focused on the weapon. The autopsy however seems to suggest the hunting tool was merely conveniently there, and might not even belong to the murderer.

Many crossbow owners are hunters, and like the challenge of learning how to aim it accurately. The level of knowledge and the level skill to proficiently shoot and shoot well with it takes more work.

Though attacks on people with crossbows are considerably rare, they cause enough public discourse that owners will stay quiet about their crossbow ownership. Buying a typical crossbow doesn’t require a licence, but the person making the purchase must be over the age of 18.

"Firearm-like homicides" are very rare according to Statistics Canada, making up less than 0.2% of all murders in Canada. It should also be noted that the murder rate in Canada has been dropping rapidly since the 1990s.

On behalf of Toronto's archery community, we express our condolences to the victims and the families of the victims.