From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Uxoricide (from Latin uxor meaning "wife") is murder of one's wife. It can refer to the act itself or the man who carries it out.
In many patriarchal cultures uxoricide is regarded less harshly than other forms of homicide, especially in cases of adultery. It may even be regarded as the correct, honourable thing to do. (See honour killing)
Uxoricide in fiction
- In Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, uxoricide is a central plot point.
- The titular character in William Shakespeare's play Othello murders his wife Desdemona, under the false belief that she had committed adultery; similarly, Posthumus attempts to kill his wife Imogen in Cymbeline, also by Shakespeare, for the same reason.
- In the famous fairy tale Bluebeard, written by Charles Perrault, the title character kills two of his wives.
- In the Agatha Christie novel Death on the Nile, Simon Doyle and his former fiancée Jacqueline plot to murder his wife, the wealthy Linnet.
- In the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica television series, Colonel Saul Tigh kills his wife, Ellen Tigh, after she betrays the New Caprica resistance movement to the Cylons.
- In the film Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Sweeney Todd, in a passionate flurry of murder, accidentally kills his wife under the assumption that she was just a witness.
Known or suspected uxoricides
- Cambyses II of Persia married two of his sisters and installed the younger as queen consort of Egypt. During his insanity, he murdered her for weeping for their brother Smerdis, whom Cambyses had murdered.
- Ptolemy XI of Egypt had his wife and stepmother, Berenice III, murdered nineteen days after their wedding in 80 BC. Afterwards, Ptolemy was lynched by the citizens of Alexandria, with whom Berenice was very popular.
- Herod the Great had his second wife, Mariamne I strangled for suspected adultery, though she was innocent of the charges. According to Josephus, regret over this act almost caused Herod to go insane.
- Roman Emperor Tiberius probably had his second wife, Julia, starved to death in 14 AD, while she was in exile on Pandataria. Their marriage was unhappy, and he had been publicly embarrassed by her adultery years earlier. Her alleged paramour, Sempronius Gracchus, was executed around the same time on Tiberius’s orders.
- Roman Emperor Nero ordered the death of his first wife, Octavia, soon after divorcing her in 62 AD. He also reportedly kicked his second wife, Poppaea Sabina, to death in 65 AD after an argument.
- John Emil List murdered his three children, mother and his wife on 9 November, 1971. He was a fugitive for 18 years. He was apprehended on 1 June, 1989 after an episode of "America's Most Wanted" was broadcast. On 1 May, 1990 he was sentenced to 5 life terms in prison.
- Bradford Bishop murdered his three children, mother, and his wife in 1976. He was tried for homicide and sentenced in absentia, and has been the subject of TV shows such as America's Most Wanted and Unsolved Mysteries. Bishop remains an international fugitive.
- Philosopher Louis Althusser strangled his wife to death on 16 November 1980. He was not tried, on the grounds of diminished responsibility, and was instead committed to a psychiatric hospital. He was discharged in 1983.
- Orenthal James Simpson was found not guilty of the 1994 murder of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and the murder of her friend, Ronald Goldman, but in 1997, Simpson was found liable in a wrongful death civil suit.
- Actor Robert Blake was found not guilty of the 2001 murder of his wife Bonnie Lee Bakley, but was found liable for her wrongful death in a 2005 civil suit filed by her children from previous marriages.
- Scott Peterson murdered his pregnant wife Laci Peterson in 2002. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 2005.
- Mark Hacking murdered his pregnant wife Lori Hacking in 2004. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2005.
- Joe O'Reilly was convicted in 2007 of the murder of his wife Rachel at their home in Co. Dublin, Ireland, in October 2004. With the crime (Rachel O'Reilly had been bludgeoned to death with an exercise barbell) having been the focus of considerable national attention, an ostensibly grieving O'Reilly appeared (along with his mother-in-law) on an episode of the Late Late Show during the weeks that followed. It was not until some months later that police attention gradually began to focus on O'Reilly, with mobile phone records (he had claimed to have been at work, 30 miles away, at the time of his wife's death) eventually being used to secure his conviction. Not to be confused with Senator Joe O'Reilly, an Irish Fine Gael politician.
- On 10 October, 2006, Hans Reiser was arrested and subsequently charged with the murder of his wife, Nina Reiser.