Suicide, Not Murder
Framing an enemy for a crime is a long established tactic for dealing with them. Framing them for murder is even better. In some places they could wind up dead! There is a snag, however; the police may well find evidence, witnesses and so on to link the killing back to you. If only there was a way to get yourself above suspicion. Well, there is, but it is awfully extreme. You take the part of the victim. Kill yourself and make it look like murder. Of course you need to be pretty committed to it, but if you have nothing else to lose... In shows when it is Always Murder and Never Suicide this can crop up as the rare exception. Can also cover instances where you hire an assassin to kill yourself. Sometimes the idea isn't to frame someone in particular, just to cover up the suicide as part of an Insurance Fraud, since death-by-suicide usually isn't covered. Occasionally a suicide will be covered up by a second party who wants to protect the deceased's reputation. Exists at the intersection of Wounded Gazelle Gambit and My Death Is Just the Beginning. Sometimes, but not always, a sub-trope of Thanatos Gambit. The character may be pulling off this trope in order to avoid the stigmatization of suicide. Compare and contrast Make It Look Like an Accident and Suicide, Not Accident. Similar to but distinct from Taking You with Me; that trope is more of a last resort for when you were going to die anyway. As a Death Trope, spoilers will be unmarked.
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Anime and Manga
- The despondent ex-boyfriend of an Idol Singer in Detective Conan commits suicide to cast suspicion on said singer, but Conan clears her. Another case alluded to was when the ex-CEO of a company committed suicide and tried to frame his former business partner only to be found out by Conan's father. Years later, his son tried the opposite and was foiled by Conan himself.
- A rich socialite in Franken Fran pulls this when her father intends to remarry. Fran, being the weirdo she is, sees right through it—and reanimates the schemer so she can confess.
- Golgo13: The Professional has a weird version of this. The film starts with a powerful man's son being killed by Golgo 13. At the end, we learn that the son had hired Golgo to kill him - he felt he could never live up to his father's expectations, but was too squeamish to kill himself.
- In the "The Too Many Cooks Caper" in Detective Comics #500, where a dying detective fakes his own murder at his retirement dinner, causing the other detectives at the dinner to go after the mobster he framed for the crime.
- This story was based on the classic Golden Age Batman story "The Case Batman Failed To Solve!!!" from Batman #14 (December 1942-January 1943). The scenario is essentially the same but with Batman as one of the detectives present. Batman solves the case but doesn't disclose the solution to allow the dead detective Dana Drye's mystique to remain intact.
- In Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, the Joker's final joke is to frame Batman for his own death. Batman did break Joker's spine, but didn't go through with murder as he originally intended - Joker then taunts him and laughs as he snaps his own neck despite being paralyzed. Sure enough, the police believe Batman broke his code and killed the Joker.
- The opening scene of Marvel's Ruse miniseries has Simon Archard declare a nobleman's death suicide, not murder, despite the fact that he was stabbed several times in the stomach and his head was cut off. He cited evidence such as a lack of defensive wounds, the discoloration of the man's skin and blood, a faint but distinctive odor, and ink stains on his hands — which indicate that he hastily wrote a suicide note and did the deed with cyanide, after which the first person to discover the body staged it as a murder to avoid scandal.
- In the original ending of Fatal Attraction, the Bunny Boiler slits her own throat to try and make it look like the man she'd been dallying with had done it to get rid of her.
- Actually, that likely wasn't her intent, since she sent him an audio tape warning that she felt suicidal. It's implied that this tape would get him out of jail. But then, she may have been too crazy to think things through.
- There's a movie called Cookie's Fortune, where the old lady killed herself, and left her fortune to one of the other characters... and her daughter was the first one to discover her, and so scandalized by the idea that she would have killed herself, and that people would think ill of the family for it, that she planted evidence to make it seem like murder, which led to a series of events that ended in a very just ending.
- In Leave Her to Heaven, the insanely jealous Ellen, despondent when she realizes her that everything she's done to hang on to her husband Richard (allowing his invalid brother to drown, deliberately causing herself to miscarry)has instead driven him away (he's fallen in love with her sister Ruth), poisons herself and makes it appear as though Ruth (with or without Richard's encouragement) has killed her. It almost works.
- In End of Days, one of the cops investigating a crime scene involving a man having been crucified to a ceiling after the Devil paid him a vist suggests with no trace of sarcasm in his voice that "maybe he did it to himself". Jericho, speaking for the audience, mocks him for it. The man is later revealed to be a Satanist.
- In Fletch, Chevy Chase is hired by a wealthy man to break into his house and murder him. The wannabee-victim explains that he has bone cancer and will die horribly in a few weeks, but doesn't care to commit suicide as it would invalidate his life insurance. Turns out it's a scam on the victim's part ... but that's only fair, because Chevy's "junkie drifter" facade is also a pretense by his Intrepid Reporter character.
- Invoked in Inception, as part of the overall Mind Screw.
- A double twist variant serves as the bookends for the story in I Robot. The robot did kill Dr. Lanning, but it was actually because Lanning told him too.
- Invoked in The Life of David Gale, as part of a Thanatos Gambit to get an innocent man executed for murder.
- Sherlock Holmes "The Problem of Thor Bridge". Villain sets up the evidence to frame her rival for murder, then figures out a way to shoot herself and hide the gun. Of course Holmes discovers the one subtle clue that gives the game away.
- A variation in Agatha Christie's Murder at the Mews: The suicide had been without second intentions, but a friend of the deceased planted fake evidence to make it seem like it was a murder committed by the person who, in fact, had driven her friend to suicide with his blackmailing.
- Agatha Christie recycled this from "The Market Basing Mystery", which has the same method of suicide, and the same method of disguising it as murder.
- Agatha Christie changed the ending of her Appointment with Death novel in the play adaptation. There, the tyrannical Mrs Boynton cannot bear the thought that her family will be free from her psychological torturing of them when she dies, so she kills herself in a way that will make it look like one of them did it so she can still keep tormenting them in death. It Makes Sense in Context.
- In And Then There Were None, the killer fakes his own murder and then commits suicide in such a way as to match the details of his 'murder'.
- Margery Allingham's Albert Campion novel Police at the Funeral has a character who doesn't just do this, but also leaves lethal booby traps for all his relatives.
- The insurance fraud version is used in Arthur Hailey's Airport.
- In one of Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels, Widow's Walk, a wife covers up her husband's suicide by making it look like murder so she could collect the insurance. Not being the sharpest knife in the drawer, it didn't occur to her who the police would consider the prime suspect...
- Inverted in Brazilian novel O Homem Que Matou Getúlio Vargas (or Twelve Fingers in English): the titular dictator shot himself in real life. In the novel, a clumsy Serbian assassin (who's distantly related to him) tries preventing him from doing so, and accidentally kills him when his extra index finger hits the trigger.
- In Fletch, the book by Gregory McDonald, the protagonist is hired by a wealthy man to break into his house and murder him. The wannabee-victim explains that he has bone cancer and will die horribly in a few weeks, but doesn't care to commit suicide as it would invalidate his life insurance. Turns out it's a scam on the victim's part he wants to murder Fletch... but that's only fair, because Chevy's "junkie drifter" facade is also a pretense by his Intrepid Reporter character.
- One of The Cat Who books has one of the people involved in a murder plot send Qwill a letter describing the plot and saying that she fears her partners will try to kill her and make it look like an accident or a suicide. Actually it was a genuine suicide. She killed herself because her brother rejected her to marry another woman, and the letter was her way of getting revenge on him.
- While there is plenty of reason to suspect murder, especially since it happens at around the same time as another character's disappearance, it is eventually decided that the death of Edward Janacek in the Honor Harrington series was a suicide.
Live Action TV
- One episode had a woman who tried to frame a doctor for her murder by having an affair with him and committing suicide.
- A man who lost all his money in Blackjack (trying to use the double-every-bet tactic) wedging a knife between a door hinge and slamming himself into it making it appear he was stabbed to death, so his life insurance would cover for his brother.
- Another time involved a hunter making his suicide look like a hunting accident for very similar reasons - in this case to allow for a generous life insurance payout to his wife.
- An episode has Catherine, Langston et. al. dealing with a woman who sought to escape her financial woes and rocky marriage by framing her husband for her 'murder'. The 'murder weapon' was ingested poison - namely, two full tubes of fluoridated toothpaste. (It Makes Sense in Context.)
- A subversion occurs in the episode "Who Shot Sherlock?", where the victim is the Holmes of a Sherlock Holmes club. Greg finds the gun attached to an elastic cord, concealed in the fireplace. It looks like The Problem of Thor Bridge, but it turns out the victim was drugged with morphine instead of Holmes' habitual cocaine, and it's a murder disguised as a suicide disguised as a murder.
- One of the New York episodes involved a man who shot himself outdoors with a gun attached to helium balloons. The gun floated away but did eventually come down to earth and was recovered.
- Murder, She Wrote had a similar one in which the murder turned out to be suicide. The man was chronically ill but his wife concealed the suicide because he would have not been buried in the church if she hadn't (suicide being a sin and all). Interesting as there was no "murderer" set up.
- Another example: Jessica has to save an old Irish cop friend who is set up by a career criminal dying of brain cancer. He used a hollow wall and a stone to drag the gun out of view.
- Another episode had a dying Italian winery owner who invited his daughter's latest boyfriend, who he knew to be a Mob hitman, to the house in hopes the hitman would kill him and his death would make the family work together. Unfortunately, the plan went wrong and the vintner killed the assassin.
- Happened in a McMillan and Wife episode where the "victim" was trying to frame cast regular Sgt. Enright.
- The assassin variation occurs in The Odd Job, which was originally a half-hour comedy skit starring Ronnie Barker, later remade as a film starring Graham Chapman. The main character asks a hit man to kill him, but then changes his mind. Hilarity and death ensues.
- In an episode of Psych, Shawn spends the whole episode trying to figure out who's been sabotaging a stunt biker, until realizing that he's dying of cancer, and only insured for ring accidents.
- This sort of situation caused a client of Jim Rockford's to do 20 years on the The Rockford Files.
- Law & Order:
- An unhappy husband on Law & Order framed his wife and her boyfriend. Awesomely pulled off, by the way. He hired a hitman with an account of his wife's. Planted evidence that incriminated the two in the boyfriend's apartment and among wife's things. To pull all this off, however, he had to borrow money from his best friend. To make sure said friend wouldn't be caught up in his plot, he made a Video Will in which the "victim" revealed that it was his plot. Then the "victim" has a good laugh about it.
- A woman on Law & Order: SVU made her death look so much like a homicide (having several high-powered and/or married lovers and a sexually abusive father helped) that no one even thought it was a suicide until her sister received the note.
- Law & Order: Criminal Intent had a woman frame her husband for her murder to send him to prison while protecting her daughter from an Awful Truth: her husband was a Jew-hating serial killer and she'd discovered she was a Jew (which made her daughter one by extension).
- Used in several soap operas, particularly on Guiding Light. Devastated when husband Josh leaves her to reunite with ex Reva, Annie suffers a miscarriage. However, the baby remains in her womb. At a party, Annie lured Reva to the top of a steep staircase, provoked her into an argument, then made it appear as though Reva had shoved her down the stairs. Reva was charged with manslaughter for the death of the baby, until it was proven that the baby had died long before Annie fell down the stairs.
- This appears to be the fate of Vera Bates in Downton Abbey, though as of the end of the second season we haven't learned precisely what happened
- As of the third season, it's confirmed that Vera did, in fact, kill herself with an arsenic-laced pie.
- The title character of Sherlock apparently drew this conclusion when he and Watson played the board game Cluedo in the "The Hounds of Baskerville" episode, thinking it's the "only possible solution".
Watson: "It's not in the rules!"Sherlock: "Then the rules are wrong!"
- On Emmerdale, Chris Tate found out he had a brain tumour and only months to live, so he arranged a meeting with his Gold Digger wife Charity and drank poisoned wine in order to frame her for his murder.
- A woman faking her own murder got the plot rolling in the Elementary episode "On The Line", loosley based on the Conan Doyle Thor Bridge story. The audience saw her go through with it in the cold open, including a 911 call where she identifies an old enemy of hers as her "assailant". Sherlock figures it out pretty quickly, but soon regrets exposing the plot, because the man she framed was a sadistic serial killer.
- Another Elementary first-season episode featured a professor shot dead in front of witnesses, in his eyes — which looked like a vicious revenge killing. The truth is, he hired his own hitman after being diagnosed with an incurable and fatal illness, whose first symptom manifests in the eyes — and out of spite, he arranged things so that evidence would point to his Teacher's Assistant (and his wife's lover) hiring the hitman.
- Death in Paradise had an episode in which an elderly woman made a voodoo prediction about her own death at the hands of a "scarred man" and then died in suspicious circumstances the next day. As it turns out, she had long suspected this particular scarred man of her daughter's murder, and she faked her own murder at his hands in order to get the police to investigate him again.
- In Stargate Universe, the episode "Justice" deals with the crew investigating what looks like a suicide, but the gun used was missing from the scene, only to be found in Colonel Young's room and turning it into a murder trial. It later turns out that Spencer had committed suicide and Dr Rush planted the weapon in Young's room, not to frame him, but to throw enough doubt on him to get him replaced by someone would would permit Rush to conduct experiments on the Ancient Control Chair.
- An episode of Quantum Leap had Dr. Beckett playing an attorney whose client was accused of murdering a neighbor. The neighbor's daughter had disappeared under mysterious circumstances when a little girl, and the neighbor always believed that the client was responsible. Sam eventually discovers that the neighbor slit her own throat with one of the client's kitchen knives to invoke this trope.
- An episode off Bones had a murder turn out to be suicide where the victim planted evidence to convict three girls who had bullied her. Somehow at the end we're supposed to be sorry for the victim because she was bullied and not the three teenagers who could have gone to prison for life. Raises the question of would we still feel the same way if she had just shot the three girls?
- Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura has one quest where this trope features: a jerk of an elven wizard stages a suicide to look like murder to frame the hypotenuse. The player character can unravel the scheme... or play right into it. It'll only work if you play into it, too, since the people 'investigating' the case just jumped to the obvious suspect — who as it turns out was not the actual target for framing, since he was really only the obvious suspect for being the wrong race and having an obvious motive (whether he had opportunity was not looked at).
- Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney features this case 4. The trial which eventually leads to Phoenix's disbarment is one in which he is defending Zak Gramarye (real name: Shadi Enigmar) who is suspected of murdering his mentor, Magnifi Gramarye. During the trial its shown that both Zak was sent instructions to kill Magnifi by Magnifi (who was already dying of Cancer) however it's revealed that Valant, Magnifi's other apprentice, also got the instructions and that Magnifi was testing his apprentices to see who was worthy of his inheritence. Phoenix proves that Valant manipulated the time of death, leading one to the thought that Valant is the murderer. However after investigating Phoenix learns that both Zak and Valant could not have commited the crime, leaving no other possible suspects. It's not until seven years after the trial ends that Phoenix finds out Magnifi had, and always had planned on committing suicide.
- Komaeda's death in Super Dangan Ronpa 2 turns out to be this. They staged an extremely brutal and elaborate suicide, making sure the thing that finished them off was the indirect result of the other students, effectively framing them all for murder.
- A Darwin Award was awarded to someone who (supposedly) accidentally did this in Real Life. He climbed into his neighbor's bathroom and stabbed himself in the chest, planning to blame his neighbor for it. Thinking the first wound didn't look deep enough, he stabbed himself again, this time fatally.
- Angelina Jolie claims to have tried this once, when in deep depression.
- Popular opinion believes that writer (and Sherlock Holmes scholar) Richard Lancelyn Green's death was an elaborate suicide, intended to look like murder, in order to cast suspicion upon one of his rivals.
- A suicide staged to look like a murder was the official conclusion in the 1978 death of Leonard Fagot.
- Books on forensic medicine usually include case histories or crime-scene descriptions of real deaths that initially appeared to be suicide and were later ruled to be murders, or vice versa.
- A particular well-thought-out one was where the woman pointed the gun at herself from above and in front of her chest, and shot herself through her clothes. A woman who suicides by gun usually does it from below and under her clothes. The forensic specialist had one of those indescribable hunches, and performed a test on the woman's hands for gunpowder residue; it came back positive. This, combined with the total lack of gunpowder on her ex-boyfriend's hands (and he'd been tested far too soon to wash or otherwise destroy the evidence) led to the verdict of suicide, not murder. (Yes, it was a revenge plot.)