The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much aka: Beheaded Himself Shaving
Mrs. Pottsdam: Was it...suicide? Sheriff: Never heard of anyone pulling their own spinal cord out before. Off the record, I'd have to say no. No...all in all, I'd say this was natural causes. Steve: Natural causes?! Sheriff: You can't live without a spinal cord, son. Nothing unnatural about that.
While disguising a murder is a common occurrence in crime fiction, sometimes — especially when the murderer is a corrupt government or similarly powerful body — the death is simply reported as something other than murder. This can also occur when criminals who are too desperate to care give an account of their actions. When Played for Laughs, the report describes such an implausible set of circumstances that the true cause is obvious.
Compare Never Suicide - that's when someone takes significant steps to disguise a murder as such, instead of just proclaiming it suicide and suggesting you shouldn't disagree.
Compare Cut Himself Shaving. Contrast Make It Look Like an Accident and Unperson.
Despite the name, it doesn't have to involve the actual coroner.
As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
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Anime And Manga
Apparently, the juvenile detention center in Rainbow doesn't have a coroner. The doctor instead doubles as one—the same doctor, incidentally, who regularly picks out pretty boys to rape. This means that if anyone who could potentially give proof of the rapes to outside authorities dies in an "accident", he can prevent word from getting out, so long as there are no external wounds on the body.
In one "Medieval: Total War" After Action Report, the first time the author's faction assassinated another faction's leader, the cause of death was reported as a fall down a flight of stairs, with various outlandish and improbable explanations being given for the more suspicious injuries (such as impaling himself on the spiked banister for the various stab wounds). Saying that a character had "fallen down the stairs" became an euphemism for every assassination performed thereafter.
In a Let's Play of Ultima VI: The False Prophet, the party concludes, after some intimidation from the Avatar, that "Chuckles fell down some stairs. And into a cannon."
An inversion occurs in the Harry Potter fanfic, "Make a Wish". Almost all of the deaths that occur around the mysterious Mr. Black (really Harry on vacation) are indeed accidents. But after a few dozen, the authorities just wink and smile whenever this comes up. One particularly ridiculous example has Minister Fudge accidentally throwing himself down a flight of stairs several times before drinking acid.
In "Who Silenced Elly Patterson", Elly is found dead, and murder is suspected. When the official coroner's report came back, an assistant came forward to the Ontario Provincial Police with suspicious of this trope, given that the autopsy report left off a number of puncture wounds and lacerations, as well as the contents of Elly's stomach, and that he had been pulled off the case in favor of the chief coroner doing the autopsy, and that the chief coroner might have connections to someone in the case with enough power and influence to cover it up. It was John, who was buddies with the coroner from the model railroad club, but he turned out to not be the murderer.
Subverted in Reload of ARSENAL when Fuyutsuki asks what he should tell SEELE about Gendo.
Shinji: "Tell them he fell down an elevator shaft."
Fuyutsuki: "Onto some bullets?"
Shinji: "No, because I pushed him."
In Hot Fuzz, every murder committed is made to look like an accident. Each one seems improbable at the least, but the most obvious one is Leslie Tiller's death. "She tripped and fell on her own shears." Tiller's death seem to be the only death that's actually been witnessed in some time; the others were either staged for whoever found them, or they simply disappeared altogether. The quote is from Angel explaining how ludicrous the instance that it might've been an accident was, and how the police force was lazy/incompetent for simply accepting "accident" as cause of death for years.
In The Hunt for Red October, the titular submarine's political officer (called Putin) meets a nasty end at the hands of the captain, in the form of a broken neck. The captain then calmly pours his drink onto the floor (and on the dead man's shoes), summons a medical team, and tearfully informs them that Putin slipped on the spilled tea, fell against the table, and died.
In I, Robot the robots attack while the hero is driving on the highway and say "You are experiencing a car accident." "The hell I am!" he yells back at them.
In Jaws, Brody records the shark's first victim's cause of death as a "probable boating accident" under pressure from the mayor, who doesn't want to scare away beachgoers right before the Fourth of July.
Those of you I find lacking will quit. And those of you who refuse to quit will have a training accident. This base suffers three training accidents a year. Unfortunate accidents that I will not hesitate to repeat if you cross me!
Essentially the purpose of the Special Investigations department of the Chicago police in Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files. When a dozen victims are mauled by wolf-like animals in the middle of Chicago, they're the ones that make reports about strings of animal attacks and close the case. When three different people's hearts explode out of their chests, they're the ones to protest too much. Presumably most of these are filed as accidents. In a Lampshade Hanging, one of the actual coroners didn't protest too much, called a vampire corpse a vampire corpse, and ended up in a mental institute for three months. He ends up being one of Dresden's close allies.
In Diana Gabaldon's Voyager series, a man is shot while threatening to kill the baby his wife gave birth to, by the man who actually got her pregnant. The whole thing is covered up, as an accidental discharge of a weapon. It was ruled 'death by misadventure'. Upon learning this, one character states dazedly, "Well, I guess being shot is pretty misadventurous..."
In Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar series, the Prince Consort attempts to assassinate the queen, and is killed by her bodyguard. They tell his brother, the king of a neighboring country, that he was killed in a "hunting" accident. One of the characters remarks that it is nominally true: he was hunting the queen. It's indicated that the late Prince's brother knew what really happened and didn't mind much, since his brother was a budding Evil Prince who was bundled off to Valdemar partly to get him out of the line of succession.
Although it never actually happens, the murder of Queen Keli in the Discworld novel Mort would have been explained as being trampled by a rogue elephant. There are witnesses to the contrary but "You'd be amazed at what they haven't seen. Especially when they learn being trampled by rogue elephants is catching. You can even die of it in bed."
The increasingly erratic Duke Felmet's rambling Suspiciously Specific Denial in Wyrd Sisters starts off being this ("Tripped and fell. I wasn't even there."), before it becomes seriously confused ("And anyway he attacked me. It was self defense. That was it. He tripped and fell on his own dagger in self defense.")
The Ministry of Magic, in denial about Lord Voldemort's return, decides Cedric Diggory's death was an accident. When Harry, who witnessed the murder, insists otherwise, Umbridge gives him a cruel detention writing "I must not tell lies" in his own blood.
Had Voldemort killed Harry as planned, his death could have been staged as an accident as well, giving Voldemort time to build his strength in secret before eliminating Dumbledore and taking over the Ministry. This was the reason for the elaborate scheme involving Harry entering and winning the Tri-Wizard tournament.
Anansi Boys mentions the fate of the former dictator of the Caribbean island where the second half of the novel is set. After ruling with an iron fist for decades, he died by "falling out of bed". His fall was apparently hard enough to break a number of bones, and he didn't survive despite all of his bodyguards being in his room during this time, who did everything they could to "help" him.
In Bored of the Rings, the first Great Steward of Minas Troney, Paraffin the Climber, became ruler of Twodor after King Chloroplast "apparently fell backward by accident onto a dozen salad forks" and many of his relatives were felled by similar tragic accidents. The latest Steward of this line, Benelux the Booby, ties himself up and burns himself on a pyre after willing Goodgulf (who had uncannily foreseen Benelux's suicidal tendencies) to act as his successor.
In the Back Story to Isaac Asimov's novel Foundation, King Lepold's father died in a suspicious hunting accident. It's later made clear that it was arranged by the Prince-Regent, Wienis.
A classic example from the Stephen King novel It. A sheriff is described as having died in a 'falling accident' - he fell off a chair with a rope around his neck.
The rulers of The People's Republic of Haven loved killing off political dissidents in "air car accidents". This is lampshaded in one of the later novels after the despotic regime has been replaced by an actual democracy where a member of the political opposition is killed in a genuine air car accident and the president points out that the conspiracy theorists are going to automatically assume that she had him killed.
In a further bit of irony, they later discover that an aide to the character in question was assassinated in exactly that manner — just not by them.
In Wicked, Dr. Dillamond is found dead in his laboratory with a slit throat. The official verdict is that he accidentally cut himself when he bumped into a broken magnifying lens. No one believes this.
Boo's killing of Bob Ewell is said to be this. Atticus is initially under the impression that it was Jem who killed him and tries to rebuff sheriff Heck Tate's repeated insistence that "Bob Ewell fell on his knife," saying he's not going to pull any strings for his son, until Tate makes it clear that the person he's trying to protect is someone who needs privacy and whose life would be miserable if he suddenly became the center of local attention, much more so than Jem.
Tom Robinson's escape was likely another example. It's rather difficult to believe a man with one functioning hand could climb a fence at all, much less at a speed that necessitated the use of lethal force to prevent his escape.
In Big Trouble, Arthur Herk spends the entire book dodging several hitmen who were hired to kill him for embezzling from his less-than-honest company. The "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue says that he died in a fishing accident, which was odd because he never fished.
In a re-telling of Hamlet as a detective investigation, the detective protagonist tries to pass off every death as an accident instead of a murder, because the latter would require him filling out lots of paperwork, including 2B forms. You might be seeing the pun approaching...
In The Lost Fleet: Victorious, a ship's captain veers off at a critical moment during a firing run, which results in another ship being destroyed and a third ship being heavily damaged. However, the key issue is that he evaded battle, an obvious show of cowardice to the Attack! Attack! Attack! mentality of The Alliance fleet officers. Captain Desjani immediately tells Fleet Admiral Geary to relieve the captain of command and place him under armed guard. He hesitates until she explains that no officer could live with such shame. Geary then sends a message to the ship ordering this, but the ship's executive officer informs him that there was a terrible accident in the captain's state room, likely resulting from the captain cleaning his gun while it was loaded. Geary orders a full investigation into the death of the captain but privately hints to the XO of the ship what he "expects" to find (i.e. this trope). Why? Because he understands that the captain turned out to have been through one Pyrrhic Victory too many and broke under pressure, but that doesn't mean he should be remembered this way.
In an episode of 'Allo 'Allo!, Herr Flick explains that an artist who knew too much "fell out of a Gestapo car, over a bridge, onto a railway and was run down by the Berlin Express. It was an accident."
In the original series, the various Archbishops of Canterbury are reported as dying in a series of suspicious accidents — including one incident in which the king's hired killer ran towards the archbishop with his head bowed, and supposedly forgot that he was wearing a disemboweling helmet with a four-foot spike on the top. And another in which the victim accidentally impaled himself — on the spire of Norwich Cathedral. Finally, one was struck by a falling Gargoyle... while swimming at the beach.
In an episode of Blackadder the Third, Blackadder replaces a rotten borough's sole eligible voter, who "accidentally brutally stabbed himself in the stomach while shaving" and then manages also to simultaneously replace the election's returning officer, who "accidentally brutally cut his head off while combing his hair". It should go without saying that Blackadder's candidate, Baldrick, won handily.
In another episode of that same series, Blackadder threatens to kill Baldrick by cutting him into thin strips and telling Prince George that he walked over an unusually sharp cattle grid while wearing an extremely heavy hat.
An extreme version of this happens in "Ending Happy"; several members of a prostitution ranch attempt to get rid of a washed-up boxer leeching off of them with, among other things, an arrow through the trachea, a crowbar to the head, and snake venom injected into his bloodstream, but while those things did contribute to his death, his C.O.D was written as "accidental drowning" - after all of that, he was alive enough to be unceremoniously dumped into the brothel's pool by his favorite chair breaking, the trauma from the other murder attempts preventing him from gathering the strength needed to get out again. Even the coroner is seen shaking his head at the absurdity of having to write the attempted murders as contributing factors to an "accidental" death.
And then there was also an Inversion of sorts, where a guy was found dead, a shot through the head, in the middle of a park. No leads, no footsteps, no marks of any kind, no gun, no witnesses, no nothing. After bothering everybody the dead guy once knew, it turns out a kid was playing with the gun. In the other side of the town. The "victim" had committed suicide and tied a balloon to the gun so it would float away, so it couldn't be called suicide and his wife would get his life insurance.
Another inversion occurs when the team investigates the disappearance (and when her body is found, suspected murder) of a college student. Numerous suspects are identified. Which of them did it? None of them - her death is ultimately determined to have been an accident, though her parents don't accept this.
In the Doctor Who episode "Boom Town", Blon explains the deaths of everyone who investigated her planned nuclear power station as accidents.
Cathy: The number of deaths associated with this project. First of all, there was the entire team of the European Safety Inspectors.
Blon: But they were French! Its not my fault if Danger Explosives was only written in Welsh.
Cathy: And then there was that accident with the Cardiff Heritage Committee.
Blon: The electrocution of that swimming pool was put down to natural wear and tear.
Cathy: And then the architect?
Blon: It was raining, visibility was low. My car simply couldn't stop.
Cathy: And then just recently, Mister Cleaver, the government's nuclear adviser.
Jenny Shepard's death by multiple bullet wounds reported as being caused by a fire at the residence they reside in, mainly to avoid complications over The Mole and what they were doing vis-a-vis a certain French Arms Dealer.
They also encountered a town with no murders but an awful lot of "hunting accidents".
A variation was used in one episode. A man died while skydiving but the coroner determined that he had actually drowned. Monk was called in to investigate how such a bizarre murder cover-up might have happened, but it turned out that the coroner was lying, and tampered with the body to support his story in case anyone checked. He had a score to settle with Monk and wanted to lure him in with an unusual death.
Also played straight in the same episode — the coroner had attempted the same thing several times before with various other bizarre deaths, but this was the first one that the local police didn't just write off as related to the Mexican drug trade.
Played with on LOST. Miles questions the story that a dead man with a hole in his head accidentally fell into a ditch, and asks, "The ditch had a gun?" As it turned out, he was not shot, but died in an freak accident in which one of his dental fillings was pulled through his skull.
SOP in The Unit. Unit deaths in action are publicly reported as accidents. The families are told that they were killed, but not where or how.
In the "Bicycle Tour" episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus, a "Chinese" man (John Cleese with a horrible accent) claims to be the replacement British Ambassador to the Soviet Union. He says his predecessor "have heart attack and fell out of window onto an exploding bomb, and was killed in a shooting accident."
Inverted in Life, when a man is found with a bullet hole through the back of his head, but no bullet. Turns out it was a bizarre accident involving an icicle in a vegetable freezer.
A very odd version in Pushing Daisies, where a man actually did die from accidentally falling on a very sharp letter opener about 5 times. Of course, it happened because he'd been poisoned and was losing muscle control.
It seems that many people in Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Sunnydale have managed to trip and accidentally stab themselves in the throat with a barbecue fork. Or they officially suffer "neck rupture".
A joke from a The Benny Hill Show monologue went something like, "I didn't stab him, he accidentally ran into my knife. Seventeen times. Backwards."
In the great old Saturday Night Live sketch "Abe Lincoln and his Time Machine," Abe does this to himself.
Mary Todd: "Abe, do you know what this means? This means you could travel into the future and witness your own death!" Abe: "I know. I have!" Mary Todd: " How do you die?" Abe: "Um... I die peacefully, of natural causes." Mary Todd: "And how do I die?" Abe: "(without hesitation) In an insane asylum." Mary Todd: "I knew it!"
Defendant: I just peeled an orange, and this guy walked by, slipped on an orange peel and fell, right on my knife. So unfortunate. Judge: And then he got up and repeated this... seventeen times total?
The use of this by the South African police is parodied in an episode of the British radio series The Very World of Milton Jones, in which Milton, whilst in prison in apartheid South Africa, slips on some soap in the shower, gets a towel wrapped around his neck and the light fitting, and then falls down some stairs, much to the bemusement of his guard - "What? But they'll never believe that. I mean, they have, they will." He doesn't die.
In the Gallifrey radio series, it's revealed Irving Braxiatel once was forced to arrange the assassination of a particularTime Lord dissenter, and his granddaughter, by the then-current Lord President of Gallifrey. Said Lord President never managed to check the order was carried out, as he died unexpectedly the very same day following a tragic accident with some electric equipment. There was an inquest; it was ruled accidental death, with no one really responsible for it. Brax, of course, should know - he was in charge of the inquest.
In the Barathi society in Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies, those who go mysteriously missing are said to have "regrettably drowned." Given that the Barathi enshrine violent, bloody vengeance as a social duty, there are quite a lot of drowning accidents. Mostly because if one goes about their vengeance in an indiscreet manner, thereby inspiring a return blow, drowning turns out to be contagious.
Devout followers of the minor Forgotten Realms deity Hoar, god of retribution, regard the accidental demise of wrongdoers to be the hand of their patron at work. Sometimes they provide a little hands-on assistance with such accidents, rather than wait around for divine intervention.
In the old West End Games Star Wars RPG it was quite possible for a character to die of accidental beheading with a lightsabre. Due to an intentional feature of the rules, a character with no skill in the use of a lightsabre had about a 1 in 6 chance of lopping off one of his own extremities (including his head) on EACH attempt to attack with a lightsabre. Try convincing the local authorities that the guy had pickpocketed your lightsabre and accidentally killed himself with it when you confronted him. (As most groups included at least one Jedi competent enough to make a lightsabre but not competent enough to never get pickpocketed, this was a perfectly feasible situation.)
In The Accidental Death of An Anarchist, the aforementioned Anarchist died after "falling" out of the window of the police station where he was being interrogated. Interestingly enough, it was based on Real Life.
"And then he ran into my knife! He ran into my knife ten times."
In Tropico 3, it is possible to form a secret police and have people disposed, uh, end up in a unfortunate, yet convenient "accident" off screen. The regular excuse will be transmitted by radio not long after, this being that the victim tripped and fell out of the second story of their home onto the street, then being run over by an ambulance followed by a hearse. Tragic misfortune, isn't it?
In the timeline included with Zork: Grand Inquisitor, it's explained that the current Grand Inquisitor gained his title after his predecessor "tripped on the rug and accidentally strangled himself".
In the intro to Heroes of Might and Magic II, there's a series of scenes showing how the prince killed off all the officials who chose the new king. One of them is described as a "boating accident", and the scene shown is of a wizard blasting a boat with lightning. Another dies of food poisoning (i.e., he drank something that was poisoned).
The implication is that Archibald Ironfist, the not-so-good brother did the Royal Seers in. He apparently realizes how unlikely the rash of deaths were, since he accuses his brother of murdering the officials.
In the game Series 7: The Contenders, a man fleeing from the police tragically shoots himself in the back while resisting arrest.
Encouraged in the Lotus Assassin fortress in Jade Empire. And it's a good thing, too, or they might get suspicious after the 7th or 8th "training accident".
When you first meet Kang the Mad (an inventor), he'll offer you his services if you arrange some unfortunate accident to befall his employer Gao, such as "falling down a flight of punches".
In Mafia II, Chapter 10, apparently someone managed to fall and hit their head on a table. 5 or 6 times. And the bloodstain that occurs is a mite too big to be a accident, and it occurs about 6 feet away from the table. And the table lacks any bloodstains.
At the end of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, your brother stops you from shooting Officer Tenpenny, since he was already fatally wounded and this way it would be an 'accident' with 'no one to blame'. This might fly better if the car crash didn't come after a 5 minute wild chase through the entire city, with Tenpenny firing at you all the way, which started at a building that contains about 2 dozen dead gangsters. Then again, considering the quality of police forces in GTA games, perhaps it did work.
Honorable mention from Portal - upon entering the first level featuring an energy particle, Gla DOS informs you that contact with such particles has been known to cause "certain disabilities, such as vaporization". (The "existence-impaired", I guess?)
In MegaTokyo, Pedobear wanted to show something to his cellmate Piro, but fell of his bunk. Several times. What bunk?
The Fancy Adventures of Jack Cannon has the titular Jack found surrounded by the unconscious bodies of about a dozen hackers, despite being explicitly told by his father to run away from all fights (yes, even if his life is in danger).
Jack's Father: Thank goodness you're safe, Jack—did you do all this?
Jack: What?! No! Of course not! They all slipped and fell... head first... onto my fists.
It is determined that this is the point where Dr. Clef accidentally fell out of his chair and struck his head nine times against the corner of the desk, fracturing his skull and snapping his neck between the second and third vertebrae.
There was no death involved, but Snake of The Simpsons uses something like this when checking himself into a hospital, in the episode "My Sister, My Sitter".
Snake: Um, I must have like, fallen on a bullet, and it like, drove itself into my gut.
Receptionist:(Ticks "Liquor Store Robbery" on her form)
Historical example: Bekhter, the ambitious half-brother of Temujin, was killed in a "hunting accident". You might know Temujin better by his adult title, Genghis Khan.
"Dissident" Secret History expressly insists that Temujin and his brother Kasar killed Bekhter. However, Belgutei (Bekhter's brother) apparently remained Temujin's friend and loyal assistant. L.N. Gumilev surmised that if Bekhter spied on their outcast family for Tayichiut tribe, this would be the reason why Belgutei could justify the killing and why Tayichiut (who threw them all out a few years ago) hunted Temujin.
Pretty much the same thing happened with William II and his brother (the soon to be) Henry I of England. A "hunting accident" in the New Forest. To be fair, we don't know he was behind it, but come on, who's kidding?
Brian Jones, after being fired from the Rolling Stones, was found dead in a swimming pool. The police ruled the death as "Death by Misadventure." However, there is speculation that Jones either committed suicide or was murdered (someone did confess to murdering Jones though). In this particular case an accidental overdose was quite probable.
An Englishman found in his apartment with his head cut off by a chainsaw. The death was ruled "not suspicious" by British police. The article even notes that he was the last tenant remaining in a block of flats cleared for redevelopment... but there was nothing suspicious about his chainsaw decapitation.
Amateurs! Read and learn: A Russian man was fished out from a river wrapped in sellotape and stuffed in a large zipped up sack. Investigators' version: he was standing on a bridge and unreeling sellotape. With a sudden gush of wind sellotape wrapped itself against the man, he lost his balance and fell over the rail right into the sack which hung on the rail. After the sack sunk to the bottom of the river, the current started dragging it downstream; the slider caught on a snag and fastened itself. Verdict: accident.
Once upon a time, in Italy, there was the Piazza Fontana bombing. They found a suspect, the anarchist Giuseppe Pinelli, who, at a certain point, threw himself out of a window screaming "It's Anarchy's end!" So, suicide, isn't it? It could be... if only he had been guilty. The police, asked to explain the circumstances surrounding this case, hastily explained that it wasn't suicide (like they had said few days before) but an accident. "Accidental Death of an Anarchist" is based on this case.
In 2012, a British spy, who had been missing for two years, was found dead by asphyxiation in a padlocked duffel bag in his bathtub. A possibility that keeps being brought up is that, in some sort of sex game, he wormed his way into the duffel bag, zipped it all the way up, then padlocked it.
Russian Prince Dmitry was youngest son of Ivan the Terrible, and possible heir to the throne after Ivan's death during the reign of Russian Boyar (noble) Boris Godunov, until one day he died of a stab wound while out in the woods. Godunov had an official Investigation into the matter. Apparently, Dmitry had accidentally slit his own throat during an epileptic seizure.
Charles Randal Smith, head pediatric forensic pathologist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Ontario, ruled that a number of deaths of infants were murder when in reality they had died of natural causes. This resulted in a number of convictions which were later overturned or in appeals.
Richard Kuklinski, the serial killer known as "The Iceman", had an abusivealcoholic father who beat Richard's older brother Florian to death and made the whole Kuklinski family cover it up as an accident, and tell anyone who asked that Florian fell down the stairs.
In August 1987, two teenage boys were run over by a train passing through their hometown in rural Arkansas. The coroner determined that the boys had gotten stoned from smoking nearly two dozen joints and passed out on the tracks. This was disputed by the train conductor, who noted that the boys had been lined up perfectly parallel to each other — something they would have been highly unlikely to do had they been that intoxicated. A second autopsy found that there was barely any marijuana in the boys' systems and that one of them may have already been dead when the train hit them. Meaning that they'd been killed elsewhere and then placed on the track to cover up the crime.
Abie "Kid Twist" Reles died after "falling" from a window at the Half Moon Hotel in Coney Island in 1941. He was in the process of testifying against his bosses at Murder, Inc - sending several to the electric chair. After he died the police who were "protecting" him said he had fallen while trying to get away (like he had anywhere to go). Accidental death, no doubt about it.
Anime and Manga
Inverted in Death Note. Most of Kira's targets die of perfectly "natural" heart attacks, though L does start to become suspicious of this. Even before L takes the case Interpol agents are suspicious about sudden wave of heart attacks among criminals around the world. L is just the first to track it back to the first victim of Kira.
In the second Back to the Future, Biff says that Marty will either die due to falling off a building (which would be considered suicide), or "lead poisoning" (as in "I'm gonna shoot ya").
Max: He... he... he fell on the cab. He fell, he fell from up there on the motherfucking cab! Shit! I think he's dead. Vincent: Good guess. Max: You killed him? Vincent: No, I shot him. Bullets and the fall killed him.
In No Country for Old Men Sheriff Ed Tom states that a group of Mexican drug runners who were shot died of natural causes. The DEA officer he is working with questions his statement to which he muses that it's natural causes for their line of work.
In Paycheck, the protagonist is being interrogated by the FBI after working on a secret project for two years and having all memory of this time wiped. The Feds explain that his research partner was found dead of "natural causes", natural being "gravity" in this case, as he "fell out of his apartment window". When the protagonist later tells the same thing to his friend, the guy immediately realizes that there was nothing natural about this and starts giggling nervously.
Inferred in Wag The Dog, regarding the death of Stanley Motss.
In Diane Duane's Star TreknovelMy Enemy, My Ally, Kirk reads intelligence reports from the Romulan Empire, which state among other things that several senators have died of natural causes. He reflects that an inability to live after being poisoned is natural enough.
In Robert A. Heinlein's Between Planets, a family friend of the protagonist is interrogated by the brutal government officers. They tell the protagonist the cause of death was "heart failure". He then realizes that no matter how you die (or are killed), your heart is still going to stop... However, later in the story it is revealed that he was part of a conspiracy and may have committed suicide by concealed means while a prisoner.
In the novel Wyrd Sisters, an assassinated king's death is reported as natural (the murderer's bodyguard explained to the king's doctor that it was a disease caused by unwise opening of the mouth). Other characters justified this as "Assassination is natural causes, for a king" and "It's only natural for someone to die after being stabbed so many times".
Assassination is also considered natural causes for Discworld wizards, thanks to Klingon Promotion tactics. At least, until Archchancellor Ridcully went and ruined it by being pretty much completely unkillable.
In Night Watch, readers actually witness the careful rearrangement of (few) allies and (many) enemies of the old patrician to assure that when an assassin walks right up to him and gives him a heart attack, nobody in the room sees anything at all. And the old patrician in question really did die of a heart attack; the assassin in question scared him to death.
Interesting Times features an inversion of this trope. A character is described as "presumed dead in Skund" - they can't be sure because they only found his head.
The hilarious parody guide book Phaic Tan said that a famous president of the country eventually died of natural causes; "he was assassinated."
In the BattleTech novel Black Dragon, it's revealed that the reason behind there being such a low murder rate in the Draconis Combine is that the police classify yakuza murders under "natural causes".
Agatha Christie lampshaded this at least once, with Hercule Poirot observing that "if a doctor signs off a death as 'heart failure', that can be taken to mean that he actually has no idea as to the cause of death, since any death causes one's heart to fail".
Arcadia Snips and the Steamwork Consortium features cancer. In some cases, this cancer manifests itself as approximately a dozen knifes, in other cases, several bullets, an explosion, and a several story fall. The -dire- cancer left only a cleanly severed head.
Some Tom Clancy novels poke fun at this by quipping that the subjects of Russian interrogations were often found to have died of a cerebral hemorrhage - nine millimeters in diameter. Subverted, however, in The Hunt for Red October, where the Admiral who gave Ramius the command of the titular sub is reported to have died of a 'cerebral hemorrhage' followed by the nine millimeter quips. Later, a KGB agent regrets to himself that the Admiral died of an actual cerebral hemorrhage before they could start the interrogation.
Jon Arryn's poisoning in A Song of Ice and Fire was covered up by 'death from fever' by the corrupt Grand Maester Pycelle. It helped that the poison caused the victim to exhibit fever-like symptoms, and that the only one who would know otherwise (apart from the actual poisoner) was in charge of Arryn's treatment.
Willy Knight, Vice President of the Confederate States of America in the Settling Accounts series, is hauled off to Camp Dependable and executed when President Jake Featherston discovers his disloyalty. Featherston wanted the black prisoners to kill him on their own, but since they wouldn't touch him, he ordered his murder. His cause of death is listed as natural because "His heart stopped, didn't it?"
In 1066 and All That, shortly after Edward II is deposed by the Barons and Edward III becomes King:
Horrible screams were heard issuing from the Berkeley where Edward II was imprisoned and the next day he was horribly dead. But since not even the Barons would confess to having horribly murdered him, it is just possible that Edward had merely been dying of a surfeit in the ordinary way.
"The Queen's heart has given out." She arched an eyebrow. "Unexpectedly. Please express my condolence to the people of Tamarang on the death of their ruler. I would suggest you find a new ruler who is more attentive to the wishes of Master Rahl."
A wrinkle was added in The Vampire Diaries when the local coroner and member of the secret council - his main responsibility is this trope, ruling that mysterious deaths are 'animal attacks' and most certainly not vampires - is himself murdered, in what may well be the first non-vampire-related murder Mystic Falls has had in years.
In the background material of the Finnish dystopian RPG Hiljaisuuden Vangit - an alternate-history game where the Axis won WW2 - a coroner mentions that whenever someone dies in "suspicious" circumstances the cause of death is officially listed as heart attack. Teenage girl, every bone crushed, deep burns all over the body? "Heart attack."
In a Show Within a ShowFlashback scene of the musical City of Angels, the body of Hollywood film producer Irwin S. Irving is brought into the morgue. His press agent reports that he died peacefully in his sleep, while the coroner tells about the two bullets that entered his body: "All in all, an obvious heart attack."
The PC game Harvester has a memorable scene where the protagonist visits his girlfriend only to find a bloody skull and spinal cord laying in her bed (they're not really hers). The sheriff rules the death "natural causes," as he puts it: "Hey, body can't live without a skull; don't get much more natural than that."
World of Warcraft: In the Cataclysm expansion, there is a quest in Westfall where you have to eavesdrop on (and subsequently kill) some thugs. When you kill them, you hear a gunshot, and the quest giver is dead. The detective investigating the scene gets this from the witnesses:"I-I didn't see anything. He died of natural causes." His reply? "He has two gunshot wounds and his shoes are on his head. How is that natural?"
Girl Genius introduced a poison called "Aunti Mehitabel's Natural Causes", known to be very hard to identify.
In Metal Gear Awesome", a maddened Snake eventually ends up shooting people in the face and reporting their deaths as heart attacks.When the Colonel points out they have bullet wounds, he gets shot in the face through the radio.
In The Simpsons, Fat Tony's wife was "whacked by natural causes."
Although, to be fair, that's played more as Fat Tony not being able to properly enunciate the terms of a natural death, rather than him covering for a murder.
Krusty claims the tourists were decapitated before entering the KrustyLand House of Knives.
In one of the Lucky Luke animated features the Daltons are told that their uncle has died. Upon asking how he died and being told that he was hanged, one of them gives a relieved sigh and says something about it being a natural death.
An Arkansas medical examiner once ruled that a man who was decapitated died of natural causes. Though in this case, it's a whole lot weirder than "Hey, you can't live without your brain": He ruled that the man died of a perforated ulcer, and that a dog ate his head.
A Chinese judge who was arrested and apparently beaten to death in custody was described in the state-run media as having suffered "adult sudden death syndrome."
Russian emperor Paul I passed away after an apoplectic stroke with a snuffbox on the side of his head.
His father Peter III supposedly died from "hemorrhoid colics" 3 weeks after being dethroned. It's not so clear what really happened there, since Peter died in a secluded town rather than the capital and Paul I started the investigation only 34 years later.
The first post mortem into the death of Ian Tomlinson, who died after being pushed over by a police officer during the 2009 G20 in London, showed his death was "consistent with natural causes" and that the cause of death was "coronary artery disease". A second post mortem though concluded his death was the result of abdominal haemorrhage from blunt force trauma to the abdomen. A third post mortem found the same. The Crown Prosecution Service dropped the charge for Manslaughter against the officer due to the disagreement between the pathologists' reports. Incidentally they did decide that a charge of common assault could be brought, but by this time the six month limit in UK law for bringing a common assault charge had passed.
Dr Patel, the pathologist who carried out the first post mortem examination of Ian Tomlinson seems to have made a habit of this. In 2002, a woman was found locked in a bedroom with a bite mark to her thigh. Dr Patel's conclusion: she died of natural causes. The owner of the house later went on to kill TWO more women. He also failed to conduct proper tests and reported wrong causes of death in numerous other cases, and was finally suspended from carrying out post mortems for the police or Home Office in July 2009.
The actual truth is somewhere in the middle - he did have a very serious undiagnosed heart condition, which could have given him a heart attack basically at any time, though he actually died of cirrhosis and internal bleeding. It was simply total incompetence on Dr Patel's part that led to the second postmortem.
Victims of Nazi Germany's "euthanasia" program were reported as having died of natural causes. Their grieving relatives received a suspiciously worded form letter explaining why they had to be cremated on the spot and a warning not to investigate further.
Anime and Manga
Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro, the main character's father was killed in a closed room by his head being cut off by a chainsaw, and then his blood was painted on the walls. Because the police had no leads and couldn't figure out how anyone could enter the room, it was classified a suicide.
In Analyze That, one character says he was set free because one key witness committed suicide. "He stabbed himself in the back four times and threw himself off a bridge. Very unfortunate."
Later mocked when a would-be assassin is thrown out of the penthouse window (during Sobel's wedding no less):
Vitti: It was probably suicide. Jelly, have they found a suicide note yet?
Jelly:[starting to write] No, but they will.
Sobel: Oh, let me guess! "LIFE IS BULLSHIT! I CAN'T FUCKING TAKE IT ANYMORE! SIGNED, THE DEAD GUY!"
In Casablanca, Captain Renault reporting on Ugarte's in-custody death: "We haven't quite decided yet whether he committed suicide or died trying to escape."
The Constant Gardener falls in this category and the accident category. The hero investigates his wife's "accidental" death, and ends up committing suicide by shooting himself... about a hundred times with nine different weapons.
Parodied in Loaded Weapon 1. In a blood-splattered crime scene complete with those bullet-hole dotted lines in the wall from random automatic weapon spray, and a victim with a horrified expression on her death face and her hands grasped like claws in defense, this exhange follows:
Luger: Yep, looks like she caught herself by surprise.
By the time of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, dream-killer Freddy's murders have become so widespread that the authorities, having no other leads to go on, have interpreted it as an epidemic of teenage suicides. Although Freddy does work to make some of them look self-inflicted, other official "suicides" include a girl apparently leaping three feet into the air to smash her own head through a TV set.
It's considerably more absurd if you consider that they had to be including deaths from the previous movies as well- Glen from the original film evidently chose to kill himself by showering every gallon of his blood and his organs onto the ceiling from the giant hole that appeared in his bed, then hid his skeleton and skin so as not to worry anybody.
Brazilian film A Taça do Mundo é Nossa, by comedic group Casseta & Planeta, has a statue (!) being killed by the military. Later, a reporter comes to cover the incident, and the General Ripper in charge states it was suicide. The reporter promptly asks: "How do you you commit suicide with a machine gun?" Then the general calls him ignorant, and asks his men to show him how do you "suicide" with such a weapon.
Bensonmum: This is the room where Mrs. Twain murdered herself.
Charleston: *confused* You mean suicide?
Bensonmum: Oh, no, it was murder. Mrs. Twain hated herself.
Heathers is about killing the most awful hateful members of the student body and covering it up as suicides. Despite falling through glass tables and shooting themselves in the throat, apparently.
To be fair, the throat-wound victim was set up to look like he was shot by someone else. It was just set up to look like a suicide pact, rather than the murder that it was.
In Thunderheart, Maggie tells Ray about a man who supposedly committed "suicide" by shooting himself in the back of the head.
In Bad Boys 2, Johnny Tapia tells his mother that a thug killed himself. This would be plausible were the bullet hole in the side of his head rather than the front, and Johnny not holding a smoking gun even as he gives the excuse.
In End of Days when a man is found crucified against a ceiling with hospital scalpels, one police officer suggests that he did it himself. The main character asks how he got the last scalpel in which is... certainly a problem with this theory.
In Series 7: The Contenders an uncooperative contestant named Anthony is left seriously injured, incapacitated and vulnerable to attack after what the voiceover describes as a "self-inflicted knife wound to the back."
Averted In the movie The Lives of Others, set in Communist East Germany, where one character muses on how there are no suicides in Germany as they are all listed as murder... by oneself.
In Fatal Instinct, the main character comments that he has his doubts that the death of his car mechanic was really a suicide. Said mechanic had died from a power drill being driven into his spine from behind.
In Shooter, a rookie FBI agent named Nick Memphis is investigating the shooting of a prominent figure, despite his superiors telling him to drop it. After he continues pushing, he is abducted and put into a special harness that is used by the captors to fake suicides. Basically, the harness points his hand at his temple, where they put the agent's own gun and use a rope to pull the trigger. He is saved just in time by Bob Lee Swagger, who has been framed for the shooting.
In The Skulls, the protagonist's Black Best Friend is investigating the Skulls secret society of which the protagonist is a new member. One day, he finds the friend in his dorm hanging from the ceiling, having apparently committed suicide. This is how the cops rule it. The protagonist is suspicious and finds evidence that appears to point to his new friend among the Skulls. He sneaks into the security room of the Skulls' secret meeting place and finds out that his now-dead friend sneaked into the building using a key he stole from his Skulls friend. The latter then confronted him and chased him to the second floor. The first guy trips and falls, only to be caught by his legs by the second guy. Unable to hold him, the first guy falls, and an audible crack is head, an apparentl Neck Snap. The second guy runs away. However, the protagonist keeps watching the security footage and sees the Skulls' security people arriving and confirming that the first guy was still alive. The head of security calls the second guy's father and then does another Neck Snap to finish the job. Presumably, a coroner would be able to tell if the death came from hanging or having one's neck snap (not to mention the big hit on the head), but the Skulls have a lot of connections and likely paid someone off.
In Douglas Adams's The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, Dirk Gently's employer is found decapitated, with his head sitting neatly on a record player. The police called it the trickiest suicide they had ever seen, because the room was locked from the inside and they weren't about to write "killed by a demon" on the paperwork.
Because they were irritated with the situation and with Gently, the police tell him to figure out how the guy did it. Or else. After some investigating, he dashes off an apparently improbable but plausible scenario.
In Dragaera: "He committed suicide by stabbing himself in the left eye" and "I said I believed he had committed suicide, and I meant it — it's suicide to go up against me." Vlad is, of course, entirely correct inthat assessment.
"In an involuntary sort of way," said Vorob'yev. "These Cetagandan political suicides can get awfully messy, when the principal won't cooperate."
"Thirty-two stab wounds in the back, worst case of suicide they ever saw?" murmured Ivan, clearly fascinated by the gossip.
"Exactly, my lord."
In Dave Duncan'sKing's Blades books, there is a group of highly skilled bodyguards known as Blades. Attacking a Blade defending his ward is classed as suicide.
The Discworld novels feature a running gag where any death in Ankh-Morpork that results from stupid or reckless behavior is ruled as a "suicide." Examples of such behavior include but are not limited to: wandering around in the Shades, the toughest and most lawless neighborhood in Anhk-Morpork, at night; going into a dwarf bar and asking for a "short" beer; or going into the Mended Drum, a particularly (and deliberately) disreputable tavern, and calling yourself something like "Vincent The Invulnerable."
In I Shall Wear Midnight, it's revealed that the Nac Mac Feegle are violently protective of the mounds where they live, and anyone trying to dig up a Feegle mound is considered to be attempting suicide.
"Most people who decide to shoot themselves in the head, don't shoot themselves in the back of the head."
In Sergey Suhinov's Shadows on Mercury, the main character's boss is talking to a police detective on Mercury. He brings up a case of a dead body that was found in the middle of nowhere not far from a cliff with an obvious blaster wound. The detective brushes it off as a likely suicide and mentions that it is a fairly common occurrence on Mercury due to the extreme heat causing people to eventually go crazy. The other guy sarcastically points out that the man must have tossed his gun off the cliff after shooting himself in the head, as no weapon was found in the vicinity. The detective admits that it is an unusual circumstance but doesn't bother to investigate. Since most of the settlements on the planet are private and corporate owned mines, the population lives by The Wild West rules. While there is a token police presence, they can hardly be expected to maintain law and order through the settlements.
This gets even more ridiculous on Venus, where it is extremely easy to get away with murder due to most of the killing occurring outside the dome, where the "pleasant" Venusian atmosphere quickly gets rid of any evidence.
Polish fantasy novel Achaja has a hilarious example. Assassination attempt by mercenary crossbowman is countered with some other mercenaries. It's then reported by corrupt guardsmen as ridiculous case of mass suicide. With such pearls as trying to shoot oneself in the heart, but hitting a calf; and one assassin stabbing himself seventeen times in the back with a knife. Whole fragment is easily Crowning Moment of Funny.
In one of their fake "man-on-the-streets" segments, The Onion asked people about the head of the CIA's recent resignation and conviction in the wake of a scandal. One woman said, "I guess now we just sit back and wait for the part where he commits suicide by shooting himself multiple times in the back of the head."
Galaxy of Fear has a convergence between this trope and Never Suicide. Early in City Of The Dead, Doctor Evazam finds a child wandering the graveyard and force feeds him poisonous cryptberries, killing him quickly. Zak sees his body and Evazam almost does this to him, but a bounty hunter shows up, allowing Zak to spit them out. The bounty hunter's not talkative, and Zak is seen as incoherent since he's also babbling about zombies, but there was still clear evidence of murder here. Yet when the boy is referenced later by a skeptical character, he's said to have killed himself. Later Evazam injects Zak with diluted cryptberries and puts berries in his hands while he's near death. This is also ruled suicide since the undertaker is in with Evazam, though Zak's sister does not buy it.
In H. Beam Piper's novel Little Fuzzy, protagonist Jack Halloway is so good with a gun, the coroner ruled suicide when someone attempted to shoot him.
In Stephen King's novel It, a minor character is described as having died 'in a fall'. Which is true, in the sense that he fell off a chair while a rope was around his neck.
An inversion in the Robert A. Heinlein novel Citizen of the Galaxy. The oppressive government claims to have executed the protagonist's mentor by beheading, but the huge smile on the disembodied head indicates that he was able to poison himself before they found him.
In Angel Kate is interviewing a suspect and the following conversation takes place:
Spivey: I heard it was suicide.
Kate: Supervisor Caffrey shot himself?
Spivey: It happens.
Kate: In the back of the head. Wrapped himself in plastic and locked himself in the trunk of his car?
Spivey: He'd been depressed.
An interesting case in an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: a man reports that his dead girlfriend shot herself in the head while he was in the bathroom. The problem being that she was shot through the head twice. It turns out to be an inversion: the first bullet fizzled and didn't make it out of the barrel, so she pulled the trigger again; the second bullet pushed the first through, giving her two bullets in one shot.
Another episode had the team going back and forth the entire episode between murder and suicide. After quite a lot of investigation, they realized what it actually was was this: murder framing someone else for murder staged as suicide staged as murder staged as suicide. The people involved were, um, very theatrical.
One episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus had a sketch/play where an old man was found dead in his living room with a train reservation ticket in his pocket. His grandson points out that he obviously shot himself and then hid the gun. The mother asks how he could have shot himself and then hid the gun without first canceling his reservation.
Bear in mind, this Rail Enthusiast episode then degrades into a lengthy conversation about railroad schedule trivia.
Played straight and then inverted in Dark Angel, first, a gangster pushes a man out of a window to make it look like he killed himself after a deal went sour. When the gangster is attempting to flee the country with a stolen artifact, Logan takes the man's gun and shoots the assumed suicide vic in the head with it, then plants the gun on his luggage, effectively framing a guy for a murder he had actually committed.
In Sharpe, the title character pushes a corrupted and murderous officer down a well in front of a room full of people (right after the man gloats about how he'll get away with it all). His trusty sidekick, when asked by Wellington's spymaster what they just saw, says "Sure, but Colonel Brand's a funny man. Just jumped straight down that well. Now why do you think he'd go and do a thing like that?" Later, Wellington gives orders for the man's death to be reported as a heroic one in combat, and that appears to be the end of the matter.
Joked about in The Wire. One of the police officers comments on Brandon's murder that, "This is the worst case of suicide I've ever seen."
In Picket Fences, a convicted sex offender moves to town and is harassed and rejected until he's eventually found dead in an apparently suicide, having been shot twice in the head. In a subversion, it turns out that it was suicide. The first head wound wasn't immediately fatal, so he shot himself again.
In Copper a man is found hanging but the cops quickly determine that it was not a suicide. They later discover that the death was a case of justified homicide that was then staged to look like a suicide. However, the killer was a black woman and the victim a white man, so it will be impossible for her to get a fair trial in 1864 New York. To save her from hanging they officially rule the death to be a suicide. The dead man's daughter protests the coverup but they inform her that with the case closed she will receive her inheritance immediately. If they have to reopen the case, she will probably have to wait for a long time before she sees any of the money. She never really liked her father so she quickly accepts the verdict of 'suicide', takes her money and goes on with her life.
This is played with in season 2 when Corcoran kills Brendan Donovan. He would normally hang for it but he strikes a deal with the corrupt politicians of Tammany Hall that lets him get away with the murder. Corcoran insists that the death be officially ruled a suicide but is informed that this is not possible since they already had the death reported as 'accident while cleaning his gun'.
A court jester suffers death by comically large mallet to the back (his entire back) in a strip of Non Sequitur.
Kingdom of Loathing has the tale of St. Yule "Be Sorry" Brenner. Brenner apparently "committed suicide by stabbing himself repeatedly in the back, then throwing himself to wild dogs." Considering the similarity and the fact that it is Kingdom of Loathing, it's likely that this is a reference to the above example from Analyze That.
In The B-Movie Comic, after being informed by the Vizier of Pharaoh Rutentuten's tragic hunting accident, his grief-stricken queen committed suicide by taking the Vizier's dagger and stabbing herself a dozen times in the back.
In Digitalph33r's series Hard Justice, one of the cops finds a mutilated torso with no limbs or head, with the door of the house knocked down, and figures it was a suicide.
Played straight with "The Red Ball" episode of Boondocks. The referee strangled himself, jumped off a bridge, then overdosed on amphetamines. Naturally, he was murdered by Gin and didn't kill himself.
Family Guy: In "The Man With Two Brians" the scene following New Brian telling Stewie what he did to Rupert shows Peter reading the suicide note explaining how the dog chopped himself into pieces and placed himself in the garbage.
Robot Chicken: After Beast Man accidentally kills He-Man, a suicide note is written stating that he fell backwards on an axe like he always talked about.
In The Simpsons, there was a mafia guy who had committed suicide "By stabbing himself. In the back. Fourteen times."
King Cleomenes of Sparta was exiled for bribing the Delphic Oracle. He intimidated his way back into power by threatening to raise a rebellion but was accused of insanity by his half-brothers and put in the stocks. The next morning he was found dead with flesh carved from his legs, hips, and stomach, with the bloodstained knife lying next to him. Everyone agreed he'd killed himself.
The French admiral who lost the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, Pierre-Charles Villeneuve, was found dead the next year in the Hotel de la Patrie in Rennes with seven stab wounds in the chest. The official verdict was suicide.
Czechoslovakia in 1948- the three official reports into the death of Jan Masaryk all concluded suicide from jumping out of a window. However, the third report was done after the Velvet Revolution of 1989. The controversy continues, because a report in 2004 by Czech police points to Masaryk indeed having been murdered. Go figure.
French state employee René Lucet is said to have committed suicide by shooting himself in the head twice.
An EMT in a medical forum praised one suicide's ability to shoot their eyes out with a single round shotgun then calmly reload and shoot themselves again, this time successfully.
Gendarme Christophe Jambert, who investigated the Yonne diseapparences, was found with two bullets in the head in 1997 after being subpoenated for being witness in the Emile Louis trial. It gets better: when his body was autopsied several years later, the bit of skull through which the bulets entered had diseappeared.
Australian woman Jennifer Tanner supposedly committed suicide by shooting herself twice in the head through her hands with a bolt action rifle. The detective investigating her death was her brother-in-law and was eventually found responsible.
Jeremy Bamber murdered his entire adoptive family (parents, sister and twin nephews) with a rifle and tried to make it look as if his sister (who was known to have mental problems) had killed everyone else and then shot herself fatally in the throat. Twice. Once with a silencer and once without.
An obviously raped and murdered female US army private committed suicide according to the DoD. The details: she punched herself in the face, breaking her nose and knocking her front teeth loose, mutilated her genital area and then douched with an acid solution. After that, she poured a combustible liquid on herself, set it afire and shot herself in the head. She survived long enough to drag herself to a KBR contractor leaving a bloody trail all the way and setting his tent ablaze in a failed attempt to cover up her crimes against herself.
According to the NCIS documents, each prisoner had fashioned a noose from torn sheets and T-shirts and tied it to the top of his cell’s eight-foot-high steel-mesh wall. Each prisoner was able somehow to bind his own hands, and, in at least one case, his own feet, then stuff more rags deep down into his own throat. We are then asked to believe that each prisoner, even as he was choking on those rags, climbed up on his washbasin, slipped his head through the noose, tightened it, and leapt from the washbasin to hang until he asphyxiated. The NCIS report also proposes that the three prisoners, who were held in non-adjoining cells, carried out each of these actions almost simultaneously...Although rigor mortis had already set in—indicating that the men had been dead for at least two hours—the NCIS report claims that an unnamed medical officer attempted to resuscitate one of the men, and, in attempting to pry open his jaw, broke his teeth. The fact that at least two of the prisoners also had cloth masks affixed to their faces, presumably to prevent the expulsion of the rags from their mouths, went unremarked by the NCIS, as did the fact that standard operating procedure at Camp Delta required the Navy guards on duty after midnight to “conduct a visual search” of each cell and detainee every ten minutes.
Bobby Fuller (of "I Fought the Law" fame) was found dead in his car shortly after "I Fought the Law" was a hit. The police initially ruled Fuller's death a suicide, but various circumstances of his death, such as multiple wounds in the body (which itself was covered in gasoline) led to people suspecting Fuller's death as murder. The police, however, changed Fuller's cause of death from "suicide" to "accidental asphyxiation."
Officer Terence Yeakey's death was ruled suicide. He managed to slash his hands and throat, then crawl a mile or so of rough terrain and shoot himself in the head. With a revolver aimed downwards, from a distance enough to get no powder burns. Or maybe he shot himself before crawling there? 'Cause he lost this weapon somewhere.
An early 20th century French scandal involving a crook making deals with government officials. The man's body was later found, this satirical newspaper headline says it best: "Stavisky committed suicide by a bullet which was shot from a 3 meter range. That's what you get when you have a long arm." ("Having a long arm" is a french idiom meaning that you wield a lot of influence).
Malcolm X's father apparently shot himself in the back of the head and tied himself to a railroad, and there was no gun on the scene.
South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother, after being arrested by several of their colleagues, suffered a bullet to the head each and several stab wounds. The arresting officers claimed that both of them had committed suicide in a Saigon churchyard. This was lampshaded, however, when the Americans pointed out that the two brothers, being extremely devout Catholics were unlikely to commit suicide at all, let alone in such a place. The authorities eventually owned up to the fact that they had the two killed.
Taiji Sawada is an example of both this and Never Suicide due to what happened after his death. He was detained in Saipan, CNMI after a fight on an airplane and within two days (during which, someone had made a call to his fiancee from his phone extorting money) he allegedly committed "suicide by hanging with a bedsheet." According to his mother and fiancee, who saw his body, there was no damage to his neck despite his suffering a condition that would have made his bones very easily breakable. Instead, he was braindead, with a red slash mark to the chest. The death was still, somehow, declared suicide by hanging by the detaining authorities instead of by any sort of autopsy or coroner investigation, and to make matters even worse, his religious adviser, Shinsho, who had been working to steal money from him with his manager, did an end-run around the family to demand the cremation of the body in six days, despite, still, no autopsy having been done to confirm actual cause of death.
Bill Sparkman, a census worker, was found in September 2009, hung from a tree, naked, with the word "fed" scrawled upside down on his chest... and his hands, feet, eyes, and mouth duct taped. This trope got lampshaded to hell because of the mysterious circumstances, was then classed as a murder investigation and, after two months, was ruled as a suicide trying to emulate a homicide that tried to emulate a suicide.
Guiseppe "Peppino" Impastato, italian political activist, creator of a satirical radio station against the Mafia and, at the time, running for office, decided to kill himself. Hitting his head repeatedly with a rock. Then lying on the railroads. Surrounding himself with TNT. Initial police investigations put forth the theory of a failed terrorist attack, later upgrading it to suicide. Only twenty years later they finally found out that yes, the Mafia did it.
A young girl in Alleghe, Italy, committed suicide by cutting her throat. The strange thing? She chose to slash her throat, leave the razor neatly on a nightstand, walk for some meters, lie in the centre of the room and die. Yes, it was a murder. The first of a series, actually.
Roberto Calvi hanged himself. Under the Blackfriars Bridge. With bricks in his pockets. Because he really wanted to kill himself. Not unusual, though he did supposedly manage it without touching the scaffolding from which he hung or causing noticeable damage his neck. One satirical account later described Blackfriars Bridge as 'a good place to commit suicide, even if you don't really want to'.
He is not the only person to attempt to or actually succeed at crucifying himself. A man in Maine tried the same stunt, only to dial 9-1-1 after he got down to one arm and couldn't figure out how to get the last nail in. "It was unclear whether the man was seeking assistance for his injury or help in nailing down his other hand."
California resident Rebecca Zahau apparently committed suicide in 2011 by stripping herself naked, duct taping her own legs and ball-gagging herself with a T-shirt, clubbing herself in the head multiple times (obtaining a quadruple brain haemorrhage), binding her own arms behind her back, and then hanging herself from a second-story balcony. And apparently wrote a cryptic suicide note referring to herself in the third person, using someone else's handwriting, on the door of the room. To be fair to her literate skills, you probably wouldn't be very coherent under those circumstances either.
During the Brazilian dictatorship, journalist Vladimir "Vlado" Herzog was found hanging from the bars of a prison cell. The bars were clearly too low for it to be a real suicide.
In 2014, a young prisoner which had his hands cuffed behind his back died of a headshot inside the police car. The policemen who were transporting him declared it a suicide.
In Yonne, Lucette Evain's body was found in 1970 in a vacant lot very far from her home with sperm in her panties and her neck covered with scratch marks; coroner's verdict: suicide. The autopsy diseappared soon after the verdict. Some think Emile Louis (cf. Jambert supra) was the culprit.
Happens a lot with cases of honor-killings. Very often the victim will be said to have killed herself (or sometimes that it was an accident), so that the family or in-laws who did it won't be investigated further. (Often, this is enough to stop the investigation in places where honor-killings are commonplace, though not always.)
Yuriy Kravchenko, Ukraine's former Interior Minister, was found dead on March 4, 2005, in his apartment. His death was ruled a suicide with two gunshot wounds to the head. Coincidentally, he was about to give evidence in the investigation on the murder of a prominent journalist.