This Bear Was Framed

You've committed a murder, and quite reasonably wish to get off scot-free. You might try hiding the body or use a Frameup to beat the rap, but if your inclination is to Make It Look Like an Accident, why not simply make it look like an animal attack? The accused animal is unlikely to put up a legal defense, and the typical bites and claw marks from such an encounter will cover up any pesky stab wounds, and will appear to be so open-and-shut a case that the authorities might not even bother testing for poisons or gunshot residue. Or better yet, why not make the crime seamless by using an actual animal to commit the murder?

The catch is that some animal lover (or unusually perceptive detective) may come along and try to Clear His Name. Compare Animal Assassin, where the killer uses an animal as a weapon to kill the victim, and Hunting Accident, which can overlap.


Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • The Dresden Files graphic novel Welcome To The Jungle starts with a zoo security guard being found dead outside the gorilla pen, with blood on one of the gorillas. Finding it odd that a murderous animal would, after breaking out of its pen and killing a man, then proceed to go back into its cage and re-secure the doors, Murphy calls in Dresden to figure out what really happened.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Victory At Ostagar: Aron Kendalls, leading candidate for the next Arl of Denerim, suffers a convenient Hunting Accident which goes unsuspected thanks to the lack of a Fereldan forensics department.

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Lion King, Scar uses stampeding wildebeests to murder Mufasa — an odd example of an animal using other animals to make the murder of another animal look like an (accidental) animal attack.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Advocate is a film based on a lawyer in Medieval France who defends a pig for killing a child. It's based on some real trials of animals that occurred during that time period. Yes, the pig was framed.
  • The Val Lewton film The Leopard Man features a serial killer who disguises his crimes as attacks from an escaped leopard. He's aided by the fact that the escaped leopard really did kill someone.

    Literature 
  • Inverted in the short story "Never Forget" by Tom Holt. During the Punic Wars, a highly unpopular Roman officer is found with his skull smashed in, and his personal and business enemies are heavily investigated. The investigator, being The Mole, accuses the general's most competent advisor. The actual killer, of course, is a captured elephant that was wounded by the victim in battle.
  • In The Saint short story "The Convenient Monster", a murderer kills his victim with a Polynesian club studded with shark teeth and attempts to place the blame on the Loch Ness Monster!

    Live-Action TV 
  • This is a somewhat regular thing on the Trope Namer, Psych, where it seems like once every few seasons there is an episode where an animal is falsely accused of being "the killer" and in danger of being "put down" for it (in one it was a panther, another the trope-naming polar bear, and in still another a shark), but the series sleuths uncover evidence that a person did the killing and then covered it up by making it look like a death by animal attack.
    • Played with in one episode; Shawn realizes that the wounds on a victim would indicate a T-Rex did it, but everyone thinks he's crazy for thinking so. It turns out, it looks like a T-Rex did it because one did. That is, a T-Rex skull caused the death; there was still a person involved.
  • Monk:
    • "Mr. Monk and the Panic Room": A monkey is framed for murder. It is then up to Monk to figure out how.
    • Another example is an episode where a dog had apparently mauled a woman to death. The bite marks on the woman's body matched the dog's teeth exactly, but the owner claimed the dog had died before the apparent attack.
  • In an episode of New Tricks a man broke into a zoo and was assumed to have fallen into a tiger enclosure and mauled to death by the tiger. When the tiger dies a few years later it is revealed that its death was caused by a piece of a knife that was stuck in its body since that night. The team reopens the case and finds that the man was killed elsewhere and the body dumped in the tiger cage which is when th tiger was stabbed. Not only was the tiger framed but it was also another victim.
  • In one CSI episode, a woman (who was eating human organs to fight off a rare disease) used dogs to attack her victims, so that the deaths at first simply looked like dog attacks.
    • In another, a shark got released into a pool and attacked someone, but the shark attack was not the cause of death; the victim was already dead (of a forced heroin overdose) and the shark was drawn to blood from her injection site and bit her arm off. The shark release and the murder were actually committed by different people, so less "this shark was framed" and more "this shark was in the wrong place at the wrong time".
  • The Columbo episode "A Matter of Honor" has one of these, where Columbo is stuck on a Busman's Holiday in Mexico. The perp is a bullfighter (played by Ricardo Montalban) who kills his victim by trapping him in the arena with a notoriously vicious bull.
  • A dog is framed in the pilot of Pushing Daisies. The cause of death was in fact being mauled, but it was done by a dog of a different breed on orders from its owner.
  • An episode of Midsomer Murders has a killer use a saber tooth tiger skull to make marks on the body to hide the real cause of death.
  • NCIS:
    • Happens in an episode, with a serial killer masking his murders in a natural park as accidents — including a grizzly attack. The bear sure did partially eat the corpse, but during the autopsy Ducky finds a stab wound in the heart that is too neat to have been done by bear claws.
    • In another episode "Dog Tags", Abby clears the name of a German Shepherd she has named Jethro.
  • Happens more than once in Supernatural when a murder committed by an animalistic supernatural being like a wendigo or a werewolf is written off as a bear attack by the police.
    Officer: This kid was shredded by an animal.
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries: In "My Brother's Keeper", the killer clubs the Victim of the Week over the head, dumps his body in a cattle pen, and then stampedes the cattle so the trample the body to conceal his wounds.
  • On Longmire a victim is drugged, covered in meat and staked out in a remote area that is known to be part of a bear's hunting grounds. The bear tears the victim to pieces but Longmire quickly figures out that the bear was set up since he finds a piece of meat that is not human and was cut with a knife.
  • Castle: In "The Fast and the Furriest", evidence at a crime scene suggests that a murderous Bigfoot is stalking the streets of New York City. Castle is only too willing to believe that a Bigfoot is the culprit, but Beckett, Ryan and Esposito are convinced the murderer is more mundane. They are, of course, correct.

    Myths & Religion 
  • In The Bible story of Joseph and the coat of many colors, Joseph's jealous brothers sell Joseph into slavery to passing traders; to cover up this crime, they smear goat's blood on Joseph's robe and show it to their father, claiming it is the result of an animal attack.
    • Notably, Joseph's brothers were originally intending to kill him; but Reuben managed to convince his brothers to settle for selling him.

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    Western Animation 

    Other 

    Real Life 
  • The famous Australian case of Azaria Chamberlain, an infant who disappeared in the desert during a family outing. Her mother claimed, "a dingo ate my baby"; the authorities invoked this trope and the mother was convicted of murder, but the conviction was later reversed. More modern scientific analysis of the evidence available, while inconclusive, supports the mother's version of events.