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Destroy the Evidence

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Arnold: But the document! Where's the document?
Scheck: Unfortunately, like your little plan, it's about to go up in smoke.

Bob has come into possession of some evidence relating to a crime. However, instead of turning this evidence over to the proper authorities, he destroys (or withholds/hides) the evidence.

Why? Well, there's a number of reasons. For instance:

  • The evidence could incriminate someone who Bob likes and doesn't want to see punished.
  • The evidence, if made public, will ruin the life of someone who's otherwise involved in the crime, like a victim or a witness.
  • Bob is being blackmailed by the Big Bad or an associate.
  • Bob himself would be incriminated by the evidence.
  • The evidence contains information which would exonerate another villain who is on trial for another crime.
  • The evidence, if involving a dead person, might cast a bad light on their memory — and Bob was a good friend/relative/lover of the dead person.
  • The evidence is entirely worthless — it's too late to act.
  • Bob wants to punish the bad guy himself.
  • While the evidence could get the bad guy put away or otherwise punished, it would cause scandals and create chaos for a lot of people, some of whom may be entirely innocent.
  • The evidence would reveal an ugly truth about a past event that the public perceives as a good thing, and Bob wants the event to stay a good thing.
  • The criminal committed the crime for a good reason, and in retrospect, Bob agrees that the act was justified.
  • The crime involved the murder of someone who was a truly terrible person, and Bob doesn't want the evidence revealed since it would result in someone going to prison for something he doesn't think of as a crime.
  • Bob is currently on the run or at least not on good terms with the local authorities, so he can't give the evidence to them without being captured/killed/arrested.
  • Bob is eventually revealed to be the villain.
  • Bob believes that the criminal is genuinely repentant and need not be punished further.

Whatever good intentions Bob may have had, destroying the evidence will probably have bad results — a villain could walk free, for instance, or a good guy might be implicated. May result in a What the Hell, Hero?, given Bob is the hero.

In others, a Villain with Good Publicity may destroy any evidence that can be used to arrest/implicate them in a crime or a horrific event.

See also Let Off by the Detective, Leave No Witnesses, Eat the Evidence, Fiery Cover-Up, Killed to Uphold the Masquerade, and Treachery Cover Up.

Warning: This is an Ending Trope, so spoilers may be unmarked.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Tenchi Muyo!: Mihoshi's superior destroys her incredibly detailed report on dealing with Kagato because of the information there, most importantly that not only is the long-lost Prince Yosho on Earth, he has a grandson named Tenchi and that a number of other powerful people are on Earth connected in some way to Yosho with a lot of overlap. He lets the royal family of Jurai know, but there's no way he's letting the rest of the universe know the information.
  • Death Note:
    • Early in, Light sets up a system that will ensure the Death Note is destroyed in a fire should anyone try to search his room for it. The system never actually gets used, though, because Light judged it more trouble than it was worth and quietly defused it.
    • Near the end, when he arranges for his accomplice Kiyomi Takada to commit suicide by burning alive, the method is chosen to also destroy any evidence.
  • In Moriarty the Patriot, Sherlock takes the time to ensure evidence related to Mary Morstan's radical socialism in France is destroyed so she can safely marry John and live happily ever after with him.

    Comic Books 
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW): In "Convocation of the Creatures", when Lord Goldstone learns that the archivists discovered a document that proves that Equestria's debt to Griffinstone was settled and the latter thus isn't entitled to half of the former's land, he orders his guards to recover and destroy it.
  • Dastardly & Muttley: In Issue 5, General Harrier attempts to burn the files connecting him to the Unstabilium-239. However, he's hampered by the fact that he's been transformed into a cartoon raccoon and thus lacks the thumbs needed to trigger his lighter. This prevents him from destroying anything before the protagonists arrive.
  • Sin City: The Big Fat Kill revolves around the importance of getting rid of the body of "Iron Jack" Rafferty, a "hero cop" that the prostitutes of Old Town kill after he gets violent with one of their number. If it is ever discovered that they killed him, the truce between Old Town and the police will end and a violent war will erupt, so they try to dispose of him and his friends by sinking the body into the local tar pits. The situation is complicated by Mob Boss Wallenquist, who is trying to get possession of Jack's body in order to make sure that the war does erupt since if Old Town is weakened by the police he will be able to move in afterwards and take control of the women therein. Ultimately, most of Jack disappears into the pits, and the rest of him is destroyed when his corpse's head is stuffed with explosives, along with Manute and his men who wanted revenge on Old Town after Ava's death at their hands.
  • In Weird War Tales #100, the Creature Commandos are dispatched to what would later be known as Dinosaur Island to investigate the disappearance of Allied scout planes. You'll never guess what they find there. Lt. Shrieve takes photos as evidence, beaming with excitement at the thought of US military intelligence turning the dinosaurs into "war weapons." Lucky grabs the camera from him and throws it into the sea. Lucky can't talk, but Velcro knows exactly what he's trying to say — they won't let Shrieve make any more monsters for war.
  • In Silverblade, the falcon torches the Fotomat kiosk where Belinda drops of the roll of cine-film to be developed to destroy the footage of Jonathan changing forms.
  • In Who is Superwoman?, the titular villain burns the hard drive image that proves she murdered Agent Liberty.
    Superwoman: Now that you're here on Earth someone else can play the role of Agent Liberty's Kryptonian murderer.
    Supergirl: But the hard drive image—
    Superwoman: Was easily dealt with, along with records of its existence. And with the good Inspector counting feathers on his wings in Heaven no one will be able to point the finger at me. I'll make sure that you are the one who's blamed. Unfortunately for you, you won't be able to tell them otherwise as you'll have suffered a "mysterious disappearance".

    Fan Works 
  • In Dirty Sympathy Apollo disposes his gun and the bullets from LeTouse's murder into the sewer to hide that Machi killed him because Apollo used the death to frame Daryan.
  • Graduate Meeting of Mutual Killing: Mishio Matsukaze had managed to write in a notebook everything he had found about the Mastermind behind the game, in case he died. However, what he didn't expect was that the person who killed him would find the notebook by chance AND would be aligned with the Mastermind. The notebook was destroyed due to its incriminating nature towards the Mastermind.
  • In The New Adventures of Invader Zim, when Tenn is forced to evacuate her base on Meekrob, she makes sure to scuttle all her computers before she leaves.
  • Becoming Lífþrasir: When Snotlout catches Cattongue and Astrid together with her hair down, Snotlout accuses her of being a whore and drags her into the middle of the village by her hair to publicly shame her. Because he dragged her by the hair, she was able to explain that her hair came loose when he dragged her with the only remaining evidence being his word. Since it's Snotlout making the claim, naturally not that many people believe him over Astrid.
  • Not the intended use (Zantetsuken Reverse): Chapter 25:
    After a drunk driver crashed into his car one foggy morning, Arikado narrowly escaped questioning by abandoning his car, destroying the license plates and all other evidence, and flying off in bat form.

    Film - Animated 
  • Hey Arnold! The Movie provides the page quote, mixed with an Engineered Public Confession. Scheck reveals to Arnold and Gerald his true motives for destroying their neighborhood. He's been planning to avenge his family who lost a significant event during the Revolutionary War by tearing down Arnold's neighborhood and replacing it with a hulking building carrying the Scheck name. He then burns the document to ensure that his plans will proceed. However, this later comes back to bite Scheck due to the whole thing being Caught on Tape by his own surveillance cameras, plus the document being shown as clear as possible before it was burned, and Arnold manages to retrieve the incriminating videotape from the building's security monitor room. Moments after Arnold shows the video to the angry townspeople, Scheck is ultimately arrested.
  • Patlabor: The Movie: This is Captain Gotoh's backup plan in the third act when, on his own initiative, he orders Division 2 to tear down the Ark based on the suspicions of Asuma, Noa, and Shige about the Labor incidents. He ships the HOS master disk that Asuma found to Shige's contacts at MIT in hopes they're able to prove that the HOS was responsible for the berserk Labors. But if they can't, all the evidence that Division 2 destroyed the Ark will be on the bottom of Tokyo Bay anyway, so they'll just play dumb and say the typhoon that was going on at the time did it.

    Film - Live-Action 
  • In 11:14, Frank gets rid of his bloodstained shirt by using the burning book to set fire to it, and then dumping it down the sewer. Even this almost gets him caught, as Norma drives by unexpectedly.
  • In Andhadhun, Simi deletes the kid's cell phone video recording which shows that Akash faked being blind after blinding him for real.
  • Bad Times at the El Royale: As the El Royale burns down at the end, Flynn and Darlene toss the register containing their names and the reel of blackmail film into the flames, eliminating any proof they were ever there as well as a MacGuffin that could only be used for harm.
  • In Crooked House, Sophia burns the manuscript of her grandfather's memoirs; claiming that it contained embarrassing details of his involvement in the armaments trade during World War II, but nothing relevant his murder. A justifiably miffed Charles points out that he now has no way of verifying that.
  • Dr. Minx: When the sheriff comes round to ask questions about Gus's disappearance, Carol goes to stall him while telling Brian to burn the incriminating tape in the upstairs fireplace.
  • Glass Onion: When Helen confronts the Corrupt Corporate Executive Miles with notes that prove he stole his business plan from Andi, he simply grabs them and burns them in front of her, correctly assuming that all the witnesses will side with him out of self-interest. It takes much more explosive evidence of Miles' misdeeds to force them to flip — still out of self-interest.
  • Knives Out: When Marta realises that Blanc is close to uncovering that she returned to the house after leaving it on the night that Harlan died, she starts to using her role as The Watson to deliberately compromise the evidence, such as trampling over her own footprints and using a magnet to wipe the video tape showing her car pulling off the road.
  • In The Man from Colorado, Del finds the white flag the Confederates were waving at the site of the massacre and buries it so no one will know that Owen chose to ignore their surrender.
  • Man in the Attic: After learning that the police believe Jack the Ripper is carrying a black bag, Slade burns his black Gladstone bag in his laboratory, where Mrs Harley discovers its remains and becomes suspicious. Later, Lily discovers him burning his ulster after her gets blood on it.
  • M.F.A.:
    • Noelle burns Skye's suicide note where she claims to be the "Campus Killer" (the confession was false in any case).
    • On a larger scale, we learn the campus administration has buried all rape reports so as not to look bad and keep their "clean" record.
  • Murder by Decree: When an inscription The Juwes are the ones who will not be blamed for nothing turns up on an alley wall near the murders, Sir Warren orders the message destroyed. He claims the message will blame the Jews for the crime and start a race riot in the neighborhood. In truth, the message is implicating the Freemasons, and Warren is protecting his fellow members.note 
  • The narrator in The Phenix City Story outlines how the mob handles evidence against it. We get to see them put it into practice at various points in the film.
    "The rule of the mob regarding evidence is simple: If it's human, kill it. If it's on paper, burn it up."
  • Planet of the Apes (1968): Dr. Zaius is the only ape aware of the true history of humans and apes, and he will do anything to cover it up out of fear of what would happen if the truth came out. When he sees Taylor writing in the sand in his cage, he checks to make sure nobody else saw and than destroys the writing with his walking stick. Later, he lobotomizes Taylor's surviving crewmate and dynamites a cave containing proof of a pre-ape civilization.
  • Revenge (2017): After pushing Jen off the cliff, Richard returns to his house and burns all of her personal belongings: removing any trace that she was ever there.
  • In The Sniper, Miller rips up the dress he brought home from the home of his first victim and burns it in the furnace in the basement.
  • The Suicide Squad: Task Force X is told they need to sneak into a hostile Banana Republic nation to destroy a Nazi-era facility known as Jötunheim, holding a secretive military weapon known as Project Starfish. Once they get into Jötunheim do they find out their actual objective is to destroy files inside the facility that implicate the American government in secretly funding Project Starfish, a parasitic extraterrestrial life-form known as Starro which the engineers of the project have fed thousands of unwilling human test subjects to try and weaponize. Destruction of the project itself was unnecessary to the mission's success.
  • At the end of The Uncanny, Frank tosses Wilbur's manuscript into the fire, after receiving an unnerving stare from his cat. The manuscript goes up in flames, destroying all evidence of the conspiracy Wilbur had uncovered.

    Literature 
  • Dead Silence: MegaCorp Verux has done quite a lot of this to hide their coprorate malfeasance with their Mars colony Ferris. Claire only finds out about the details thanks to working for them. Later on they try it again by scuttling the space ship Aurora, to hide their use of a sonic weapon that drove everyone aboard insane.
  • "The Hound (1924)": After the murder of St. John, the narrator is afraid to continue to live in their ancient manor-house on the moor by himself and moves to London. He burns down and buries the grave goods and body parts he and his companion had stolen over the years as well as any other evidence of the sinister museum they maintained before he goes.
  • Whateley Universe: Kodiak destroys tapes of the Don (and probably more of the Alphas) abusing and raping Skybolt and Cavalier, who were Mind Raped into being obedient slaves because he knows that should the tapes get out, sooner or later the entire school would see them — and any chance of Skybolt and Cavalier having a normal life once they get released from the psych ward would be ruined.
  • There's an accidental case in Dead Man's Chest by Kerry Greenwood. At a wake held for a dead woman, Phryne steals a pillowcase dropped by a maid that she finds to be suspicious — it has teeth imprints and a stiff patch, indicating that the old woman was murdered by being smothered with the pillow. At the end of the novel, Phryne's maid Dot washes the pillowcase and returns it, not realising that it was important.
  • The plot of The Little Sister revolves around a photograph that is being used to blackmail two people. Philip Marlowe comes into possession of the negative and prints, and at the end of the novel, after one of the blackmail targets has been killed, Marlowe burns them to spare the other, who was an innocent party — and to spite his client, who had hoped to manipulate him into leading her to the photograph so she could continue profiting from it.
  • In Players of Gor, Tarl Cabot learns of a plot by Cos, Tyros, Brundisium and certain factions in Ar to attack Ar. He gets the evidence, then learns that it's actually happening right now. The evidence is now worthless so he burns it. Plus he plans to exact his own revenge.
  • The Horatio Hornblower short story Hornblower and the Widow McCool. The British occupying forces and Irish rebels have recently achieved a fragile peace in Ireland. Hornblower discovers letters to rebels not known to the authorities. If he turns the letters over to the authorities, they'll go after the rebels and cause another outbreak of violence. He decides to throw the letters overboard instead.
  • In the Discworld novel Men at Arms, Captain Carrot destroys the evidence that he's the rightful king of Ankh-Morpork, because he doesn't think it needs a king anymore.
  • Family Skeleton Mysteries: Attempted in the conclusion of the first book, as Sid's killer intends to finish what he started by pulverizing Sid's skeleton and then using an acid bath to eliminate what's left. He's stopped in time.
  • The Tamuli: Late in the series, the heroes realize that the Cynesgans are taking orders from Cyrgai. They also realize the large quantity of smoke coming from the chimneys of the Cynesgan embassy in Matherion is the same color as that produced by burning paper. But by that point there's a telepath among the heroes, so destroying the records doesn't help the Cynesgans.
  • Star Wars:
    Let them die as they choose. Let them die as pilots.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Apple Tree Yard, Yvonne bundles up the dress she was wearing the night she was raped, intending to bring it to the police, but at the last moment she changes her mind and throws it in the trash. As she explains to Mark, the dress will likely have her rapist's DNA...but it will also have DNA from her consensual sexual encounter with Mark on the same night, thus revealing their extramarital affair.
  • Candy (2022): The sheriff and deputies comment on the "half-assed" clean up job Betty Gore's murderer did, leaving a clear bloody footprint on the floor and bloody fingerprints on a refrigerator handle, and then taking a shower, leaving the bathmat covered in blood. Played straight when Candy chops up the rubber sandals she wore to Betty's house and throws them away.
  • Downton Abbey: When Bates is under suspicion of Green's murder, Lady Mary finds a train ticket in his coat pocket that could link him to the scene of the crime, and, after a brief Sudden Principled Stand, burns it to protect him. Ironically, as the ticket was unused, it would have actually supported his alibi.
  • In Veronica Mars, Logan comes into possession of the sex tapes of his girlfriend and his father, and he destroys them so they wouldn't be seen in court and ruin Lilly's memory.
  • In one episode of NCIS, Gibbs switches tissue samples so that it will appear that a body they're trying to identify was that of a dead Marine- the Marine (who is dead) had had a kidney transplant from a friend, who was still alive. Because you can't be a Marine if at some point in your life you donated an organ, the Marine, if this became known, would have to quit- which he really didn't want to do.
    • Another NCIS example. At the end of one episode, Gibbs realizes that a bad guy was killed with the prayer beads of a man the bad guy himself murdered, a marine and the son of a local Imam. Gibbs knows that this means the marine's father killed the bad guy to avenge his son's death, and the Imam should be arrested for murder himself. But when Ziva mentions that the prayer beads belong to the original victim Gibbs denies it, and she lets it pass.
  • In any season of The Dukes of Hazzard, the phrase "The boys got off because there wasn't any evidence" is about guaranteed to occur in at least a third of the episodes. Frequently the lack of evidence is a result of it being sunk in a pond, set on fire, blown up or in some other fashion destroyed. Sometimes the destruction is even intentional.
    • One time they were being chased for having made moonshine but got off because they used it as fuel for the General Lee and had run out of "gas." (Which I guess would be another Eat the Evidence example, for a given definition of "eat.")
  • At the end of at least one episode of Jonathan Creek, ("The Scented Room" is the one I'm thinking of, although it may also have happened in "Devil's Chimney") the title character lets the culprit go, on the grounds that they're not really that bad.
  • Dexter has been known to mess with or destroy evidence to ensure that particularly bad criminals go free... so that he can hunt them down and kill them himself instead of letting them have a government-sponsored vacation at prison.
  • In the season one finale of In Plain Sight, Mary hides cocaine from the police and Marshall Service to protect her little sister. The final shot of the episode is of the back of a line-painting machine on a football field, implying that this is how she got rid of the evidence.
    • Actually she fully believed that the drugs were in those cases. It was her boyfriend (who was a baseball player) that got rid of it that way.
  • CSI: NY: "The Fall." Don Flack's mentor, Moran, finds out that his son was involved in the robbery of a bodega. He subsequently disposes of the incriminating pop can he finds to keep the boy out of jail. This results in Broken Pedestal and Mac and Flack having to arrest him.
  • Dragnet had it once or twice. One episode involved a bookmaker destroying his paper trail, which was written on flash paper, a quick burning type of paper. Friday luckily stopped him before it all went up in flames.
  • All My Children: After getting raped by Michael Cambias, Bianca is severely traumatized and burns all the physical evidence. Unfortunately, when he is later taken to court for it, Bianca's destruction of the evidence only ensures that Michael gets Off on a Technicality long enough for Bianca herself to confront him and shoot him dead in self-defense.
  • In the infamous Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "In the Pale Moonlight", Captain Sisko basically confesses to his personal log that he was an accessory to a murderous conspiracy to drag the Romulan Empire into the war against the Dominion that the Federation and Klingon Empire weren't doing too well in. The most self-damning thing to him is that he thinks he can live with it. He then tells the computer to delete the entire log entry.
  • In the Enemy at the Door episode "Judgement of Solomon", two sixteen-year-old boys are caught with a camera in a restricted zone, and developing the film shows that they've been taking photos of German military installations. Not wishing to apply the mandatory death sentence for espionage to a pair of children, Major Richter orders the officer investigating the matter to destroy the prints and negatives and proceed as if the boys had been found trespassing with no evidence of their intentions.
  • One episode of Mission: Impossible had the team trying to rescue the captured leader of a resistance movement against an East Bloc nation, along with a microfilm containing a list of key figures supporting the resistance. The final shot of the episode is Jim Phelps burning the microfilm.
  • The Good Place: Michael says that they need to find evidence to figure out what exactly is wrong with the afterlife. Jason helpfully reminds him that evidence isn't a good thing, it's something you're supposed to destroy before the cops show up.
  • In the Decoy episode "Queen of Diamonds," Casey discovers a negative proving that a suspect for armed robbery was in the right city at the time the robbery took place. But before she can turn it in, the man sets the negative on fire.
  • Agatha Raisin: In "Agatha and the Wizard of Evesham", Agatha has to destroy her smoke damaged clothing so she can claim she was nowhere near Johnny's house when it was torched. She bundles it all into her fireplace and sets fire to it just as DI Wilkes and Bill arrive to question her, leading to awkward questions about what the bad smell is.
  • Played with in the case of The Devil Judge. Soo-hyun enters Minister Cha's office to find her dead with Ga-on (and Yo-han) in the room, so she naturally assumes that they killed her when in fact she shot herself and proceeds to get rid of the evidence that they were there so her friend Ga-on wouldn't get arrested.
    Soo-hyun: [Slaps Ga-on] Do you know what I had to do for you? I had to destroy the evidence. How could you disappoint me like that? How could you? (starts crying)
  • Breaking Bad: The first episode of season five has Walt realizing he still has lots of loose ends to tie up. He starts off by throwing away all the stuff he used to make the bomb that killed Gus and then also dumps the potted lily-of-the-valley plant he used to poison Brock. Then he realizes he has a much bigger problem; the Superlab had numerous security cameras recording his every move while he was working for Gus, and Gus' laptop with all the incriminating footage was confiscated by the DEA. Walt, Jesse, and Mike then spend the rest of the episode trying to find a way to destroy the laptop before anyone watches the footage and discovers their involvement, which they manage to accomplish to do with a giant electromagnet. Unfortunately for them, this ends up accidentally revealing the bank account numbers, which had been hidden in a photo frame, that Gus had been using to pay his employees...
  • Walker, Texas Ranger: The villains tend to do this all the time whenever either the Rangers or another law enforcement official has caught on to their schemes.
    • Season 6's "Forgotten People" details Janet Monroe, a corrupt nursing home director, using her business as a front for an operation where she's using her patients as guinea pigs in illegal medical experiments where she plans to put variations of an outlawed Alzheimer's drug on the market. When CD is sent in undercover to find the evidence needed to prove it and then alerts Walker and Trivette via a transmitter connected to Walker's pager hidden in a bible that he is about to be murdered by nursing home officials for threatening to expose their scheme, Monroe tries frantically to shred the experiment records while Walker and Trivette beat up her orderlies. Luckily, some pieces of evidence survived, sufficient to put her and her rogue doctors and ex-con orderlies away for a long time.
    • In "Deadly Situation" (Season 9), Glenn Cooper, an aspiring Texas Ranger starting off as a rookie police officer for the Sage City PD and descendant of the legendary Ranger Hayes Cooper, busted three of his own for partaking in a drug trafficking operation conducted by Chick Winslow following a recent drug bust. Much later in the episode, it's revealed to be four dirty cops: his boss, Lieutenant Shell, was the leader of the operation, and following the bust hours after a party following a baseball game Sage City officers competed in with the Rangers, Glenn gave him the original copies of the evidence the following morning, but instead of taking those photos to internal affairs, Shell likely destroyed them before tipping off the three detectives that got busted, and then planted the stolen drugs from that previous bust in Glenn's locker, framing him and his partner (who was then murdered by the trio) for their crime. It's quickly subverted with the additional copies of those photos Glenn hid at a library: Gage and Sydney retrieved them first and arrested the trio before they could get them. One of the detectives then promptly confesses Lt. Shell's involvement in the case, upon which he and his two partners are indicted for killing Glenn's partner and almost killing Sage County District Attorney Clark, and while Gage, Sydney and Trivette arrest Chick Winslow, Lt. Shell went on to commit suicide at his home before his boss and Walker could arrest him.

    Music 

    Newspaper Comics 
  • There's a The Far Side cartoon with a rat in a prison cell telling his cellmate "I would have gotten away scot free if I'd gotten rid of the evidence...But shoot, I'm a pack rat".

    Theatre 
  • Love's Labour's Lost: The King and three lords in his attendance take an oath not to woo any women for three years; then some women show up. The King and two of his lords are caught writing love notes by the fourth who berates them; then the love note that he wrote is brought forth by some rustics, so he tears it up before anyone else can read it.

    Video Games 
  • In Final Fantasy X, Tromell destroys the sphere revealing that Seymour killed his father because "The Guado deal with Guado affairs".
  • Heavy Rain: Scott Shelby burns the evidence he finds relating to the Origami Killer...because he is the Origami Killer.
  • Hitman (2016) and Hitman 2 both have the Professional and Master level difficulties, which include security cameras to catch Agent 47 in the act. The only way to dispose of them is either to find the security room to disable them or to discreetly shoot them.
  • In the first Max Payne, Max first finds proof that the meeting at Roscoe Street Station was a frame-up in the form of a letter from higher-ups. Only in the third chapter, he's already been outed as an undercover DEA agent and is being hunted by the NYPD as a fugitive due to an attempted bank robbery he stumbled upon in Chapter 2. With the mob already shooting him on sight, having lost his wife and baby girl to drug addicts that said mob was trafficking, and no way to alert the authorities of what's really going on as his only connection in his friend Alex Balder had just been shot dead, Max just crumples the letter and throws it aside.
    Max: Collecting evidence had gotten old a few hundred bullets back. I was already so far past the point of no return I couldn't even remember what it looked like when I had passed it.
  • Persona 4: Adachi, who is both the murderer and a detective working on the case, admits to destroying certain bits of evidence. And in the Enhanced Remake the player character can choose not to pursue Adachi, given his Social Link has been maxed out. If the player confronts him after it's too late, he can choose to destroy the remaining evidence and form an alliance with Adachi. Doing so will get you the Accomplice ending, which is right up there with killing Namatame when it comes to Downer Endings.
  • Uplink allows you to do this, via a Self-Destruct Mechanism on your computer. If the FBI is about to break in, you can set it off, and provided you have enough money for a new computer, pick up where you left off. You can accomplish the same results by running the Revelation virus on your own computer.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines: In one Sidequest, a medical lab has unknowingly acquired a sample of werewolf blood — a threat to the Masquerade — so the vampire player character is sent to steal it before it can be studied.
  • In Yandere Simulator, the more evidence Yandere-chan destroys, the easier it is for her to get away with murder, up to and including burning a corpse in an incinerator. However, too many people up and disappearing (especially if the occurrences become frequent) will cause the police to be suspicious anyway.

    Visual Novels 
  • Done multiple times in the Ace Attorney series, usually by the defendants. Often they're trying to protect someone they care about from incrimination, even at the cost of their own freedom:
    • Late in Case 1-4, Manfred von Karma destroys most of the critical evidence you have but fails to get the bullet from the DL-6 Incident, which leads to his undoing. He even says that his accomplice, Yanni Yogi, should have burned the letter he received.
    • In case 1-5, Lana Skye deliberately distorted evidence relating to the SL-9 incident- wiping the blood off of pottery fragments, which apparently spell the name "EMA" partially in order to get Joe Darke convicted, but mainly to prevent her sister from being charged with murder. Later, Phoenix doesn't want to present a certain piece of evidence(Ema's handprint, which was cut out of the victim's vest) for the same reason - it implicates someone he doesn't want to see get in trouble. He does present it later when it becomes the key piece of evidence to implicate the guilty party, who is the only one who could have known about its significance and removed it.
    • Phoenix Wright himself does this in 3-1 by eating Dahlia's locket.
    • Special mention to Detective Badd in Ace Attorney Investigations who destroyed evidence relating to the Yatagarasu. As head of the investigation he was in a perfect position to make sure no traces were ever found at the crime scene. Why? He was a member of the Yatagarasu.
    • In Dual Destinies, the Phantom goes as far as bombing a courthouse in order to destroy a moon rock hidden inside evidence for an ongoing case because said moon rock had his blood on it. Phoenix unfortunately only realizes this after he figured out that the moon rock is vital evidence, only for the Phantom to smugly ask to see the moon rock, causing him to put the pieces together and realize what happened.
  • Danganronpa
    • In Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, the first culprit ends up with bloody clothes after committing a murder with a knife, and has to dispose of them, so the incinerator seems like the best bet. Unfortunately, the incinerator is locked behind a steel grate. So what does the culprit do? He pitches a glass crystal ball at the button to activate the incinerator, then balls up his shirt and throws it in, too. Unfortunately for him, the burned sleeve of his shirt falls off, leaving behind enough evidence to prove his guilt.
    • In the second case of the first game, the culprit destroys the victim's notepad by throwing it into a sauna. It's implied that this was partly to cover up his crime and partly to hide the victim's true gender.

    Webcomics 
  • Freefall:
    • Played for Laughs when Sam asks his ship to delete all mention of him getting his scarf caught in a vacuum toilet from the logs, and the ship agrees...but tells him that removal of a log entry first requires sending those logs to five other captains for review, video file and all.
      Sam: My original mistakes never draw half the attention that my attempts to cover them up do.
    • Much more seriously, the main villain arranges several acts of sabotage by ordering Three Laws-Compliant robots to do them for him and covers his tracks by ordering them to annihilate themselves once the damage is done.
      Sawtooth: We need an Enron Law of Robotics. If you contain evidence of a crime, do not obey orders to shred yourself.
  • Girl Genius: Merlot learns that Agatha is a Heterodyne after he has her expelled and then can't track her down because she's already in the Baron's custody. His panicked reaction is to slaughter the Baron's researchers who uncovered this and then burn down the university buildings where the records had been found to try an hide his mistake. Murdering a bunch of the Baron's employees and burning university buildings is of course a far worse "mistake" and the next time Merlot is seen he's been imprisoned in Castle Heterodyne.

    Web Original 
  • Revenge Films: Kanami and her dad destroy the evidence after the former hurled a vase at Saeko for not having money.

  • The Ruins of an American Party System:
    • In late 1944/early 1945, as the US government is transitioning from a 12-year Progressive administration to a newly elected Republican one, the State Department puts a lot of effort into incinerating all the files and records of their illegal support for the Soviets and other left-wing militant groups around the world.
    • When the government starts cracking down on Huey Long and other Commonwealth Party hardliners, Gerald L. K. Smith takes pains to eliminate all proof of financial ties between himself and Long's less than legal acts. In the rush to do this, however, he fails to properly dispose of evidence connecting himself to a white supremacist terror group.

    Western Animation 
  • The Great North: In Season 2 "Tasteful Noods Adventure", after Ham takes pictures of Momma and Poppa's food practice as evidence to expose them using his phone, Noodie takes his phone away and shows it to Momma and Poppa. After Ham refuses to keep Momma and Poppa's disgusting food practice a secret, Momma drops his phone in pasta sauce and Noodie throws him out of the restaurant. But unfortunately for them, Ham had already uploaded the photos into the Cloud and was able to print them out.
  • Invader Zim does this in a bathroom screaming: "LEAVE NO EVIDENCE!!!!" Which is a voice prompt for the evidence in question to self-destruct.
  • Kid vs. Kat does this every episode, with Kat destroying all proof that he's evil leaving Coop to be blamed as a total laughingstock.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • Done to the surveillance disk at the end of "Traffic Cam Caper" which caught footage of Perry as a secret agent, as Carl disposes of it.
    • Candace ends up doing this in the climax of "Phineas' Birthday Clip-O-Rama!", when Phineas' Rousing Speech causes Candace to burst into tears, finding herself unable to bring herself to bust her brother on his birthday, and destroys the DVD with the footage of their adventures with the wrench she found.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
    • During Anakin and Ashoka's first mission to Mustafar in Children of the Force, Paplatine/Sidious orders his main nanny droid RO-Z67 to turn off the facility's gravity supports to hide evidence of kidnapping Force-Sensitive children that would've become Dark Side spies, which succeeds despite Anakin and Ashoka rescuing the children.
    • At the end of Orders, Fives is shot by Commander Fox of the Courscant Guard while Palpatine expresses his "condolences" to the Jedi and tells them that a parasite infected Fives and Tup's inhibitor chips, causing them to go haywire, while "promising" to have every Clone Trooper checked so an incident like this could not happen again. He then has Dooku destroy the chips Nala Se gave him, while waiting for the order to go as planned.
  • Star Wars: The Bad Batch:
    • Implied during ''Return to Kamino, where any more intel on Clone Force 99's creation was wiped because the Empire was about to destroy Tipoca City.
    • During Metamorphosis, 2 Imperial V-Wings destroy Transport 904 on the Mid Rim world of Silla to prevent anyone else from stumbling upon it since it formerly contained a cloned Zillo Beast.
    • Similarly, when Echo, Gregor, and the Clones raid Captain Pearce's Gozanti-class cruiser to rescue Howzer and 2 of his men during Tipping Point, the Imperial orders his Stormtroopers and Clone Commandos to wipe the files before their enemies could find out where the cruiser was taking the disobedient clones. Though partially deleted, Echo manages to recover some of the files, before falling back with the others to avoid getting destroyed by a fleet of V-Wings sent from a Venator-class Star Destroyer to fully blast the cruiser to smithereens.

    Real Life 
  • In war or during public turmoil, it is standard procedure for militaries and governments to burn their own sensitive documents just before they can fall into enemy hands. Real Life examples include Iran's US embassy workers shredding intelligence material immediately before they were overrun by the angry mob in 1980, or the Wehrmacht burning orders and records whenever they were forced to retreat in the later stages of WW2.
    • The Nazis took it one step farther whenever they had to close down any concentration camps. They did their best to destroy not only the records of the camps' operation, but also the camps themselves (with varying degrees of success). The Plaszow camp (depicted in the film Schindler's List) was completely dismantled, all its living prisoners were sent to other locations, and the bodies of everyone who had died there were dug up and burned. By the time the Red Army reached the site in January 1945, there was nothing left but an empty field.
  • There's one dashcam footage where police arrest a man for possession of drugs. They place the man and the small baggie of drugs near each other on the trunk and, with no one looking, the man reaches over, grabs it with his teeth and swallows it. It takes police a few moments to realize what the guy had done...
  • In some circumstances it is possible to forensically examine burnt paper and read what was written on it. If all you've got is ash, it is presumably still utterly impossible. Similar techniques are being used in ancient archaeology to "read" fire-damaged papyrus scrolls recovered from Pompeii's post-volcanic ruins.
  • As portrayed on Forensic Files, Air Force sergeant Joseph Snodgrass was being interrogated for his wife's death; he managed to sneak in a pair of pinking shears, and before anyone could stop him, he cut up a floppy disk containing incriminating information. After several agencies told the investigators it would take millions of dollars to repair, one man offered what would be a $100 solution: Scotch tape. It worked.note 
  • In many jurisdictions, destroying evidence is a crime. In the United States, both states and the federal government have laws against this; however said laws requires both intent and knowledge that the evidence would be incriminating. A mob boss destroying papers detailing his tax fraud or a Corrupt Corporate Executive burning evidence of embezzlement could be prosecuted. A janitor shredding or burning such documents as part of their job would not be.
  • There is legal precedent for the police seizing evidence in advance of a search warrant being signed/delivered to the site of the search if they have good reason to believe that a suspect will seek to destroy it, specifically to prevent said destruction from happening. That said, the police would still not be permitted to examine or use the evidence until the signed warrant arrives.


 
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Destroyed tapes

Jake found out that the video tapes implicating the Vice Foreign Minister were destroyed in a fire. The firefighters think someone left a lit cigarette, but Jake knows that someone with links to the VFM destroyed them so that the Meicho Shimbun can't do anything with their articles. Otherwise, he can sue them for libel.

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