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I Didn't Mean to Kill Him

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"You leave her alone!" Woof screamed, and his tiny hands hit the small of Da's back, and Da fell. He tumbled down the stairs, over and over and over again … and he wasn't getting up, and why was his head turned like that? ... "I didn't mean it!" Woof cried, the tears streaming down his face … "I didn’t mean it! I didn’t mean it!" He was still yelling the words as he ran out the flat into the rain and mud of Fog Town. "I didn’t mean it!" But he had.
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An alternative to the Motive Rant has the perp, when cornered, explain how the murder was all an accident. Their excuse can be almost anything, but the most common explanations are

  • "It was just a joke!", when a prank or practical joke goes horribly wrong.
  • "We were having an argument, we said something we didn't mean, and things escalated to the point where we started pushing and shoving, and... I didn't mean to push him (down the stairs/off the cliff/into traffic)!"
  • "I didn't mean to hit him that hard!": They did mean to hit him, just a teensy bit, or some such thing.
  • "I only meant to make him sick...", usually so that the victim would be unable to do something and the killer could step into the victim's place. It may be a competition, a presentation, or a trip. Or almost anything else.
  • "I didn't know it would harm him...": They did not know the victim would have a life-threatening allergic reaction or had different biochemistry.
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After making the "I didn't mean to kill him" declaration, they'll often go on to explain that they dismembered the corpse and hid the pieces in a septic tank because they "panicked". In such a spiel, they will always, every time, utter the line "I didn't mean to kill him/her", as if that's supposed to make it all better.

Compare to Accidental Murder, where the dead people are accidental collateral damage rather than dead by misaimed intention, and Murder by Mistake, where the killer was trying to kill someone else but got the wrong person. This trope can also overlap with I Just Shot Marvin in the Face if the fatal accident was the result of poor gun safety.

See also Monster Is a Mommy for when a seemingly threatening animal is accidentally killed.


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Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • re:Bound starts with Ruby accidentally using the wrong side of her scythe while fighting against Roman in the first episode of RWBY. It was deemed an accidental by law enforcement, but the death still traumatized Ruby and many people (including most of her classmates) still think she's a murderer.
  • In Epitaph. Zipper slams Kimber's head into the bumper of his car and then puts her in the trunk. When he checks a few hours later, he notices that she isn't breathing. His comrades ditch him upon learning a simple kidnapping has turned into a murder situation.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Insomnia: The killer tells the detective who's investigating him (and whom he's blackmailing to help him pin the murder on someone else) that he "didn't mean" to beat his teenage victim to death. When he repeats the same nonsense later on, the detective points out that he knows it took him fifteen minutes.
  • Seymour of the original The Little Shop of Horrors says something along these lines. He even says this from inside the plant after his face appears on one of the flowers. His mother and Audrey, of course, are shocked.
  • In La Strada, Zampanò says this to Gelsomina, trying to explain the death of The Fool — Zampanò only punched him a few times, but after walking away a few steps, The Fool keeled over and died. Zampanò is a circus strongman who apparently Does Not Know His Own Strength, at least when punching.
  • Dorothy in the movie version of The Wizard of Oz says this about both Wicked Witches. In the book, while she may not have known water would kill the Witch of the West, she meant to throw it on her.

    Literature 
  • Goran's accidental asphyxiation of Madison in Damned.
  • In Dead Famous by Ben Elton, it's mentioned that Detective Coleridge has witnessed many deaths that arose from family arguments; the perpetrators usually giving some form of this line ("I couldn't stand her any more", "He drove me to it"), and horrified that they ended up killing someone.
  • In the Dragonlance book Dragons of Spring Dawning, we find out that Berem rarely talks or even interacts with the outside world because in his mind, he's reliving the day that he accidentally killed his sister, Jasla. He was prying a gemstone out of a ruined temple, and Jasla told him to stop. She grabbed him and, in a rage, he shoved her, causing her to fall and get impaled on a stone fragment. Turns out that the death of Jasla is what allowed Takhisis to come back to Krynn and set in motion the War of the Lance.
  • Corrine claims this about Cory's death in V. C. Andrews' Flowers in the Attic: she says that she thought putting arsenic on powdered sugar donuts would just make him "a little sick ..."
  • Harry Potter:
    • A version of this occurs toward the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when Harry tries to explain to the ghosts of Remus, Sirius, and his parents, that he never meant for any of them to die. Sniffle.
    • In the sixth book, when Harry inadvertently slashes Draco to bits with the Sectumsempra spell (nearly killing him), he gasps, "No- I didn't-" Granted in this instance it was justified, as he had no idea of what Sectumsempra would do, instead using it in a moment of desperation.
  • Used pretty much word-for-word in Men at Arms, after someone botches a Tap on the Head and kills the recipient outright instead of merely putting him out of action for a while.
  • Troubled, but Cute Johnny in The Outsiders says this when he he kills Bob, the Soc who was drowning Ponyboy.
    • It's entirely possible that Bob was merely waterboarding Ponyboy; the film version shows Bob occasionally bringing Ponyboy's head out of the fountain before dunking it back in. Of course, this means that Bob may have been the one who Didn't Mean To Kill Him if Johnny hadn't intervened.
  • Late in The Quest for Saint Camber, this is Conall's response when Duncan asks him about Tiercel's death. Specifically, he says an argument degenerated into a shoving match at the top of a staircase.
  • It comes out as The Reveal in Andrew Vachss's Burke novel that the apparent murderers of Melissa Turnbridge had meant to Break the Haughty Fille Fatale by "only" raping her and had not meant to kill her.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer, after accidentally killing her mother's boyfriend, Ted. Luckily, he's a robot.
  • Approximately half of the murders in Cold Case are accidental in some sense or other.
  • An episode of CSI, Loco Motives, features a multiple murderer who explains that he didn't mean to kill anyone. He just happens to be prone to causing fatal accidents.
    • Variants of this show up several times on CSI NY.
  • The defendant in the Law & Order episode "Terminal" claims that when he shot a businesswoman he only intended to wound her, keeping her from cashing a check he couldn't cover, to maintain his appearance as a successful businessman. Adam Schiff gives enough credence to the explanation to resist the governor's call to make it a death penalty case. (The man doesn't seem overly bright.)
  • In the revelation sequence from M*A*S*H's finale "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen", Hawkeye sobs, "I didn't mean for her to kill it! I just wanted it to be quiet!" Throughout the episode, he's been talking to Sidney about a woman holding a noisy chicken when the enemy was nearby. If the enemy had heard it, the entire group would've been killed. The revelation is that his mind had changed it from a baby into a chicken to avoid the guilt. Hawkeye had tersely told her at the time, in a moment of desperation, to "Keep that damn thing quiet". He had to see Sidney about the chicken because the stress kept him from going to sleep at night.
  • In the BBC series Sherlock episode "The Great Game", when they finally confront Andrew West's brother-in-law, he claims he didn't mean to kill him.

    Music 
  • "Didn't Mean to Kill Him" is the title of an Insane Clown Posse song. It's a subversion, though; the singer didn't mean to break the guy's neck, but when his victim mouthed off at him when he paid him a visit in the hospital, the singer snapped and intentionally murdered him.
  • "Run, Joey, Run," a 1975 hit by David Geddes, where the titular character was the intended target of his girlfriend's father, who wanted to kill him for what is implied to be impregnating her. The girlfriend, Julie, steps in and takes the bullet intended for Joey.

    Roleplay 

    Video Games 
  • Thorvald Two-Stone in Arcanum was sent to the Isle of Despair for killing a gnome with a single punch at a bar. He is completely non-repentant, saying that the gnome had a weak neck. Thorvald did have a strength of 21, which is pretty much the maximum amount in this game.
  • From Deus Ex: Human Revolution, after helping his friend Malik solve the murder of her friend, Adam will discover the perpetrator to be Lee Hong, the deceased's boyfriend. His defense is that he didn't mean to kill her, just to "shut her stupid mouth." Given his demeanor and lack of remorse for beating his pregnant-with-his-child-girlfriend to death, this rings pretty hollow. Malik gives him his just desserts, though.
  • One sidequest in Dragon Age: Origins has you disposing of the "evidence" of deals gone bad, and by "evidence" I mean bodies. The people who killed them all give this excuse.
  • In Until Dawn, this is pretty much how most characters except Josh and Sam react to the death of Hannah and Beth. One character even literally says "It was just a prank, Han".

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