Murder without a body
There are occasions when the gaps in my legal knowledge are brought embarrassingly to the fore. Tonight, for instance, quite out of the blue, my girlfriend posed the very good question, “if no body is found, can a person be tried for murder?” I had to readily admit that I wasn’t quite sure – despite giving an erudite and scholarly ‘err’ while I paused for thought. Despite the fact I could reel-off without hesitation the common law definition of murder and give a knowledgeable and plenary précis of the law surrounding each constituent element of the crime, I didn’t know the precise answer. Needing some follow-up to my learned pause, I mumbled something about it being an ‘evidential issue’.
Thinking it through, I wasn’t aware of a case which out rightly proved or disproved whether a body was required for a murder charge to be made out. Naturally, I turned to Google to help.
I quickly discovered some background info and the age-old Camden Wonder case in the 1660s which established the ‘no body, no murder’ principle which was in existence for over 300 years.
The case of R v Onufrejczyk  1 All ER 247 categorically confirmed, however, that a charge of murder can be proved by circumstantial evidence, despite the fact no body is ever found.