Can crime statistics predict Lucy Beale’s EastEnders killer?

We examine real-life murder statistics to work out who will be revealed as the guilty party if art imitates life...

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On Thursday night EastEnders fans will finally discover the answer to the question they’ve been asking for the past ten months – who killed Lucy Beale?

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Everyone has their own theories as to whodunnit (bookies have even shortened the odds dramatically to make 11-year-old Ben Beale a suspect*) but what about looking to the real world for an answer? What can actual crime statistics tell us about who the murderer might be?

Below we’ve used figures as laid out by criminologist Dr Elizabeth Yardley to narrow down the suspects to the one person who best fits the profile of Lucy’s killer…

The suspects are a mixture of men and women…

According to the official case files, there are 14 main suspects, seven men and seven women. Abi Branning, Ben Mitchell, Cindy Williams, Denise Fox, Ian Beale, Jane Beale, Jay Brown, Lauren Branning, Lee Carter, Les Coker, Max Branning, Pam Coker, Peter Beale and Whitney Dean are all of interest to the police.

…but ninety per cent of murder suspects are male

“Homicide is very much a male phenomenon,” says Dr Yardley. “Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics inform us that 90% of suspects and around two-thirds of victims are male. So.. the killer of Lucy Beale is much more likely to be male than female. Therefore… we can remove the seven female suspects from the list. So Abi Branning, Cindy Williams, Denise Fox, Jane Beale, Lauren Branning, Pam Coker and Whitney Dean are out of the frame.”

Women are more likely to be killed by a partner or family member…

Shocking as it may sound, women are more likely to be killed by a partner, ex-partner, parent or other family member than by a friend or acquaintance. On that basis – and despite those dodgy moments when he burned a possibly incriminating piece of headwear and buried Lucy’s mobile – we can forget about Jay Brown, as well as shifty funeral director Les Coker…

…but especially a partner

“That leaves us with five suspects,” says Dr Yardley. “Two in the partner/ex-partner category – Lee Carter and Max Branning – and three in the family category – Ian Beale (Lucy’s father), Peter Beale (Lucy’s brother) and Ben Mitchell (described as Lucy’s ‘half-uncle’).”  Fifty-three per cent of female murder victims are killed by a partner or ex, compared with 17% by a parent or family member, which means the most likely suspects are Max Branning and Lee Carter.

So the number one suspect according to crime statistics is…

Max Branning! Max’s more serious and longer-lasting relationship with Lucy makes him statistically more likely to have killed her than Lee Carter, who was, comparatively, just a fling.

Of course, whether life will imitate art in this particular case, remains to be seen…

Dr Elizabeth Yardley is Director of the Centre for Applied Criminology at Birmingham City University

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*On Bobby Beale, Dr Yardley says: “One study found only six children under the age of 14 convicted of murder in a 15 year period… They couldn’t be any more different from the Bobby Beale character – most children and young people who commit such serious offences are likely to have experienced severe traumatic events during childhood involving neglect, violence and abuse