The Importance of “Corpus Delicti” in Proving “Causation” in Homicide Cases.

  • Ngozi Alili Kogi State University, Anyigba, Nigeria.


In homicide cases, it may be difficult to prove the cause of death if the body of the victim of an alleged murderous attack is not made available for medical examination. It is therefore obvious that there are instances and circumstances where persons accused of committing the offence of culpable homicide punishable with death take steps to destroy the body of their victims in order to avoid prosecution or conviction and punishment if prosecuted. It would seem that the legal perception and meaning of the body of the deceased in homicide cases otherwise called “corpus delicti” is largely misconstrued by lawyers and laymen alike. This paper examined this identified problem and attempted to correct same and also considered the importance of “corpus delicti” in criminal trials generally and in homicide cases in particular. It also considered the importance and relevance of the legal presumption of death which isof evidential value in both civil and criminal proceedings in bridging the gap that may be created by the absence of corpus delicti. The views of the courts in some decided cases to the effect that it is not in all homicide cases that the prosecution case may fail simply because the body of the deceased was not produced or medically examined, was challenged and it was argued that conviction in homicide cases in the absence of the corpus delicti can only be sustained where evidence of its destruction by the accused is established and this may also require the production of some parts or pieces of what was destroyed.

It was observed that corpus delicti and causation are twin legal concepts in criminal law constituting the physical element (octus reus) of result offences, such as culpable homicide punishable with death, with the result that one cannot exist in isolation from the other without a resultant miscarriage of justice. The courts were urged to sparingly and cautiously convict persons alleged to have committed culpable homicide punishable with death in the absence of the corpus delicti upon which medical examination may be carried to determine the actual cause of death.

How to Cite
ALILI, Ngozi. The Importance of “Corpus Delicti” in Proving “Causation” in Homicide Cases.. KIU Journal of Humanities, [S.l.], v. 2, n. 1, p. 127-134, oct. 2017. ISSN 2522-2821. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 19 may 2022.