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Contract killing is a form of assassination in which one entity hires another entity to kill a target individual or group of people. It involves an illegal agreement between two parties in which one party agrees to kill the target in exchange for some kind of remuneration, monetary or otherwise. The hiring entity may be a single person, a group of people, a company or any other kind of organization. The hired entity may also be one person, such as a hitman, or a group of people or an organization.

Contract killing is sometimes used to commit murder. In the United States, the United Kingdom and many other countries, a contract to kill a person is void, meaning that it is not a contract under the law. Any contract to commit a crime or an indictable offense is not enforced or even recognized under the law. Furthermore, both the actual killer and the person who paid the killer can be found guilty of murder. In some jurisdictions with capital punishment, a contract killing may be a special circumstance that allows for a murder to be tried as a federal crime.

In the criminal world, contract killing provides the hiring party with the advantage of not having to be directly involved in the killing, therefore making it more difficult to connect that party with the murder.

Throughout history and in many different parts of the world, contract killing has been associated with organized crime and also vendetta. For example, in recent U.S. history, the gang, Murder, Inc., which committed hundreds of murders in the twenties to the forties on behalf of the National Crime Syndicate, is a well-known example of a contract killer.


A study by the Australian Institute of Criminology of 162 attempted or actual contract murders in Australia between 1989 and 2002 indicated that the most common reason for murder-for-hire was "the dissolution of an intimate relationship". The study also found that the average payment for a "hit" was A$12,700 and that the most commonly used weapons were firearms. Contract killings accounted for 2% of murders in Australia during that time period.Contract killings make up a relatively similar percentage of all killings elsewhere. For example, they made up about 5% of all murders in Scotlandmarker from 1993 to 2002.


  1. The Independent: Businessman Wanted Killer to Spare Him Divorce Bill"
  2. CNN: "Lovers Top Contract Killing Hit List (Feb. 5, 2004)
  3. Government of Scotland: Homicides in Scotland between 1993 and 2002


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