Abstract A study was undertaken to research the occurrence of homicide–suicide events in the Pretoria region from January 1997 until October 2001. It is important to attempt understanding this tragic phenomenon from psychiatric and forensic perspectives. This uncommon phenomenon has attracted widespread and sensational media coverage, but little is known about the causal factors and demographic profile of perpetrators and victims, and possible sites of intervention. Case files of the Pretoria Medico-Legal Laboratory (where all cases of unnatural death in Pretoria are investigated) were reviewed and information collected from relevant investigating officers of the South African Police Services. The average annual incidence of homicide–suicide in Pretoria over the period studied was found to be 1 per 100,000 of the population. Two profiles of typical perpetrators seem to emerge: a younger, single, black male shooting his girlfriend and himself at home; and an older, married, Caucasian male shooting his wife and himself at home. Employment in peace forces and unemployment are shown to play significant roles, suggesting need for the availability of psychological support systems to members of peace forces and for intervention regarding unemployment.