Christopher’s Hand Injuries: Defence Wounds or Perpetrator Injuries?

One of the most intriguing aspects of this case is that Jeff, said to have caused over 60 stab wounds using a knife without any guard, had no injuries to his hands or any other part of his body.

By contrast, Christopher’s dominant right hand had three injuries apparently from the knife used in all the attacks.  At trial, the examining forensic pathologist gave evidence that all three wounds were defensive injuries. However, the scientific literature on this topic is not conclusive and it is possible that one or more of these wounds may have been perpetrator wounds.

Jeff NEEDS Justice Discovery: Defence Injuries and ‘Handedness’

Defence injuries arise either by the victim attempting to grab at the weapon or as the victim attempts to shield themselves from the attack.  Defence injuries are commonly found on the side of the victim’s body that mirrors the hand in which the attacker is holding a knife.  For example, if an attacker is right handed, it will be more common for defensive injuries to be seen on the left hand of the victim.

Christopher Gilham was known to be right-handed.  In fact, there are photos of him in his fencing competition gear, with his right hand holding a sabre.

Jeff Gilham is a left-hander who as a child converted to writing with his right hand.  As a result he is mildly ambidextrous. At trial, he described himself as “right handed, left footed”.

In this case, Helen Gilham had injuries to her left hand, which suggests that she was attacked by someone using their right hand.  However, Christopher Gilham’s left hand is completely free of injury; the wounds are to his right hand only.

Perpetrator Injuries

Scientific literature indicates a perpetrator can often unintentionally injure his or her own hand.  One way a perpetrator wound can occur is when the blade hits a bone during an attack.  This can cause the hand of the attacker to slide up and/or around the handle, over the guard and onto the blade.

Sweat will often make a knife slip in your hands, which actually makes it more likely for a hand to slip down on the handle when you are stabbing forcefully” (T2 642.15).

We know that the forensic pathologist who did the autopsy described one wound to the back of Helen as “terminates on a thoracic spinal process”.  In other words, the knife had hit Helen’s back bone.  It is possible that the hand that dealt that wound to Helen would have been injured.

We know also that Christopher’s blood was left on the banister as he headed downstairs.  According to prosecution experts, this blood was transferred by a bloodied hand touching the railing and not the effect of blood being cast-off or spattered. Therefore, Christopher’s hand was cut before he reached the lower level, yet the stab wounds he received from Jeff as he traveled down these stairs are to the back of his shoulder. Therefore it is possible that Christopher’s hand wounds were caused by stabbing his parents, rather being defensive wounds.

We also have unexplained and untested blood spatter patterns on Christopher’s right forearm that could have been his own blood and may have been a result of Christopher stabbing his parents.  The prosecution’s blood spatter expert at trial said that it was possible that this blood on his arm may have been from attacking his parents.


There is no basis to classify all of the wounds to Christopher’s right hand as defensive- type injuries.  Factors known to cause injury to perpetrators’ hands during knife attacks were present and there remains a question as to how Jeff was able to inflict over 60 stab wounds, as the prosecution argued, yet sustain no injury.

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