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Note: Varies by jurisdiction
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Contract killing is a form of murder in which one party hires another party (often called a hitman) to kill a target individual or group of people. It involves an illegal agreement between two or more parties in which one party agrees to kill the target in exchange for some form of payment, monetary or otherwise. Either party may be a person, group, or organization. Contract killing has been associated with organized crime, government conspiracies, and vendettas. For example, in the United States, the gang Murder, Inc. committed hundreds of murders on behalf of the National Crime Syndicate during the 1930s and 1940s.
Contract killing provides the hiring party with the advantage of not having to carry out the actual killing, making it more difficult for law enforcement to connect said party with the murder. The likelihood that authorities will establish that party's guilt for the committed crime, especially due to lack of forensic evidence linked to the contracting party, makes the case more difficult to attribute to the hiring party.
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 insurance policy payouts. The study also found that the average payment for a "hit" was $15,000 with variation from $5,000 up to $30,000 and that the most commonly used weapons were firearms. Contract killings accounted for 2% of murders in Australia during that time period. Contract killings also make up a relatively similar percentage of all killings elsewhere. For example, they made up about 5% of all murders in Scotland from 1993 to 2002.
- Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll, an Irish-American hitman who worked for Dutch Schultz and Owney Madden
- Glennon Engleman, American dentist who moonlighted as a hitman
- Ray Ferritto, Italian American hitman and soldier for the Cleveland and Los Angeles crime families, best known for killing Danny Greene; later he became a government witness and testified against the mob
- Christopher Dale Flannery, reputed Australian hitman
- Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, a former underboss of the Gambino crime family turned government cooperator.
- Giuseppe Greco, a Sicilian hitman who killed at least 58 people during the Second Mafia War
- Charles Harrelson, American hitman, father of actor Woody Harrelson
- Richard Kuklinski, an American contract killer who claimed to have murdered over 200 men. The 2012 biographical film The Iceman is based on his life where he is played by actor Michael Shannon. 
- Marinko Magda, Serbian hitman convicted for 11 murders, including a Hungarian family
- Tommy "Karate" Pitera, an Italian-American hitman and soldier in the Bonnano crime family. He was known for having serial killer-like characteristics, and a skilled martial artist.
- Frank "the Irishman" Sheeran, a union official and mob hitman, who was associated with Russell Bufalino. Sheeran claimed to have murdered former Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa.
- Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, a Jewish hitman who headed the Bugs and Meyer Mob and was a hitman for Murder, Inc.; Siegel was also the Italian mob's main hitman during Prohibition
- Alexander Solonik, Russian hitman, known for carrying a firearm in each hand, who killed more than 30 Russian mafia bosses
- Robert Young, aka Willie Sanchez, an escaped convict and contract killer employed by The Council, an organized crime outfit headed by Nicky Barnes.
- Griselda Blanco, the subject of the film Cocaine Godmother (2018), a drug lord gunned down on September 3, 2012
- Li Fuguo, a Tang Dynasty eunuch killed by a hitman hired by Emperor Tang Daizong
- Harry Greenberg, a Mafia associate of Charles "Lucky" Luciano, Meyer Lansky, and Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel's. He was killed by Siegel, Whitey Krakower, Albert Tannenbaum, and Frankie Carbo in 1939.
- Shiori Ino, a 21-year-old university student killed by hitman Yoshifumi Kubota, who served 18 years in prison for the killing. Kubota was paid by Ino's ex-boyfriend and the ex-boyfriend's brother.
- Salvatore Maranzano, a Castellammarese Mafia boss and rival to Masseria in the Castellammarese War who was killed by Siegel and several other men in 1931
- Dan Markel, an attorney and legal academic murdered in Tallahassee, Florida in 2014
- Joe Masseria, a Mafia boss murdered by Siegel, Vito Genovese, Albert Anastasia, and Joe Adonis in 1931
- Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, Las Vegas mob boss and Flamingo Hotel owner, killed by unknown assailants in 1947
- Grady Stiles, a freak show performer whose family hired a hitman to kill him because of his abusiveness
- Ruthann Aron, convicted of hiring a hitman to kill her husband and a lawyer who had won a fraud case against her.
- Mike Danton, former NHL player, hired an undercover federal agent to kill his sports agent.
- Italian-American crime boss John Gotti hired hitmen to murder Paul Castellano outside of Sparks Steak House; the murder was carried out in December 1985.
- Wanda Holloway: The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom is based on Holloway's hiring a hitman to kill the mother of a girl competing with her daughter at cheerleading.
- Lawrence Horn, record producer whose hiring of a hitman led to the case Rice v. Paladin Press
- Silas Jayne, Chicago-area stable owner, was convicted in 1973 of hiring hitmen to murder his half-brother George.
- Tim Lambesis, vocalist of heavy metal bands As I Lay Dying, Austrian Death Machine and Pyrithion, who attempted to hire someone to murder his wife through a contact at his gym. The alleged "hitman" turned out to be a police officer masquerading as a hitman.
- Charlotte Karin Lindström, Swedish waitress/model who attempted to hire a hitman to kill persons testifying against her boyfriend in a drug trial in Australia.
- Charles "Lucky" Luciano, American Mafia and Luciano crime family boss. Ordered Siegel, Tannenbaum, Genovese, Buchalter, Carbo, and Krakower to murder Mustache Petes Joe Masseria and Sal Maranzano in 1931, and stool pigeon Harry Greenberg in 1939.
- Jennifer Pan, a Canadian woman who hired three men to stage a home invasion in order to eliminate her parents in 2010.
- Nicole Doucet Ryan attempted to hire an undercover Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer to kill her husband. After ruling that she could not use the defense of duress, the Supreme Court of Canada ordered she could not be retried.
- Pamela Smart of Derry, New Hampshire, who made national headlines in 1991 for hiring teenage lover Billy Flynn and his friends to murder her husband Gregory Smart.
- Wallace Souza, a Brazilian television presenter who was accused of hiring hitmen to murder at least five people in 2009 to increase his programme's ratings.
- The Commission, American Mafia ruling body that ordered Siegel's murder in 1947.
- The Council, an organized crime outfit and employer of contract killers such as Robert Young aka Willie Sanchez, headed by Nicky Barnes.
- Thomas Bartlett Whitaker, an American man who hired people to attack his parents and brother in a home invasion in 2003.
In popular culture
Nothing Personal is a television documentary series that focuses on stories of contract killings.
Fictional cases of contract killing or "hitmen" are depicted in a range of popular fiction genres in the 20th and 21st century, including comic books, films, and video games (e.g., the video game series Hitman, wherein the player controls a hired hitman simply known as Agent 47, and Hotline Miami where the player controls a man named Jacket, who received calls to go to places and kill everybody inside).
- Assassination market
- Cleaner (crime)
- Federal crime in the United States
- Fixer (person)
- Murder, Inc.
- Organized crime
- People v. Superior Court (Decker)
- Private military company
- "Lovers top contract killing hit list". CNN. February 5, 2004.
- "Homicide in Scotland, 2002". Government of Scotland.
- "With Over 100 Murders, Richard Kuklinski Was The Most Prolific Hitman In Mafia History". All That's Interesting. March 22, 2018. Retrieved June 10, 2019.
- Carlo, Philip (April 1, 2007). The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 9781429902663.
- "Interview: Charles Brandt, author 'I Heard You Paint Houses'". amp-clickondetroit-com.cdn.ampproject.org.
- Wilson, Michael (April 26, 2019). "Her 'Prince Charming' Turned Out to Be a Crazed Hit Man on the Run". The New York Times. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
- "Hired Killer Sentenced". The Evening Press. Binghamton, NY. November 11, 1980. p. 7-A.
- "'Hitwoman' charged in 6 slayings". Pacific Stars and Stripes. Japan. UPI. February 16, 1980. p. 7.
- "Mob Boss John Gotti Is Dead". The Smoking Gun. June 10, 2002. Retrieved May 10, 2015.
- Boyle, Robert H. (June 4, 1973). "End Of A Bloody Bad Show". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved March 21, 2013.
- "Tim Lambesis Sentenced to Six Years in Jail for Murder-for-Hire Plot". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 21, 2016.
- "Ex-husband in hit-man case says courts were wrong - Nova Scotia". CBC News.