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Investigation of dismembered and skeletal corpses

  • Exhumation and study of the corpse
  • Forensic examination of dissected and skeletal corpses is among the most complex and has specific features.

    The dismemberment of the body is possible with railway injuries with rolling wheels through the human body, aviation accidents, with explosions of ammunition or explosives, occasionally with car injuries. In addition, there are the so-called criminal dismemberment (Fig. 4), when the killer in order to conceal the crime dismembers the victim's corpse (with sharp objects like a knife, dagger, ax, saw), places its separate parts in water bodies, cesspools or other places, exposes their burial.

    In the practice of forensic medicine and forensic science, the cases of dismemberment of a corpse are usually divided into two types.

    The first is characterized by the separation of parts of the corpse in order to prevent identification of the person (decapitation, destruction of special signs - scars, birthmarks , etc.), as well as to facilitate transportation and concealment of parts of the corpse (defensive dismemberment).

    Dismemberment can be made mentally ill person during the so-called sexual killings. In such cases, the perpetrator, disfiguring the corpse, cuts out the genitals, mammary glands, internal organs (offensive dissection).


    For forensic examination can be submitted as individual parts, and the whole corpse. The nature and extent of forensic investigations in these cases is determined by the state of the corpse parts found during the investigation, as well as the questions put to the expert’s permission.

    After a person’s death for a certain period, the skeletonization of the corpse occurs, that is, the destruction of the soft tissues until they disappear completely as a result of rotting or exposure to animals.

    Depending on the state of the body at the time of death (age, the presence of diseases, the nature of medical care), the cause of death, external conditions after death, the skeletonization period is different. Thus, when a corpse is buried in the earth, the skeletonization period is on average from 3 to 7 years, which depends on the season and depth of burial, the type and physicochemical properties of the soil, the method of burial (in or without a coffin, in clothing or without clothing, or in a common grave). When a corpse is in the air, skeletonization occurs much faster.

    Conducting research in the examination of dissected and skeletal corpses can be divided into three stages: 1) the study of the circumstances (the discovery of a dissected or skeletal corpse) and the materials of the investigation file; planning a sequence of expert actions and research; 2) a forensic examination of a dissected corpse, its parts or bone remains; 3) laboratory and comparative (trasological and identification) forensic and physical-technical studies, both to establish the identity of the deceased in parts of a dismembered or skeletal corpse or bone remains, and to determine the object (instrument) that has dissected the corpse, determine the presence of chemical (toxic) substances in parts of the corpse.

    Initially, the expert will have to decide the questions: do the parts of the corpse (bones) that have been submitted for examination belong to a person or an animal and what is their anatomical identity. In many cases, these issues are solved by anatomical and morphological features even during an external examination, if the putrefactive changes are expressed mildly or the bone remains are represented by a group of bones or one, but a whole bone. If parts of the corpse are significantly damaged or disfigured by post-mortem processes, this makes it difficult to determine their species anatomical identity. Establish the origin of the parts from the corpse of a person or animal (and if it is an animal, which one), using the precipitation reaction (if the soft tissues are preserved), conduct a comparatively anatomical study of the bones, study their microscopic structure.
    criminal dismemberment of a corpse
    Fig. 4. Criminal dismemberment of the corpse (a, b).