|A murderer will always leave marks
of violence on the bodies of their victims, no matter how hard they
try to hide it. During an autopsy, these marks may be difficult to
find if the murder agent was drugs or poison, but these agents can
still be found through blood tests. On the other end of the scale,
signs that the victim suffered a violent death are immediately discovered
from the external examination.
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||During an autopsy,
there may be no external signs that the victim suffered from
a brain haemorrhage. Brain scans performed during the
internal examination are the only way that a coroner can reveal
the fatal clots that may have been caused by a blow to the head.
Changes in the appearance of skin colour may also lead to solving
the crime, as some fatal agents have the ability to change the
physical appearance of the body. For example, carbon monoxide
poisoning can cause the skin to become pink in colour and smothering
and the crushing of the chest can cause can cause pin sized
patches of bleeding in the face. When many of these pin sized
patches of bleeding occur, it can give the face a blue appearance.
autopsy tools listed above are commonly used during internal
examinations. Photo courtesy of Ed
|Bruising on the skin occurs when the
blood vessels are broken by some form of hard and forceful contact
with the skin, usually by a blunt object. The shape of the bruise
can often reveal which direction the blow was received from and the
colour of the bruise can indicate how long ago the injury occurred.
As bruising heals, it goes red-purple, to brown, to green and finally
to yellow. Bruising is not an accurate way of deciding how the victim
met their fate, as interpreting bruising is different in every person,
due to the fact that people bruise at different rates and bruising
continues for a short while after death. Strangulation around the
neck also leaves significant bruising. The hands, cords and ropes
usually leave a distinct mark around the neck in the shape of the
pattern on the strangling agent. If the strangling agent is very soft
material, it may leave little or no marks, but the dissection of the
neck area is able to show tissue bruising beneath the skin.
|The shape of a cut in the skin can
show whether the weapon had one or two cutting edges, while the angle
and direction of the cut can reveal whether a death was accidental
or intentional. For example, committing a suicide would leave a wrist
cut cutting towards the knife carrying hand. Also, the deepness of
the wound can show how much force was used during the stabbing and
can also expose whether the criminal intended to kill his victim.
Cuts present on the hands can reveal if there was a struggle with
a knife, meaning that the criminal who committed the crime could also
be wounded. Lacerations on the skin can also provide more information
on the type of weapon used, though it is often inaccurate when trying
to find out the width of the blade as the weapon may have been moved
after the original cut was made.
wounds can provide information on the conditions surrounding
the death, for example, it may rule out suicide. The size of
the wound can act as a guide to the type of gun and bullets
used and burn marks around the wound can reveal whether the
victim was shot at close range or from further away. A weapon
fired close to the victim makes a single large wound, but a
weapon fired from far away leaves a series of individual wounds,
provided several shots were fired. Using these wounds as evidence,
pathologists are able to estimate an approximate distance between
the victim and the person with the gun and gunpowder samples
aid in identifying the actual gun responsible for the death.
range shots leave gunpowder burns on the inside of the skull.
Photo courtesy of Valeri
Craigle and the Spencer
S. Eccles Health Sciences Library.
|Burns discovered on the body could
potentially be the cause of death, as the body may go into shock and
die if not treated immediately. Small burns on the body could be a
result of electrocution, but a lethal dose of electric currant
can often cause severe blistering were the electric currant has first
met the skin. Electrocution occurring in water often leaves the body
unmarked. External injuries can often reveal internal injuries that
may have been the cause of the fatality. An example of this could
be bruising occurring on the body. The bruising could have been caused
by a blow strong enough to incur fatal internal bleeds, causing death.
Brain damage may be an exception to this as often a blow to head can
leave no marks or grazes but is strong enough to lead to death by
bleeding in the brain. The same applies to shaken baby syndrome, whereby
a baby's head is violently shaken, causing internal bleeding in the
brain and eventually leads to loss of life.
|Assault leaves telltale signs
such as ruptures, internal bleeding and broken bones. During
an assault, the abdominal organs are most easily damaged, as
the body offers no protection for these organs, unlike the heart
and lungs, which are protected by the rib cage. Ruptures in
the liver and spleen cause cuts in the bladder and stomach.
The victim usually dies from internal bleeding into the abdominal
cavity rather than organ failure. Broken bones occur most commonly
in the nose, jaw and ribs as these bones are more fragile, than,
for example the bones in the legs and arms. Although broken
bones appear in both the left and right side of the body, they
are more common on the left, as this is the side that is raised
to fight off a right-handed attacker.