|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.
Choose one of the following topics for more information:
| 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.
|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 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.
Gunshot 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.
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.