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Suicidal Decapitation Using a Tractor Loader: A Case Report and Review of the Literature

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In forensic practice, decapitated bodies are predominantly associated with decapitation by wheels of trains or with postmortem dismemberment following homicide. In the suicidal context, decapitation accounts for less than 1% of total suicide. Apart from decapitation by trains, other encountered methods involve suicidal hanging and vehicle-assisted ligature suicide. Reported here is a unique case of suicidal decapitation in a 45-year-old man using a tractor loader at the foot of a silo, on his farm. The head was recovered in the loader and there were several impact spots from the loader as well as blood on the silo wall. The autopsy revealed a complete decapitation wound with the severance plane located between the third and fourth cervical vertebra. A 1.5 cm wide abrasion on the anterior part of the neck and abrasions under the chin were noted. This very unique case of intentional suicidal decapitation is the first reported case of a planned system intended to create decapitation outside the unique case of homemade guillotine and the more common decapitation by train.
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Keywords: beheading; decapitation; forensic science; suicide

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Laboratoire de sciences judiciaires et de médecine légale, Edifice Wilfrid-Derome, 1701, Parthenais street, 12th floor, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H2K 3S7.

Publication date: January 1, 2007

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