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Predicting the Postmortem Submersion Interval for Human Remains Recovered from U.K. Waterways

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This article aims to increase accuracy in estimating the postmortem submersion interval (PMSI) for bodies recovered from rivers in the United Kingdom. Data were collected from closed case files, crime scene reports, and autopsy files concerning bodies recovered over a 15-year period from the River Clyde, Scotland, and the River Mersey and canals in northwest England. One hundred and eighty-seven cases met the study criteria and were scored by quantifying the overall amount of decomposition observed in each case. Statistical analysis showed that the duration of a body’s submergence in water and the temperatures to which it was exposed, as measured in accumulated degree days (ADD), had a significant effect on the decay process. Further analysis indicated that there were no significant differences in decomposition between the waterways. By combining the data from all study samples, it was possible to produce a single linear regression model for predicting ADD from observed decomposition.
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Keywords: accumulated degree days; decomposition; forensic anthropology; forensic science; postmortem interval; waterways

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Forensic and Investigative Sciences, University of Central Lancashire, Preston PR1 2HE, U.K. 2: National Policing Improvement Agency, Harperly Hall, Fir Tree, Crook, County Durham DL15 8DS, U.K.

Publication date: March 1, 2010

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