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Suicidal Decapitation by Hanging—A Population‐based Study

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A prospective study was undertaken at Forensic Science SA over a 15‐year period from July 2002 to June 2017 for all cases of adult (>18 years) suicidal hangings with decapitation. A total of 1446 cases of suicidal hangings were identified from a general population of approximately 1.5 million (1206 males—age range 18–97 years, average 42.6; and 240 females—age range 18–96 years, average 40.1). Only three cases of decapitation were found, all from long‐drop hangings; these consisted of three males (ages 32–55 years; average 45 years). Spinal transections had occurred between the first and second, second and third, and third and fourth cervical vertebrae, respectively. In this study, the number of suicidal hangings with decapitation represented only 0.2% of the total number of hangings. These events are therefore extremely rare, most likely due to most suicidal hangings occurring from relatively low levels in a domestic environment.
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Keywords: cervical fracture; decapitation; forensic science; hanging; long drop; suicide

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2018

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