Forensic scientist tracks: crime scene invaders.
Subject: Forensic scientists (Practice)
Evidence contamination (Analysis)
Microorganisms (Physiological aspects)
Pub Date: 09/22/2012
Publication: Name: The Forensic Examiner Publisher: American College of Forensic Examiners Audience: Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health; Law; Science and technology Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 American College of Forensic Examiners ISSN: 1084-5569
Issue: Date: Fall, 2012 Source Volume: 21 Source Issue: 3
Topic: Event Code: 200 Management dynamics
Persons: Named Person: Vanin, Stefano
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United Kingdom Geographic Code: 4EUUK United Kingdom
Accession Number: 300980393
Full Text: SCIENCEDAILY (MAY 11, 2012)--MARKS ON A DEAD BODY COULD INDICATE VIOLENCE AND THEREFORE MURDER. BUT THEY MIGHT HAVE BEEN MADE BY LEGIONS OF INSECTS. A FORENSIC SCIENTIST HAS BUILT UP DATA THAT WILL BE A BIG AID TO DETECTIVES FACED WITH INVESTIGATING GRUESOME DISCOVERIES.

A forensic scientist is unmasking the planet's tiniest criminals--minute creatures who contaminate crime scenes and threaten to throw detectives off the scent.

Italian-born Dr. Stefano Vanin, who lectures at the University of Huddersfield in the UK, is making valuable discoveries which will enable crime scene investigators to determine whether injuries to a body or damage to a corpse's clothing were caused by a human killer ... or were the work of insects which moved in after death had taken place.

Very often, says Dr. Vanin, tiny creatures can cause lesions to a dead body which closely resemble injuries left by a human assailant. For example, ants which clamber over a corpse's face can deposit marks which mimic the effects of a punch. It is vital that detectives are quickly able to separate post-mortem insect damage II from wounds that were caused before death by a killer.

Dr. Vanin is building up a body of knowledge about the various ways in which insects can distort crime scenes, and he reports on some of his latest findings in the journal Forensic Science International. This time he investigates the damage caused to dead bodies that are found underwater, where they are preyed on by aquatic creatures.

It was the retrieval of the body of a 28-year-old man in the River Brenta, at Padova in Italy, that provided Dr. Vanin with the opportunity to add another piece to his jigsaw of knowledge.

The man had drowned--witnesses had seen him struggling in the water--and there were no signs of injury on the body. But during the autopsy a series of small abrasions in the upper eyelids were discovered.

These were caused by large numbers of amphipods--tiny, eyeless crustaceans which had been feeding on the body and were discovered when the corpse was pulled out of the water.

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This enabled Dr. Vanin and his colleagues to analyze and record the post-mortem damage caused by the amphipods. The marks were very similar to those deposited by ants on dry land.

As a result, when detectives and forensic scientists are examining future corpses recovered from fresh water, they will have data which will help explain unusual markings on the body.

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HYPERIA GALBA

A Symbiotic amphipod collected in the Belgian part of the North Sea. PHOTO CREDIT: Hans Hillewaert
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