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The Importance of an Anthropological Scene of Crime Investigation in the Case of Burnt Remains in Vehicles: 3 Case Studies

Porta, Davide BSc; Poppa, Pasquale BSc; Regazzola, Valeria BSc; Gibelli, Daniele MD; Schillaci, Daniela Roberta MD; Amadasi, Alberto MD; Magli, Francesca MSc, BA; Cattaneo, Cristina MD, PhD

American Journal of Forensic Medicine & Pathology: September 2013 - Volume 34 - Issue 3 - p 195–200
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0b013e318288759a
Case Reports

Abstract: Inspection of a crime scene is a crucial step in forensic medicine, and even the methods taught by forensic anthropology are essential. Whereas a thorough inspection can provide crucial information, an approximate inspection can be useless or even harmful. This study reports 3 cases of burnt bodies found inside vehicles between 2006 and 2009 in the outskirts of Milan (Italy). In all 3 cases, the victim was killed by gunshot, and the body was burnt in the vehicle to destroy signs of skeletal injury and prevent identification. In every case, the assistance of forensic anthropologists was requested, but only after the inspection of the body at autopsy showed that the remains were incomplete, thus making it more difficult to determine the identity, cause, and manner of death. A second scene of crime inspection was therefore performed with strict anthropological and adapted archeological methods by forensic anthropologists to perform a more complete recovery, proving how much material had been left behind. These cases clearly show the importance of a proper recovery and of the application of forensic anthropology methods on badly charred bodies and the importance of recovering every fragment of bone: even the smallest fragment can provide essential information. Thus, a precise coordination, a correct and thorough recovery of bone fragments, and an anthropological approach are crucial for many issues: analysis of the scene of crime, reconstruction of the corpse, and reconstruction of the perimortem events.

From the LABANOF, Laboratorio di Antropologia e Odontologia Forense, Sezione di Medicina Legale e delle Assicurazioni, Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche per la Salute, Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy.

Manuscript received February 3, 2012; accepted May 22, 2012.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Reprints: Cristina Cattaneo, MD, PhD, LABANOF, Laboratorio di Antropologia e Odontologia Forense, Sezione di Medicina Legale e delle Assicurazioni, Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche per la Salute, Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy. E-mail: cristina.cattaneo@unimi.it.

© 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.