Homicide and concealment of the corpse. Autopsy case series and review of the literature

A Correction to this article was published on 18 June 2020

This article has been updated

Abstract

Introduction

The concealment of the body following a homicide undermines different moments of the forensic and medico-legal investigations. The aim of the present study is to provide an overview of the literature and the forensic casuistry of the Institute of Legal Medicine of Padova for analyzing and discussing diverse methodological approaches for the forensic pathologist dealing with covered-up homicides.

Material and methods

A literature review, updated until September 2019, was performed, and a literature pool of forensic cases was built. In-house cases were included by conducting a retrospective analysis of the forensic caseworks of Padova of the last 20 years. Data regarding epidemiology, methodology of assessment, methods of concealment, and answers to medico-legal issues were extracted for both data sets.

Results and discussion

Seventy-eight papers were included in the literature review (78.2% being case reports or case series, 17% retrospective studies, and 6% experimental studies or reviews). Literature and in-house data sets consisted of 145 and 13 cases, respectively. Death scene investigation, radiology, toxicology, and additional analyses were performed in 20–54% of literature and 62–77% of in-house cases. Cover-up by multiple methods prevailed. Death was caused by head trauma in about 40% of cases (both data sets), strangulation in 21% of literature, and 7% of in-house cases, and was undetermined in 17% of literature and 7% of in-house cases.

Conclusions

The methodology of ascertainment should be case-specific and based on a multidisciplinary and multimodal evaluation of all data, including those gained through novel radiological and/or analytical techniques.

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Change history

  • 18 June 2020

    This article was published online with an error. Given names and family names of the authors were interchanged. The correct author names are presented above. The original article has been corrected.

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De Matteis, M., Giorgetti, A., Viel, G. et al. Homicide and concealment of the corpse. Autopsy case series and review of the literature. Int J Legal Med 135, 193–205 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00414-020-02313-0

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Keywords

  • Body disposal
  • Post-mortem examination
  • Forensic radiology and toxicology
  • Omics sciences