Dismemberment: from Metamorphosis to Headless Corspe Pt.2

In Part 1, we discussed about ways and modes of dismemberment. This time we would look at the cases documented in forensic literatures, in hope of understand part of the theories and concepts.

Earlier this year, in late August, a headless corspe was found in Denmark. The headless torso was later identified as Swedish journalist, Miss Kim Wall. Wall was interviewing  inventor Peter Madsen on a story before her death.

So what a headless body can tell death investigators?

In 1999, an suspicious item was wrapped and dumped outside. Law enforcement arrived and discovered that inside the wrapped package, there was a torso and an arm belonged to the same individual, and the head and the lower body were gone. Regardless how the search was done, the law enforcement could not locate the unfound remains.

The discovered package was sent for autopsy. Autopsy found that the missing head was decapitated by using sharp force object from hyoid and the 3rd cervical vertebrae. While on the other hand, the lower body was disarticulated at the joint, especially there was no trace or cut mark on the acetabulofemoral joint (the hip joint). In other words, there were no cut marks other than the aforementioned marks on the neck.

May I recall that there is only one goal for postmortem dismemberment: to conceal identify of the victim , and/or hiding evidences and the body. From the above case, and the M.O. (modus operandi), it suggested there could be two perpetrators. The weapon used for dismemberment would be sharp objects like knife, saw, etc, they left marks on bones with different depth and length. Thus, for unexpereinced perpetrator they might leave false marks, or hesittaion marks on the bones when getting the first strikes. In other words, if using the joint and disarticulation method to seperating the body, meaning choices of tools are relatively limited. Professionals, like forensic anthropologists usually use scalpels when doing preparation for maceration.

Experts in this case use SEM-EDX and silicon to build a mold from the cut to understand what would the weapon used for decapitation. SEM-EDX technology had somehow enlarged the cut mark, and the silicon mold allowed the experets to observe and measure the depth and length of the cut thoroughly.

In sum of all the above analysis, investigors suggested that the perpetrators might be well-trained in anatomy. People like medical examiners, doctors, medical professionals, as well as butchers are the professions they would consider.

Back to Wall, on October 30th, Madsen confessed he dismembered Wall. Yet, he remained that the death of Wall was truely an accident. This went totally opposite to the coclusion to the experts made regarding absence of blunt force trauma and fratuces on the later-located skull. Medical examiner also found in total of 14 stab wounds on Wall’s body, 1 close to her genital and 1 on her chest.  Investigator dug deeper, and thought that Wall was not his first victim. They believed that Madsen had first dismembered a female Japanese tourist, dumped her head at the same spot as Wall’s.

Are these two cases linked? Madsen had not commented on these. Denmark police charges Madsen manslaughter, equavalent to murder in Denmark. He also volunitarily be remained in custody till trial on Nov 15. Hope the truth will reveal itself soon!

 

References:

BBC News. 2017, October 07. Journalist Kim Wall’s head found in sea near Copenhagen. Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-41536552

Kennedy, M. 2017, October 30. Police: Danish Inventor Admits to Dismembering Journalist Kim Wall, NPR. Retrieved from: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/10/30/560807160/police-danish-inventor-admits-to-dismembering-journalist-kim-wall

O’Neill, M. 2017, October 13. Did Kim Wall’s accused murderer first kill at 15? News.com.au. Retrieved from: http://www.news.com.au/world/europe/did-kim-walls-accused-murderer-first-kill-at-15/news-story/81e2780a0359ec9f7826c34a3829c7d8

Porta, D. et al. 2015. Dismemberment and disarticulation: A forensic anthropological approach. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 38(2016) 50-57.

 

Dismemberment: from Metamorphosis to Headless Corspe Pt.1

In September, I was invited to the premiere of a horror short film entitled Metamorphosis, directed by a Hong Kong local young director Ms. Elanie Xia. Metamorphosis lasts for only short 15 minutes, yet it has successfully demonstrated the hidden dark side of a person. In the film, the main female character used one knife, dissected and dismembered two people into grounded meat (I’m not gonna say who though!). The psychological conditions and aspects are exactly the approach one should focus when trying to understand dismemberment.

Dismemberment, in general perception, is already conceived as a more cruel act then plain homicide. For, this term per se has already excluded the possibility of accidents as the manner of death . Echoing existing literature and perspective, dismemberment has briefly divided into four categories in total. And they are categorized according to motives and goal of the act.

Defensive mutilation is the most common type among all. The term “defensive” here does not refer to the concept of trying to protect oneself. RAther, it refers to the act that the perpetrator trying to avoid prosecution and thus mutilated the corpse. This act aims for easier hiding and transports the dead body. If the perpetrator mutilated the body impulsively, this act is categorized as “Offensive mutilation.” While “aggressive mutilation” refers to such act as the M.O. (Modus Operandi). Lastly, “Necromaniac mutilation” refers to the perpetrator hides the body or mutilated body parts for own sexual pleasure.

Regardless which aforementioned type of dismemberment, all the tools used are rather sharp (i.e. includes all sorts of saws and knives). These sharp tools would leave marks and traces on bones during the cutting process. These marks would allow experts to carry out tool mark analysis. By comparing the marks from the sample with the database, experts could narrow down the search for the tools or even murder weapons. Furthermore, experts would also be able to tell the direction of the cut from the wound. On top of all these, experts are trained to pay attention to traces of hesitation mark, or false start. These marks could suggest hints for the psychological condition of the perpetrator, for example, if this is a rather decisive cut? Any hesitation or trials before one complete cut? In general, hesitation mark’s starting point and force used would be rather different; it is shallower and in varies length. If a mutilated corpse is missing these, it might be beneficial to consider we are dealing with a rather experienced perpetrator or a well-planned crime.

Postmortem dismemberment or corpse mutilation only happens after a person died, mostly is used to hide all crime-related evidence and the body. In late August 2017, a headless woman corpse was found in Denmark. At first, it was only the torso without the limbs and a head. It was later proved that the body belonged to a Swedish journalist Kim Wall. She worked for a lot of well-known papers around the world, including the Guardian and the New York Times. The law enforcement learned that she was working on a story of an inventor, Peter Madsen regarding his crowdfunding and submarine invention. In the latest investigation, law enforcement state that they found a decapitation and woman torture video in a hard drive in Madsen’s office. Also, they were able to locate Wall’s head and part of the limbs from the nearby water.

Though the suspect was trying his best to hide this hideous crime, yet the dead are still telling us the story, just through the scientific channel.

Next, we will talk more and discuss in details of distinguishing dismemberment cases with help of existing case studies, including the Wall case.

References:
BBC News. 2017, August 23. Kim Wall: Headless body identified as missing journalist. Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-41021223

BBC News. 2017, October 07. Journalist Kim Wall’s head found in sea near Copenhagen. Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-41536552

O’Neill, M. 2017, October 13. Did Kim Wall’s accused murderer first kill at 15? News.com.au. Retrieved from: http://www.news.com.au/world/europe/did-kim-walls-accused-murderer-first-kill-at-15/news-story/81e2780a0359ec9f7826c34a3829c7d8

Porta, D. et al. 2015. Dismemberment and disarticulation: A forensic anthropological approach. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 38(2016) 50-57.

Xia, E.2016. Metamorphosis.

Mixed-up Ashes of Two Bodies!

Once a while, I would get questions from people saying they worried about the ashes they collected from crematorium might not be their loved ones. And seriously, what might be the worst to know that the ashes you thought were your loved ones, and it turned out to be mixed with others, or not even your loved ones’? The rare case of ashes of two different people were mixed in Hong Kong’s busiest crematorium few months back.

Continue reading

法醫人類學???

在轉機時無意間看到一個在我之前一篇訪問下的留言,我覺得內容對呢個學科/專業及該篇訪問的記者都不公平。我將整個留言分成兩個列點,逐個回應。可能你會覺得我應該「睜一隻眼閉一隻眼」,但當中的不理解(ignorance)太嚴重,我必須澄清,不想讓讀者接下來有更多誤解: Continue reading

《永生傳說》古埃及木乃伊展

香港難得有古埃及木乃伊到訪,我當然第一天早上就去朝聖⋯看得出來我們這次非常有誠意(比上次美索不達米亞展更有意思!)。雖然看到之前報導,都知道其實展品就是早幾個月於Sydney看到的那個展覽,但我深信我一定沒有完全看完,所以一定要去的!

6副木乃伊,6個不同故事⋯

我不想說哪個故事比較好看,哪一位比較有趣。他們都非常有趣,值得花上兩個小時或以上了解一下。除了精彩的展品外(解說也很詳細),大家可以不妨留意一下我下面講到的幾個部分,就算沒有很熟悉古埃及歷史也可以從另外角度欣賞:
Continue reading

​ 【新聞專題】虐兒?誤殺?

本案的主婦由於不能忍受3個月大的男嬰的哭聲,「將他抱起搖晃、拋落床、掌摑和搣面,兒子最終死於受虐性腦傷,除腦出血外,死時身上有16處瘀痕。」原本被控謀殺,之後改控誤殺,現在等待精神及心理評估。按照報導所指,被告被捕後亦向警方承認「覺得佢嘈,唔鍾意佢」,「嘈得大聲就會情不自禁打佢、摑佢、搣佢塊面同撻佢落床」,並會搖晃男嬰。
這種種的指控都自動聯想至一直備受爭議的Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) , 中譯:搖晃嬰兒綜合症,或簡稱搖嬰症。而我亦於去年就「保溫箱嬰兒墮地」此新聞於《立場新聞》探討過。

[新聞專題] 黑市販賣印度人骨

印度小村落裡面由警方發現共365件人骨。在經過雙氧水處理後會轉售給醫生及醫學院。警方相信這些骨頭都是來自河流中腐化的屍體,相信有人把屍體打撈起來再作處理驚黑市轉售。印度曾經為人體遺骸販賣的主要來源,已於數十年前正式禁止。
sub-buzz-26733-1468279204-1

於 eBay 販賣的人骨

[新聞專題]:無頭缺手女屍

新聞:西環海面 驚現無頭缺手女裸屍

於3月21日下午,西環海面舉報發現無頭缺手女裸屍。水警及消防人員把屍體打撈後,驚見除了屍體的頭部不見外,右手亦無影無蹤。屍體的腐化情況不太明顯,腹部只有輕微脹大。死者穿著上半身的內衣並於打撈時鬆脫。除此之外,右腳亦穿著一隻襪子。身分證明文件亦暫時無跡可尋,因此死者身份成謎。

這則新聞的專題可以很多:為什麼只剩下這些衣物?有受到侵犯的跡象嗎?頭部及右手是死時還是死後創傷?大概什麼時候被放到水裡?。這些問題當中,我卻想簡述一下肢解的這個部分⋯

利申:案件由於還在調查中,亦沒有額外的資料,故不便評論或從如此有限資訊斷定創傷來源。此討論純為學術意見。

Continue reading

[稀有病症] 石頭人- Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva(FOP)

 

IMG_8090

網絡圖片

前陣子為每年一的 Rare Disease Day。這個企劃是用以令到周邊的人注意及了解多點不同的病理。今年有幾個博物館都相繼以上圖這個個病理作為例子,而我亦於IG簡介了一下這個病症。這個病症俗稱為Stone man disease (即石頭人),學名則為 Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva(FOP)。FOP這個病症差不多可以話係數百萬中才有一。當病患身體上的纖纖組織(如肌肉、韌帶等)受傷時,身體不是啟動治癒機制,而是把這係組織骨化(Ossification)。

Continue reading

[Morbid Legend] Human Pillars: Chinese Urban Legend

In 2006, a construction sites for relocating some water pipe lines in Hong Kong led to a discovery of 8 skeletons (1 adult and 7 children, according to all local news reports). The locals, especially those from one generation older immediately thought this was linked to this spooky old belief.

Continue reading