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!



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.