New forensics method discovered to better pinpoint time of death

Amsterdam UMC
Amsterdam UMC, a hospital in Amsterdam-ZuidoostcakifotoDepositPhotosDeposit Photos

Researchers at Amsterdam UMC are now able to more accurately home in on the time of death of victims at a crime scene using a newly-developed technique, the hospital center announced on Saturday.

Currently, time of death is recorded with a margin of error of several hours, according to the researchers. Using the new technique, which combines temperature and weight measurements, the margin of error is reduced to under an hour.

"This is a major step forward in forensic investigations at the crime scene, where an inanimate body has been found. Our method can be used up to two days after the victim's death," explained research leader Maurice Aalders, professor of Forensic Biophysics at Amsterdam UMC.

"We achieve an accuracy of 45 minutes on average for people who are dead for five to fifty hours," he added.

According to Aalders, the method does come with its drawbacks, however. Because temperature measurements need to be procured rectally at the scene of the crime, the process can potential interfere with gathering forensic evidence. "The temperature measurement method is not ideal, because the detective has to make an invasive measurement and thus destroy traces," said Aalders.

He adds that, because the environment can cause considerable deviations in body temperature, the test is also not highly reliable. "In people of equal weight, but with different body structures, the model gives the same result," noted Aalders.

"Of course we want to refine this further. We are convinced that it can be done even more precisely. But this improvement is already useful to the police," said Aalders, adding that 3D modeling methods are currently being explored in order to try to achieve this.

Amsterdam UMC is set to release the full results of the study on Saturday night, the hospital said.

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