Criminologists conducted the largest experiment on the decomposition of corpses in suitcases

Forensic scientists from Western Australia conducted a pilot experiment to study the decomposition process in

suitcases and trash cans with almost 70 samples.All objects were placed in ordinary bushes. Stillborn piglets have been placed inside suitcases and trash cans to mimic a dead human body.

Inside the suitcases were also placed devices for recording temperature, humidity and precipitation - they were measured both outside and inside.

The experiment began in early winter 2022 andwill end this summer (in Australia, winter has just ended); the first data will be presented at the world's largest forensic conference in February 2023.

Experiment in the field: corpses hidden in suitcases

Despite initial access delayinsects due to a cold and rainy winter in Western Australia, within a month after the suitcases were placed, scientists observed accumulations of blowfly eggs on and around the suitcase zipper.

Opening suitcases at regular intervalstime, researchers found in the remains of blowfly larvae, as well as coffin flies and some beetles. This means that the offspring of large flies and beetles can get to the body even through the teeth of lightning. Smaller flies can enter through the zipper even as adults and lay their eggs directly on the decaying remains.

Once the larvae complete their life cycleand turn into adult flies, none of them can get out of the suitcase. These trapped insects represent a rich source of information, as scientists know the habits and growth rates of various species and can find toxicological data preserved in their exoskeletons.

From this, a forensic entomologist can infer the time or season of death, possible movement of the body, and assist in interpreting the cause and circumstances of death.

Carrion insects such as blues and greensbottle blowflies, house flies, and coffin flies all have highly specialized olfactory systems that they use to detect the smell of decay. If a carcass is left untouched on the ground in a temperate climate, scavenging insects will soon colonize it, attracted by the odors produced by the bacterial-mediated decomposition process.

Within a few hours, the insects will lay their eggs on the holes and wounds of the body, and the tiny larvae that hatch from them will begin to eat it.

But the suitcase physically limits the access of insects. And so far, forensic research into how insect participation is changing in such restricted environments has received little attention.

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