John Prior MAAPT reports on the afternoon session lectures at Conference 2014
The afternoon session was chaired by Emma Romeling FAAPT, and began with the presentation of this year’s CPD award certificates, by the Association’s president Dr Mike Osborne. Special congratulations go to the following for their continuing professional development.
An Introduction to Forensic Anthropology – Lauren Miller MAAPT
The afternoon’s lectures commenced with a passionate and informative insight into the world of Forensic Anthropology, given by fellow APT and Forensic Anthropologist Lauren Miller. An obviously detailed and varied field to talk about in a short period of time, and Lauren covered the role of this subject and it’s relevance to our field of work admirably.
Lauren gave us an introduction to Forensic Anthropology; it's history and outlined its principles and objectives.
The 5 main objectives of the subject are as follows –
• To determine ancestry, sex, age and living height from remains that have no demographic characteristics remaining.
• To determine nature of trauma and causative agents.
• To help in determining post mortem interval
• To aid in location and retrieval of buried remains
• To determine identification
We learnt that forensic anthropologists are commonly consulted in regards to decomposed and skeletal remains, to aid in determining the manner of death via fracture patterns and other bone features, as well as identification of deceased.
Lauren gave us a refresher on skeletal anatomy focusing on areas of anthropological interest. In particular a great deal of information can be retrieved from the cranium and is it one of the most important skeletal elements. It can aid in determining age, sex, ancestry and individual traits. Lauren stressed not only the importance of being able to identify individual bones, but also the various muscle attachment points on bones; this additional knowledge can aid in identifying fragments of bone, a situation often encountered if bones are scattered; or if only a small quantity are available.
Lauren covered the various methods of determining the sex and age of skeletal remains using reference points on bones. Examples of which include the following:
Pelvis - distinct characteristics from male to female due it's function in birth etc.
Cranium - measurements and characteristics vary from male to female in the skull and facial bones. Sutures in the skull can aid in determining the age of the remains as well as dental remains, which can prove highly accurate.
Lauren discussed the methods and techniques used to determine the ancestry of skeletal remains.
We learnt that there are 4 groups of classification
Each group has its own morphological features and the midfacial area is the most accurate for obtaining information. Measurements are taken from the various aspects of the facial bones and can be used to determine an individual's ancestry.
Many of us have received boney remains from over enthusiastic police officers, only to quickly discover that they are in fact non-human. Lauren covered the differences between human and non-human bones and what to look out for. In particular there are differences in architecture of the bones, its texture, the medullary cavities and teeth.
Many Forensic Anthropologists are called view remains that have been destroyed by fire; we learnt that bones react differently depending on the temperatures they are exposed to. It is possible to determine these temperatures based on the appearance of the remains.
Determining the identification of the deceased is an extremely important aspect of an anthropologist's work and can aid in bringing closure to a family. Identification can be established by a number of means including pathological conditions that the deceased may have suffered with in life, surgical implants, occupational and lifestyle traits, as well as trauma. Facial reconstruction is often used a last resort and can be carried out by computerized 3D models or clay, building up on common characteristics on a skull. Some interpretation is required, and it can be inaccurate. It is often used in conjunction with other methods.
Other areas of a Forensic Anthropologist’s work included identifying pathology in boney structures, Lauren gave some examples of these, some of which can be seen in common bones that are seen during post mortem examinations. Cause and manner of death can be determined due to various fracture patterns caused by trauma. When the fractures occurred can also be identified, for example evidence of healing can indicate that a deceased was alive when the injury was sustained, no repair at all would show the deceased was dead when it occurred. Blunt force trauma's can show direct and force of impact due to fracture patterns, as well as ballistic injuries.
It is difficult to do Lauren's lecture justice in a short review, however it was extremely interesting and I would encourage you all to download her PowerPoint. It gave a fascinating insight into an area of Forensic medicine that can often be overlooked.
Playing Away From Home – Professor Peter Vanezis
Home Office Pathologist Professor Vanezis gave us a whistle-stop tour of his various foreign deployments throughout his career, since 1985 he has travelled all over the world on many varied and interesting cases; however Austrialia is yet to be ticked off his list. A large proportion of his work has involved the investigation of clandestine graves, those who are unofficially illegally buried in either single or mass sights. He emphasized the importance of meticulous planning, the diplomatic issues and the multidisciplinary nature of the other team members involved in such cases.
Brief examples of the cases that Professor Vanezis has been involved in are as follows.
Operation Tasker, Kenya
Army personnel where accused of sexually assaulting girls, Professor Vanezis was called to the exhumation of a 14 year old girl believed to be a victim of such a crime. A huge amount of evidence had to be gathered and documented. Unforeseen pitfalls of such a location included vipers! A makeshift table by the grave was set up as a post mortem table, and the facilities were less than idea. Unfortunately no obvious injuries were found in this case.
Following on from the rule of Pinochet and the Military Junta, . During the time Pinochet was in power it is believed that up to 3,200 people were killed, many in mass graves.
Professor Vanezis was called upon to assist with the discovery of one such mass grave referred to as Patio 29. Post mortem examinations were carried out on all bodies recovered from this grave, some were buried with no identification so DNA analysis had to be completed on many. Some families waiting to claim loved ones had to wait up to 5 years for identification of their loved ones to be established. Some were shown skeletal remains and doctors gave explanations as to how they died.
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Professor Vanezis was called to an exhumation on a snow-covered hillside grave. The exhumation took place due to political pressure. 17 bodies were recovered and the position of the remains had to be marked before removal. All 17 bodies were x-rayed and bullet fragments were found in almost all of them. Reconstruction of the event had to take place in the mass grave to determine if the deceased were military or civilian, and if they were executed.
Following the death of the Hutu president, blame was placed on the Tutsis. In retaliation the Huts people went on a rampage. A mass gave containing approximately 500 bodies, mostly woman and children was discovered in a banana plantation. It was determined that the bodies were bulldozed into the mass grave, causing a huge amount of post mortem injuries, chiefly crush injuries. Professor Vanezis stated that it was difficult to decipher which injuries had occurred before and after death. However machete wounds were also found, determining the weapon and cause of death for many.
Professor Vanezis called to an area called Pristina, a dangerous and unstable region were booby traps were still in place. The main crime scene was outhouses were a number of shot and burned bodies were discovered. Many of the remains were severely damaged by fire and an Anthropologist was called in to assist with identification. Identification was further hampered by the fact that men often carried their wives passports. A temporary mortuary was set up and fluoroscope used to identify the various wounds. Nearly all the deceased were civilians.
Case of Teoh Beng Hock
Teoh Beng Hock was a Malaysian journalist and political aid to Ean Yong Hian. Teoh Beng hock was arrested Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) regarding allegations of corruption. During custody by the MACC he was intensively questioned for 9 hours, denied legal counsel or food and drink. He was allowed to sleep following questioning and was then discovered deceased on the roof of an adjacent building, having apparently fallen through an open window. An enquiry into Toeh's death was ordered and Professor Vanezis was asked to examine the body. Due to the political nature Professor Vanezis had to be placed under armed guard during his stay. Post mortem examination indicated that Toeh had sustained fatal injuries due to the fall. Originally an open verdict was opened stating that his death was neither homicide nor suicide. Years later this was overturned and it was decided that Toeh had committed suicide from the stress of the interrogation by the MACC.
Following the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York 2011, Professor Vanezis went on a fact-finding mission to see what could be learnt from this tragedy. The painstaking task of identifying human remains on such a large scale ultimately has lead to advances in disaster planning which can be applied in the future.
Professor Vanezis delivered a humbling talk on what is without doubt a difficult and emotionally challenging aspect of his work. Let’s hope he gets to go to Australia for a holiday, rather than for work some time in the future!
Forensic Fire Investigation and Post Explosion Scene Examination – Gareth Dineen MAAPT
The afternoon’s lectures closed with some PowerPoint pyrotechnics from Gareth Dineen former APT and current lecturer in Forensic Science, who gave us an insight into forensic fire investigation, covering the mechanics of fire, it’s effects on a scene and how evidence is gathered to ultimately establish it’s cause.
As with any crime scene, investigators must be methodical in their approach, fire scene and explosion scene examinations need to establish the following:
• Was the fire an accident? (Unattended candles etc.)
• Was it due to mechanical or electrical fault? (Faulty electrical wiring etc.)
• Or was it caused by malicious ignition (Arson)
Gareth explained that there are key factors, indicators and linkage theories that need to be considered when examining a fire scene.
Key factors include:
• Thermonuclear decomposition (burn pattern)
• Radiating heat causing subsequent ignitions
• Flashover and backdraft (the point at which gases produced by burning materials ignite)
• Pyrolysing materials
• If windows were open, further fuelling the fire with oxygen
• Evidence of forced entry.
• Convection patterns
• The seat of the fire (it’s point of origin)
• Source of ignition
• Electrical arching
• Pooling resulting from a poured accelerant
• Satellite convections (further ignitions caused by aerosols)
• Spalling (pyrolysis from the fire causing a white mottled pattern on wood)
• Conchordial fracture in glass windows (can indicate if a window has been broken before the fire began, and if so from the inside or outside)
We learnt that in uncovering if a fire was started maliciously, the scene requires excavation after establish the key factors and indicators, this is then followed by analysis and reconstruction. Gareth mentioned Locard’s principle of exchange ‘every contact leaves a trace’ this principle applies to any scene including fire and can often lead to convictions.
In addition to the above linkage theories and evidence collection are also applied should malicious intent be suspected. Clothing from suspects is compared with samples extracted from the scene, if a suspect has handled an accelerant this can be detected and matched with the accelerant from the scene. Modus operandi, does the suspect have motive to start the fire? Partial burned material can be found on suspects; in addition microscopic fibre analysis of clothing can indicate presence at a scene. Implement marks and mechanical fit evidence (torn fabrics etc.) can all lead to a conviction.
Gareth then moved onto post explosion scene analysis, we learnt that Explosive Ordnance teams would often come in and make safe any remaining devices by disrupting them (not blowing up) before any evidence can be gathered.
In any explosion the initial detonation generates a shockwave that can cause an immense amount of damage, this is then followed by deflagration, commonly known as the fireball. Investigating and examining a post explosion scene requires forensic intelligence teams to recover as much information as possible, special attention must be paid to blast patterns, the collection of material and recoverable devices such as microchips, detonation devices and other suspect materials.
In conclusion Gareth delivered an incredibly interesting and entertaining insight into the work of a fire scene investigator, and I for one have stopped having baths by tea light!!
It just leaves us to thank all of the guest speakers, the trade stalls and the conference organisers for another fantastic conference. Roll on Inverness 2015!