Can Insects Be Used as Evidence to Tell if a Body Has Been Moved?

Forensic entomology is more complicated than it looks on TV.

Article ID: 678591

Released: 27-Jul-2017 12:05 PM EDT

Source Newsroom: PeerJ

  • Credit: Credit: Damien Charabidze. Subject to no restrictions

    Dermestid beetles and flies on a skeletonized human skull.

  • Credit: Credit: Damien Charabidze. Subject to no restrictions

    Necrophagous blow flies larvae feeding on a cadaver.

  • Credit: Credit: Damien Charabidze. Subject to no restrictions

    Two blow flies feeding on a blood pool.

Newswise — The use of insects as indicators of post-mortem displacement is a familiar technique depicted on many crime investigation TV shows. In reality, this practice is far from clear-cut.

To cut through the hype, researchers have looked across existing studies to review how exactly insects have been used in legal investigations and to what extent these methods have been useful.

Based on more than 170 publications over the last century, this review, published in the open-access journal PeerJ, reveals weaknesses and mistaken beliefs regarding the use of forensic entomology as evidence of cadaver displacement as well as many promising aspects and development opportunities.

Though insect analysis has been used in legal investigation for decades, only a few forensic cases have successfully applied such a method to tell a body was moved.

Based on a case-by-case approach, species distribution, temporality, behavior and genetic analysis can be useful to infer postmortem relocation. However, such inferences should not be based on general trends or previous results at a broader scale but always rely on local experiments performed a posteriori to comply with the circumstances of a given forensic case. 

Researchers also found that time is a key factor: a cadaver that remains only briefly in the first location is unlikely to be colonized by local insects, whereas a cadaver that remains for a very long period will have been abandoned by insects before cadaver relocation occurs. 

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Images:

Image 1: Dermestid beetles and flies on a skeletonized human skull. Credit: Damien Charabidze. Subject to no restrictions

Image 2: Necrophagous blow flies larvae feeding on a cadaver. Credit: Damien Charabidze. Subject to no restrictions 

Image 3: Two blow flies feeding on a blood pool. Credit: Damien Charabidze. Subject to no restrictions

Full Media Pack including image: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzGrFBtalE6wMExiOWlyTGxwRDQ

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EMBARGOED until August 1st: 7 am EST; 12 midday UK local time; 11 am GMT (i.e. the date of publication) 

PDF of this Press Release: https://static.peerj.com/pressReleases/2017/07/Press-Release-Charabidze.pdf

Link to the Published Version of the article (quote this link in your story – the link will ONLY work after the embargo lifts): https://peerj.com/articles/3506  your readers will be able to freely access this article at this URL.  

Citation to the article: Charabidze et al. (2017), Use of necrophagous insects as evidence of cadaver relocation: myth or reality? PeerJ 5: e3506; DOI 10.7717/peerj.3506

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Media Contacts 

For the authors: 

Damien CHARABIDZE

Institut de Médecine Légale

Université de LILLE

1 Rue A. VERHAEGHE 59000 LILLE

03 20 62 35 01

damien.charabidze@univ-lille2.fr

 

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