The period over which a deceased person has been buried is referred to as the postmortem inhumation interval. In murder cases, a body is often disposed of in such a way as to try and prevent discovery and identification. Often this takes the form of burial in concrete, dissolving the body in acid, leaving the body in a deserted place, cremating and burial or simply burial in a shallow grave in a deserted location in the hope that scavengers will disseminate the body or it will decompose completely before being found. Teeth and bone, the last remnants of the existence of decomposing skeletons in grave sites, are predominantly composed of the mineral hydroxyapatite. The highly organized crystal structure of teeth makes the tooth more resistant than bone to destructive factors and consequently they often assume significance when bodies are uncovered from shallow graves. The main significance of teeth under these circumstances is because dental records can often be used to establish the name of the deceased person. However, if dental records are not available it may still be possible to use teeth to determine the post inhumation interval and through this give investigating authorities an indication of inhumation time. The theory behind the research concept investigated in this thesis is that a body, buried in soil, is in contact with the soil and when skeletonized, bones and teeth then come into contact with the soil itself. Under these circumstances, soluble metals in the soil have the potential to indurate teeth. Under inhumation conditions, teeth last significantly longer than bone and if the induration rates of selected relevant trace elements could be determined and quantified, it may be possible to use these rates, or the relative rates of induration of different trace elements, to calculate inhumation interval.
|Publication status||Unpublished - 2010|