Burnt Human Remains Part II: Identification and Laboratory Analysis

Randolph-Quinney, Patrick S. orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-0694-5868 (2014) Burnt Human Remains Part II: Identification and Laboratory Analysis. In: Advances in Forensic Human Identification. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp. 145-163. ISBN 9781439825143

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Part I of Burnt Human Remains (see Chapter 6) detailed how to properly document, excavate and package elements found in the field. The second part presented here, will describe the subsequent methods of laboratory analysis and identification techniques. While fire scene investigation and any recovered fire debris may provide strong evidence with regard to the cause, mechanism and development of the fire (electrical, chemically accelerated, accidental, arson, etc.), burnt remains also have the potential to provide information concerning the temperature, duration and procession of the fire from the analysis of macro- and microstructural changes in skeletal tissue. They may also provide biochemical evidence for the use of ignitable liquids such as accelerants, or yield heattransformed chemical markers from the destruction of soft tissues, clothing, and other components of the fire environment (DeHaan et al., 2004; DeHaan, 2008; DeHaan and Icove, 2012; DeHaan and Nurbakhsh, 2001).
Depending on the nature of the fire, the circumstances (non-suspicious, suspicious, arson, confirmed homicide, etc.) and condition and level of preservation, the tissues may undergo differing laboratory analyses by a variety of specialists; this may include the forensic pathologist or medical examiner, forensic odontologist, forensic entomologist, toxicologist,
forensic botanist, fire investigator and forensic anthropologist. Each specialist will bring their own expertise in addressing medico-legal questions relating to the identity of the deceased, time since death, physiological and chemical status, and manner and cause of death. Here we will focus on the avenues of enquiry available when remains are severely burnt, skeletonised, and disrupted; such analyses are primarily the purview of the forensic anthropologist.

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