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Richards, N.F. Fire Investigation - Destruction Of Corpses. Med. Sci. Law. Vol. 17, No. 2. 1977.

Abstract: This article provides useful information to investigators charged with examining corpses at a fire scene. When examining a fire fatality, a fire investigator should look for evidence that supports the known facts of the fire. This author explains his points by using an investigation he completed.

The fire occurred in an attic bedroom and was supposedly caused by an oil heater. Examination of the one fatality prompted some questions. The body seemed to be facing the wrong direction. If the victim has tried to escape, he would have been moving away from the point of origin. This was not the case. The police reported the time of flashover, which revealed how long the fire burned. The body was more severely damaged that the time frame would allow. Interviewing revealed that the victim had an argument with his wife moments before fire began. The suspicion was that the wife killed her husband and burned the body to cover her crime. To substantiate this theory, the investigators needed forensic evidence to corroborate. Investigators demonstrated to the jury that the length the fire burned and the temperature the flames reached would not have caused as much damage to the body as this fire did. The only reasonable conclusion was that the body was intentionally drenched with oil from the heater and ignited. This investigation provides an example of how careful examination of fatalities may reveal the cause of the fire.

 
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