DURBAN - The dead do move - and may continue to do so 17 months after death.
These were the astounding results of Australian researchers based at a human body farm, situated on the outskirts of Sydney, who have found dead bodies make significant movements for months after death This included arms that were placed at the side of the body and ended up extending outwards to the side of the body.
Alyson Wilson, a medical science undergraduate, who has been carrying out the research at a body farm, which falls under the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research (AFTER), used time-lapse cameras which filmed the decomposition of a body. The camera worked on 30 minute intervals over a period of 17 months.
“What we found was that the arms were significantly moving, so that arms that started off down beside the body, ended up out to the side of the body,” said Wilson, adding “one arm went out and then came back in, nearly touching the side of the body again".
She said when she started her research, she expected there may be some movement in the early stages of decomposition and was surprised to see it continue for 17 months,
While the research has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, it could change the face of criminal forensic pathology, shedding new light on crime scene investigations, as well as disaster scenarios.
Wilson explained that the on-going movement of a dead body could be connected to the shrinking and contracting of the ligaments as they dried out.
“In a lot of cases it gives the victim a voice to tell their last story,” she said.
AFTER Deputy Director, Dr Maiken Ueland said some of the movement could be caused by gas build up and insects which invade a body after death.
Dr Xanthe Mallett, a forensic anthropologist and senior lecturer at the University of Newcastle and who supervised the study, described the research as significant.
“I think people will be surprised as just how much movement there was, because I was amazed when I saw it, especially how much the arms were moving. It was astounding.Independent on Saturday