• Suspicious death investigations - Part 1

    We have had a number of suspicious death cases recently where the police have immediately determined it to be suicide, when in fact there are questions. These include death by; Stabbing/cut-throat, hanging and suffocation by bag over the head.
     
    In separate short articles, I will try and explain what the police should be looking for on each before making that determination.
     
    Input from others in the industry with experience is welcomed.
     

    DEATH BY CUT THROAT

    Cut throat injuries using a sharp weapon is the least frequent suicidal method. Tentative cut marks are common in suicidal deaths. Committing suicide by cutting their throat without hesitation marks is a very rare occurrence.
     
    Cut throat injuries using a sharp weapon is the least frequent suicidal method.
     
    A typical suicidal cut throat incision is oblique, starting on the upper part of the left side of neck, below the angle of the jaw and terminating on the right side in the right-handed person. Depth of the incision is more at the commencement while it becomes shallower as it crosses the throat, giving an indication regarding the direction of the slit and the handedness of the victim.
     
    Usually, suicidal wounds are incised while homicidal wounds are usually chopped and stab wounds. Cut throat extending up to the vertebrae is suggestive of homicidal injury while its absence is indicative of suicidal injury.
     
    Suicidal incised neck wounds are classically numerous, being characterised by a number of cuts at the superior end of the wound known as tentative cuts/hesitation marks. Their presence suggests self-infliction, indicating repeated attempted cuts being stopped because of pain or hesitancy before finally cutting through the skin.
     
    An additional aspect of self-inflicted injury is that cut or stab wounds are usually found on sites that are easily reachable, not covered by clothing. The absence of defensive wounds is also an important feature in sustaining the suicide hypothesis.
     
    Tailing of the wound can be found in suicidal cut throat injuries, and the clothing does not show any kind of damage which is commonly observed in homicidal fatalities.
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