How pigs in suitcases can help solve crime

November 1, 2017

Suitcase murders: Forensic science research helps to solve crimes

Murdoch University researchers are investigating the science of hiding dead bodies in suitcases, in a bid to help police solve macabre murders.

Forensic biologist Dr Paola Magni has supervised one of the first studies into how bodies decompose when concealed in a suitcase – using dump sites around Murdoch campus.

Dr Magni and forensic Master students Chris Petersen and Jonathon Georgy conducted a pilot study using pig carcasses in suitcases in the first step to building a body of scientific data that will help convict killers.

“While a lot of research has been conducted into body decomposition, body decomposition in a suitcase is a new field of study,” Dr Magni said.

“In fact, we are only aware of one scientific paper on this topic which was published in the UK in 2014.

“This area of research is so unusual that the students were invited to present at the European Association for Forensic Entomology conference held recently in Treviso, Italy.”

The research found that storing a body in a zipped case slowed the rate of decomposition because it was more difficult for flies to reach the remains.

The Murdoch research documented the different insect species, however, Dr Magni said more data was vital before forensic entomologists could present expert witness testimony to assist the prosecution in such murder court cases.

Further research would provide valuable information to help crime fighters identify time of death, location of death, and whether the body had been moved. Additional investigation of various zippers and suitcase liners would be useful.

During her career Dr Magni has assisted police investigations involving a body in a fridge and a cupboard.

“Hiding a body in a suitcase can’t be described as a common practice, thank goodness, but there have been several notorious cases around the world of killers transporting the body from place to place in a suitcase before dumping it.”

Dr Magni works in the School of Veterinary and Life Sciences at Murdoch University.

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