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Decaying pig corpses reveal forensic secrets

Scientists are getting help with forensic information from decaying pig corpses left in secret locations around London.
/ Source: Reuters

Decaying pig corpses deposited in secret locations around London are providing scientists with forensic information that may help them solve crimes.

Scientists at Britain's Natural History Museum are hoping that the corpses -- left in woods, on top and inside of buildings among other areas -- will reveal secrets to enable them to pinpoint the time of death of a corpse.

"The key factor is temperature," Zoe Adams, a forensic entomologist at the museum, told a science conference.

The temperature at the different locations, the types of insects found on the corpse and how long it took them to get there will help the researchers estimate how much time has passed since a victim died -- the post-mortem interval (PMI).

Changes in the body such as rigor mortis give an indication of the time of death. But after the body is 2-3 days old, more information is needed to provide an accurate estimate of PMI.

That's where the insects come in.

"Each phase of the decay process has a different wave of insects associated with it," Adams told the annual British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting.

The pig carcasses give scientists a better idea of how long it takes the insects to get to the bodies at the different locations and during different times of the year.

But Adams said finding a suitable spot in the city for a corpse is a problem.

"It's smelly," she said.