The analysis of textiles associated with decomposing remains as a natural training aid for cadaver-detection dogs

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Forensic Chemistry, 2017, 5 pp. 33 - 45
Issue Date:
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© 2017 Elsevier B.V. Cadaver-detection dogs are employed by law enforcement agencies to locate human remains in cases of missing persons, suspected homicides and following natural or man-made disasters. The ability of cadaver-detection dogs to locate human remains relies heavily on the use of effective and reliable training aids. Cadaver-detection dogs may be trained using a variety of materials ranging from natural scent sources (e.g. flesh, bone, blood or decomposition soil) to synthetic materials (e.g. Pseudo™ Scents). Commercially available synthetic scents often have an overly simplistic chemical composition that is inconsistent with decomposition odour. Therefore, natural scent sources are typically considered to be the most effective training aids; however, there is concern that using individual tissue types as natural training aids may not be indicative of the scent of an intact human cadaver. The objective of this work was to determine how well textiles associated with decomposing remains retain and mimic the odour of natural training aids. To test this, the chemical odour profile of textile samples collected from decomposing porcine remains that were buried clothed in 100% cotton t-shirts was examined. Throughout various stages of decomposition, the pig carcasses were exhumed and cotton samples were obtained. The volatile organic compound (VOC) profile of the textiles was collected using headspace solid phase microextraction (HS-SPME) and analysed using comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography – time-of-flight mass spectrometry (GC×GC-TOFMS). This study provides evidence that textiles associated with decomposing remains may represent a useful natural training aid with a VOC profile reflective of a large subset of cadaveric decomposition odour. The odour profile is dynamic and changes over time suggesting that obtaining textiles from different postmortem intervals would be useful for providing training aids that represent the full spectrum of decomposition odour that cadaver-detection dogs may encounter during a search. This information is particularly beneficial for law enforcement agencies searching for effective and reliable cadaver-detection dog training aids.
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