Investigation of the interaction of remains and textiles in soil graves

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Textiles are a common source of evidence in forensic scenarios and can provide valuable insight into a crime event. In the past research has focused mainly on the effect of the presence of clothing on the decomposition timeline of the remains used to estimate time since death, rather than how remains affect the textiles. The hypothesis is that the presence of decomposing remains will alter the degradation patterns of textiles. It is therefore suggested that analysing textile samples collected from a crime scene might give further information about the post-mortem or post-burial interval. This is particularly valuable when only clothing is recovered from a scene. In order to investigate textile degradation patterns associated with remains, clothed pigs were either buried or placed directly on the soil surface. Clothing in the absence of remains were also collected and analysed for comparison purposes. The clothing samples were analysed using Attenuated total reflectance Fourier transform infrared (ATR-FTIR) spectroscopy in order to investigate any chemical damages to the textiles, in addition to looking at the presence of decomposition fluid. Samples from certain sampling days were analysed using Gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy (GC-MS) for the further elucidation of the lipid profile absorbed by the textile samples associated with decaying remains. At the completion of the project it was confirmed both visually and through the chemical analysis that the natural textile degradation in a soil environment was inhibited in the presence of decomposing remains. Principal component analysis of the data obtained for cotton in absence of remains demonstrated a clear separation in the data sets and degraded samples could clearly be distinguished from the non-degraded ones. Seasonal variety was determined to be a factor in the timeline of textile degradation of the natural material. The apparent inhibition of the degradation of natural textiles associated with the decomposing remains is a significant finding. It suggests that the processes leading to the release of decomposition fluid into the environment might play an important role in the textile degradation timeline. Investigating the textile degradation stage as well as analysing the lipid composition will provide invaluable information for the resolution of future cases of clandestine deaths.
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