Modelling time-since-death in Australian temperate conditions

Catherine Fitzgerald, Marc Oxenham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Studies of time-since-death (TSD) with respect to decomposition processes have
been limited in scope. Most research has focused on qualitative descriptions of
decomposition, which are too broad to be of use in recent death investigations.
This study developed a degree of decomposition index (DDI) by quantifying
stages of decomposition for individual body elements. Two Sus scrofa (White
hybrid pigs) were allowed to decompose undisturbed on the ground surface, one
in full sun and the other in semi-shade, between November 2006 and January
2007 in the Canberra region, Australia. The results of the regression modelling
suggests that TSD accounts for the majority of variation in decomposition (using
the DDI), while variations in macro-environment (sun versus shade) were not
significant contributing factors. It is concluded that quantifying decomposition is
an effective method of estimating TSD, which negates variable environmental
effects on the decomposition process. The implications for forensic investigations
of recent deaths include the potential to provide an improved estimation of TSD
at the time of body recovery. There are also important implications for future
research into decomposition and for forensic anthropology in general.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-41
JournalAustralian Journal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2009


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