Experimental validation of forensic evidence: a study of the decomposition of buried pigs in a heavy clay soil

Forensic Sci Int. 1999 Apr 26;101(2):113-22. doi: 10.1016/s0379-0738(99)00018-3.


In a murder investigation, where the victim had been strangled and buried in a shallow grave, there were discrepancies between the post mortem interval (PMI) as estimated from entomological studies and estimations determined from other evidence. This inconsistency provided the impetus for examining the decay process using pig carcasses as analogues for the human cadaver. The pigs were buried in the immediate vicinity of the original burial site in December 1996, which was the month when the victim was purported to have been interred in the previous year. The buried pigs were then monitored for 5 months which, based on the evidence other than the entomological, was the period over which the corpse was thought to have lain in the ground. The pig corpses were disturbed by scavengers in mid April: this was the same time that the human corpse was discovered in the previous year by scavengers. Insects played no role in the decomposition process until the pig carcasses had been exposed by animals. Blowflies, notably Calliphora vomitoria, were attracted to the exposed tissues and laid eggs from which larvae developed. Calliphora vomitoria is a species often used to estimate PMI. This investigation has shown that soil conditions and low seasonal temperatures had preserved the pig carcasses for longer than might be expected. Using the blowfly larvae to estimate PMI would have produced erroneous results had not the burial environment and exhumation history been investigated.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Burial*
  • Cadaver*
  • Forensic Medicine
  • Insecta
  • Postmortem Changes
  • Soil
  • Swine
  • Temperature
  • Time Factors


  • Soil