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Forensic Entomology - Facts from Flies

Environment & Nature Mind & Body Science Communication
Forensic Entomology - Facts from Flies
Event Description

Forensic entomology utilises insects and other arthropods as evidence in both legal and civil investigations. It is best known for its use in death investigations (medico-legal forensic entomology) where a forensic entomologist can play a valuable role in providing essential information concerning the conditions surrounding a victim’s death, including: the season and location of death, the possible involvement of chemicals or drugs in death, sites of ante-mortem trauma to the body, whether the body was relocated or stored after death and can even identify a suspect or link them to a crime scene.

Most importantly, a forensic entomologist can use the developmental times of insects found on or near a body/crime scene to determine the post-mortem interval (PMI), thereby estimating the time elapsed since death occurred, a critical step in death investigation especially when routine forensic pathological techniques are not functional, specifically 72 hours after death or due the stage of decomposition. In this presentation the audience will follow a forensic entomologist through their involvement on a death scene and their contribution to establishing facts around the events and time of death. A number of actual cases will also be discussed.

Dr Marise Heyns

Dr Marise Heyns is an Anatomist employed at the Ulster University School of Medicine. Prior to joining UU she was the driving force behind the highly successful Biomedical Forensic Science programmes at University of Cape Town, and worked closely with the Forensic Pathologists in one of the busiest mortuaries in South Africa. She also established CapeFORTE within the Forensic Entomology Unit at UCT, a laboratory that offers specialised forensic entomological and taphonomic analysis services to the Western Cape Forensic Pathology Services, providing valuable information on Post Mortem Interval and the circumstances surrounding death in cases where individuals are in a state of decomposition or the remains skeletonised. She is a Founding Director of SAAFS, the South African Academy of Forensic Sciences, which is the only learned society that represents forensic science practitioners in South Africa.

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