Author(s): Pollanen MS, Pollanen MS
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Abstract Six illustrative cases of homicidal drowning are reported in which the diatom test for drowning was a useful adjunct to the medicolegal investigation of death. In all six cases, diatom frustules were recovered from the femoral bone marrow. In five cases, diatoms extracted from the bone marrow were compared with diatoms obtained from samples of putative drowning medium. In all of these case, the same types of diatoms were observed in both the water samples and the marrow. In an additional case, watery fluid from the maxillary sinus contained the same diatom types as were present in the femoral bone marrow. Four of the six cases were found submerged in water and had autopsy findings consistent with drowning. In the remaining two cases, the bodies were found on land; one case was grossly decomposed and one body was extensively burned since the body was set afire on dry land after death. In some of the case drowning was associated with blunt force head injury (one case), sharp force injuries of the chest (one case), or strangulation (three cases). These results indicate that the diatom test for drowning is an important adjunct to the medicolegal investigation of homicidal drowning, particularly in those cases were autopsy and scene findings do not imply drowning as a cause of death.
This article was published in Forensic Sci Int
and referenced in Journal of Forensic Research