Disposing of the Body | An Author’s Resource

Some are more successful than others at disposing of the body. And I suspect it’s largely dependant on whether or not it was a spur of the moment crime or premeditated. Why am I talking about disposing of the body? Because sometimes these things just have to be researched – search history be damned (I recommend a safety mate, someone to erase your search history in the event of your untimely demise, before your family start going through your computer/phone/tablet).

The purpose is to get rid of the evidence, it’s not like an entire body can be scrubbed up with a little bleach. It’s a big sack of very heavy meat and bones that has to be gotten rid of in a way that doesn’t lead back to the perpetrator or accidentally get discovered by someone walking their dog. With more and more of us on the planet, taking up more and more space, do you think it has become more difficult to do this successfully?

disposing of the body | An author's resource

Disposing of the body: methods

Water

We all know about the concrete shoe method of disposing of a body, but this usually occurs when the victim is alive. Water is often used for disposing of the body, either whole or in pieces. The movement of the water can result in the bodies being shifted from their initial immersion location and washing up somewhere or being caught in fishermen’s nets. Advanced methods of searching bodies of water can make this method of disposal less appealing than perhaps it once was.

Gary Ridgway disposed of bodies in or near the Green River, John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer both disposed of victims in the Des Plaines River. And fictional character Dexter Morgan regularly took fishing trips out into the ocean off the coast of Miami to dispose of his bodies.

Burial

Burial in remote locations, such as woods or moors, in already occupied graves, or under the patio are all locations bodies have been found. Often these bodies are already a skeleton. But science can be used to help identify them. Finding out information such as age, DNA, gender, and reconstruction of faces from the skeleton. All possible depending on the degradation of the body.

A burial in the ground will pass through a natural progression of decay. Including the laying and hatching of insects, roots growing through, and the leakage of body fluids. The length of time before the body is found can determine how easily the last moments of life can be reconstructed.

Myra Hindley and Ian Brady buried a number of their victims on the Moors. At least one of their victim’s bodies were never found despite repeated attempts to locate it. Ray and Faye Copeland buried bodies on their Ranch and on neighbouring farms.

Burning

Fire is often used in the mistaken belief that it will hide all evidence and completely incinerate the body. It rarely does. Fire has to reach significant temperatures to completely burn the body. And fire has ways of preserving evidence for later discovery. Even if the body is charred and blackened from the fire identification is still possible.

It’s curious that the majority of cases I’ve found that involved burning the body are all more recent. And they all discovered the downsides to this method very quickly.

Acid

Acid and alkali of various kinds have been used to break down bodies, essentially eating or dissolving the body. This method takes time and bodies can be found before the process is complete. The difficulties with this method are of course getting hold of enough without looking suspicious. And the fumes that these methods create.

John George Haigh chose this method of disposal for his wealthy victims. Jessie Pinkman and Walter White were also guilty of applying this method in Breaking Bad.

Eating

Eating the body has also been used. I always remember the story of the woman who fed the investigating officers with roast husband. There are parts of the body that shouldn’t or can’t be eaten so other methods of disposal would have to be considered. And the body would need storing until it was fully disposed of. This type of disposal can, in some instances, suggest the purpose of the killing.

Alfred Packer, Jeffrey Dahmer, Karl Denke all chose this method in one form or another. Issei Sagawa killed and ate a Dutch Woman he befriended whilst in France. He was caught when he tried to dispose of the leftovers in a lake. Hannibal Lector, of course, can’t be forgotten with his skill in the kitchen and his charming manner. And it’s not just men who choose this method of disposal. Tamara Samsonova, Omaima Nelson, Olesya Mostovschikova, Katherine Mary Knight all killed and ate their victims. Some even chose to feed the cooked meat to others.

Buildings and Gardens

Perhaps you have heard of a wood chipper being used to dispose of the body. Or hiding a body within the walls or foundations of a building? How about that episode of Brookside where he hid the body under the patio? If it’s your own land the benefits could include a lower risk of having anyone discovering it accidentally. Except perhaps your other half with their annoyingly sensitive nose. Of course, digging at night is a tad suspicious.

John Christie’s victims were discovered after he moved out. In the garden, under the floorboards, and behind a paper covered alcove of his rented home of 10 Rillington Place. Recently depicted in a BBC Drama (which I believe is now available on Netflix). Fred West was another who buried his victims in the garden or cellar.

Pigs and other Animals

Pigs will eat anything and in several cases have eaten humans, both alive and dead. I have found it difficult to clarify whether they can digest the bones and teeth. And I suspect that, although crushed by the pigs’ large flat teeth and strong jaws, pass through the animal. Stomach contents of the pigs and their faeces could provide evidence of humans having been eaten.

Certain fish could make short work of a body. Although there would be little guarantee that all the pieces would be eaten. Dogs would most likely eat the flesh and chew on the bones as would most large carnivorous animals. Insects that eat the flesh would be another possibility.

Robert Pickton was said to have killed a minimum of 65 women and disposed of their bodies by feeding them to his pigs. Which left little evidence for authorities to find. A method Susan Monica also used on her two victims.

What other methods have you come across in your research for disposing of the body and which real life crimes stick in your head?

What say you?

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