Back to finish your investigation? Brilliant. Otherwise, you probably should start at the beginning.
5. The most important piece of evidence: the body.
It’s an invaluable source of clues, and one left better to forensic analysis. If curiosity gets the better of you, we’ve put together a quick checklist to help interpret how it all happened.
Scrapings under the nails. What’s there? If its blood or skin, you can bet there’s been some sort of skirmish. This usually indicates a last desperate struggle between your suspect and victim, and these clues may be critical. If its just part of the ligature, I’m afraid the ending of this chap’s life probably wasn’t as quick as he would’ve liked.
Bruising. Check the body for any signs of bruising. If your victim isn’t swinging from the rafters but is found collapsed near a door, or on the floor, check the lower back. If pressure has been applied here while applied to the neck, this could indicate someone sticking a knee in the victim’s back while strangling him.
Ligature and marks around the neck.If you must cut a hanging victim down, cut above the knot, as this preserves this item for forensics. Knots normally involve a high degree of movement in their creation, leading to plenty of forensic opportunities for DNA profiles at a later stage. What do the marks around the neck show you? Is it just bruising following a similar pattern to the ridges in the rope used? That’s pretty normal and may be consistent with suicide. If there are other marks, alarm bells should be ringing.
6. Consider the MO (or method of action).
Traditional schools of criminology state that for a crime to take place there needs to be a motive and opportunity. Without either of the two, there wouldn’t be a crime. What might your victim tell you about the offender’s motive. Crime of passion? As a a hanging, it’s hardly likely. What about the wrong end of greedy relatives? A drug dealer trying to prove a point? A contracted hit? Research your victim fully to get some answers.
7. Wrapping it up: preserving for forensics.
The golden rule of forensics is “don’t touch anything unless you have to.” A perfectly preserved crime scene will tell a good story for a long time to come, and can be resurrected with detailed forensic analysis. If you want to know if it’s a simple suicide, look directly to the obvious: no signs of forced entry and disturbance; serene surroundings; no wounds on the body; an obvious ingress method to the hanging; and perhaps even a suicide note. Suspect foul play? Look to the subtle: bruises; debris; blood; and the exit point for a potential offender.
There’s more to being Sherlock than you thought, right?