Life

By Lauren Fruen


THESE gruesome images show the inside of a body farm – a graveyard where the dead are left to rot in open cages.

Rows upon row of dead bodies are lined up in the metal pens in the remote Texan field as part of scientific research into how corpses rot.

In fact, despite its grisly appearance, the so-called body farms actually help police solve crimes by helping to determine when victims were killed.

Scientists at The Forensic Anthropology Centre at Texas State University are able to use the donated dead bodies and compare them to those killed in suspicious circumstances.

The evidence gathered here can be used in a court of law and researchers have been called to give evidence for the prosecution and defence.

The bodies can also be used to help with facial reconstruction.

By using the skulls and images of those who volunteer for the open burial scientists can help police to reconstruct what an actual victim may have looked like.

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To be a part of the body farm most people volunteer before their – although some are donated by next of kin.

They often have worked in law enforcement so know how useful the facilities are, according to decomposition experts Dr Danny Wescott.

He does admit that in some cases the body farms offer a cheaper alternative to a proper funeral.

The law does not allow body farms in the UK but there have been calls for that to change.

Dr Danny Wescott has spent a number of years leading the research of skeletons at the US uni.

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He said: “It allows us to see how bodies decompose.

“We work with law enforcement officials and help with the training of local police cadets.

“We get bodies given to us specifically to use. Living donors offer their bodies as donations. We also take next of kin donation.

“We have two criteria for the bodies – they must be under 500 pounds when they die. And they must not have any active infectious diseases like hepatitis C.

“We also accept cremains.

“A lot of our donors are associated with law enforcement.

“If the person is within a 200 mile radius when they die we can get the body.

“It then gets assigned to a research project. The bodies can be left out in the field for six months to a couple of years.

“The skeleton is then used for further research. In fact, most of the research is done on skeletons.

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“Law enforcement provides different scenarios and we look at the effects of clothing and things like diabetes on the body.

“It allows us to give estimations on death to the police. We can also help with facial reconstruction.

“Because we know what the person looked like before they died we can compare this with what those who draw the facial reconstruction images have come up with.

“We also look at the ecology side – and how it impacts specifically on insects.

“We have scientists here from the UK because there is a demand for it.

“We have to cage the bodies here in Texas because we have vultures and they would go for them.

“At the moment we have between 65 and 70 bodies. There are more men than women but we also get some couples who donate their bodies.

“Of course the nature of death means that we mostly see older people coming here. That is one of the limitations of a donated collection.

“But we also have some younger people who chose to donate too.

CATERS NEWS: Dr Danny Wescott measuring a bone

“A consideration that a lot of our living donors make is that they don’t want to be a financial burden to their family. This is a cheaper than a funeral.

“I have provide evidence in court for both the prosecution and the defence.”