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Int J Legal Med (2000) 113 : 320–331

© Springer-Verlag 2000

O R I G I N A L A RT I C L E

C. Henssge · L. Althaus · J. Bolt · A. Freislederer ·
H.-T. Haffner · C. A. Henssge · B. Hoppe ·
V. Schneider

Experiences with a compound method
for estimating the time since death
II. Integration of non-temperature-based methods
Received: 18 November 1998 / Received in revised form: 25 June 1999

Abstract The period since death was estimated at the
scene in 72 consecutive cases using the temperature-based
nomogram method as the primary method and supplemented by examination of criteria such as lividity, rigor
mortis, mechanical and electrical excitability of skeletal
muscle and chemical excitability of the iris. A case-oriented, computer-assisted selection of the non-temperaturebased methods and integration of the results into a common result of the compound method was made following
a special logistic. The limits of the period since death as
estimated by the nomogram were improved in 49 cases by
including the non-temperature-based methods and also provided results in 4 cases where the temperature method
could not be used. In a further 6 cases the non-temperature-based methods confirmed the limits estimated by the
temperature method but in 14 cases a useful result could
not be obtained. In only one of the cases investigated was
the upper limit of the period since death, as estimated by
the criterion re-establishment of rigor (8 h post-mortem), in
contradiction with the period determined by the police investigations (9.4 h post-mortem).
Key words Time since death · Compound method ·
Practical casework

Introduction
In order to improve or at least confirm the results of the
temperature-based nomogram method [1], commonly used
non-temperature-based methods suitable for use at a scene

C. Henssge () · L. Althaus · J. Bolt · A. Freislederer ·
C. A. Henssge · B. Hoppe · V. Schneider
Institute of Legal Medicine, University of Essen,
Hufelandstrasse 55, 45122 Essen, Germany
H.-T. Haffner
Institute of Legal Medicine and Traffic Medicine,
University of Heidelberg, Vossstrasse 2,
69020 Heidelberg, Germany

were integrated into a compound method [2, 3]. The variation in conclusions drawn from the non-temperature-based
methods regarding the time since death was extremely
large. Nevertheless, the exclusive use of the time limits of
variation or 95% confidence levels (Table 1 and Fig. 1) can
provide reliable lower or upper limits for the period since
death. The limits of variation or 95% confidence levels
given in the literature are not dependent on special factors, in contrast to the method of estimation using body
cooling. Therefore, these methods can even be used when
the method of body cooling cannot be used because of unknown or uncertain cooling conditions.

Materials and methods
Materials
In addition to the temperature-based nomogram method the nontemperature-based methods were used, at least partially, in 69 out
of the 72 cases examined by Henssge et al. [1].
Procedure
Subsequent to estimating the time since death with the method of
body cooling, non-temperature-based methods were selectively used
depending on the preliminary result obtained with the primary
method using a simple logistic flow chart (Fig. 1). The lower limit
of the period since death obtained from the initial method of body
cooling can be confirmed or improved only if the lower limit estimated by non-temperature-based methods is equal to or higher
than this lower limit. By the same logic the upper limit of the period of death calculated from body cooling can be confirmed or improved only by an estimate which is equal to or lower than this upper limit. To confirm the upper and lower limits obtained by the
temperature method, the results of a further criterion were included
if the values obtained were 20% or at least 1 h higher, or 20% or at
least 1 h lower, respectively. The boundaries for the safety limit are
shown in Fig. 1. Using this logistic, no more criteria were used than
could be potentially helpful in the actual cases examined. By using
the special chart [2, 3] and much more efficiently by using a special note-book program, the stringent application of this logistic
approach was carried out at the scene. Nevertheless, to avoid conflict with investigative interests, none of the examinations could be
performed in three cases due to the particular situation at the scene
(cases 9, 10 and 42). In several cases the examination could only

usually at autopsy.0 24. If the results of these examinations did not provide an improvement of the limits. The stages of lividity were estimated only after a second examination carried out later.0 6.0 2.0 Negative Positive Negative 7. A differentiation between reaction grades II or III was sometimes difficult but repeated stimulation was an aid to clarification and special attention was paid to the differentiation between a slight active contraction of the forehead muscle reacting up to its upper part (grade V) and a slight passive co-movement of the lower part of the forehead.0 Variation Variation Variation Variation Variation Rigor Beginning Re-establishment Maximum Positive Negative Positive 0.g. The extent. The muscular bulge is maintained for some hours if the examination takes place several hours post-mortem.5 2. Henssge et al.0 4.0 14. caused by intensive contraction of the orbicu- .0 7. whereby a positive reaction (miosis) would considerably improve the lower limit. Complete shifting of livores was observed more frequently at the scene especially when the body or even parts of it had been moved to a new position in the course of the inves- tigative procedure.C.0 16.0 1.5 13.0 20. To evaluate the degree of re-establishment of rigor it is necessary to ensure that rigor was broken completely by fully moving the elbow joint several times. as is usually the case.4 hours post-mortem (hpm) and an upper limit of 15 hpm.0 46. when ATP levels are low.0 20. http://home. especially in cases where bleeding had occurred.0 Variation Variation Variation Mechanical excitability muscle Tendon reaction Idiomuscular contraction Negative Negative 0. the initial use of the temperaturebased method resulted in a lower limit of the period since death of 9. If no improvement of the upper limit can be achieved. electrical stimulation of facial muscles by electrode insertion into the eyebrow (reaction grade III).0 5. black eye.0 Negative Negative Positive Positive Negative Positive 3. Firstly. by electrode insertion into the corners of the mouth (reaction of the orbicularis oris muscle). the upper limit resulting from the temperature might be confirmed if facial muscles reacted corresponding to grade II or lividity was not yet maximally developed.0 2.0 8. the degree of idiomuscular contraction was examined by palpation. as may happen in the very early post-mortem period due to high levels of ATP.5 Positive Positive 2. the eye region was examined for injuries and haemorrhages (e. sclera.0 Variation Variation Variation Electrical excitability muscle Electrodes in eyebrow Grade VI Grade V Grade IV Grade III Grade II Grade I Electrodes in corner of mouth Chemical excitability iris Atropin Tropicamide Acetylcholine Reference [8] [8] [9. Incomplete shifting of livores was found to be more likely at autopsy if the body had been transported in another position than that examined at the scene. in order to avoid a false negative result. Peschke.0 1. Methods All examinations (Table 1 and Fig.t-online. In corpses with a thick subcutaneous fat layer. To examine the electrical excitability of facial muscles a special generator was used (J.0 8.0 2. It takes about 10 min to perform all the required examinations.0 30.0 11. it was carefully checked whether a local contracture appeared after striking the muscle.0 26.0 13. 3].0 1.0 4. petechiae in skin.5 5.0 5.0 3. The following examinations of non-temperature-based methods led to an improvement of the upper limit: striking the biceps brachii muscle (idiomuscular contraction). A negative result was given only if the examined joint had not been manipulated (e. 1.: Estimation of time since death II 321 Table 1 Time limits used of the non-temperature-based methods/criteria Method/criterion Result of examination Minimum limit Result of of the period examination since death (hpm) Maximum limit Statistics of the period (limits) since death (hpm) Lividity Beginning Confluence Thumb pressure Complete shifting Maximum Incomplete shifting Positive Positive Negative Negative Positive Negative 0. 1) were performed as previously described [2. Nevertheless.0 Positive Positive Positive 10. but immediately disappeared again.0 95% confidence 95% confidence 95% confidence 95% confidence 95% confidence 95% confidence Variation Negative Negative Negative 3. acetylcholine should be injected subconjunctivally. 11] [4.0 Positive Positive Positive Positive Positive Positive Positive 6.0 22. 10] [10. but not the intensity of contraction of the mimic muscles was used to estimate the grade of reaction. In the example given in Fig.0 Variation Variation Negative Negative Negative Negative Negative Negative Negative 1. 7] [4] [4] be performed incompletely. and conjunctiva of eyelids).0 3.g. and subconjunctival injection of atropine/ cyclopent (mydriasis).de/home/ j-peschke/rzg1. by transport or removal of clothing) between breaking the rigor and examining for re-establishment.htm).0 3.0 3.

Henssge et al. 2. A change in the width of the iris after chemical excitation was not used as a positive reaction if the observation was made much later than 1 h after the injection as this could be due to the spontaneous course post-mortem. the results of stimulation were not used for estimation of the time since death. The computer program immediately announces contradictions between the individual results obtained from the different methods. The conclusions concerning the time since death drawn from all the criteria used and characterized either as limits of variation or 95% confidence limits are taken from the references given in Table 1. If a haematoma or emphysema was present on one side of the eyelids. be ignored without interrupting the flow of the program which leads to the following advantages: C.Henssge/t-zeit. or the particular situation of the actual case makes it impossible. IV electrical excitability of facial muscles.de/home/Christoph. the nomogram method) as primary information for estimation of the period since death and all subsequent requirements for further examinations are automatically selected based on the initial information regarding improvement or confirmation (Fig.A. The program may also serve as a self-instruction program. and V chemical excitability of the iris laris oculi muscle (grade IV). http://home. III mechanical excitability of skeletal muscles. 1 Logistics of the compound method (see Table 1).322 Fig. 5. The suggestions for subsequent examinations can. 3.: Estimation of time since death II 1. The use of the particular method suggested can be ignored if familiarity with the method is lacking.htm) was utilized by means of a note-book computer which places all methods and criteria of the compound method at the disposal of the examiners. the equipment is not available. 4. If haematoma or emphysema was present on both sides. No more methods are required by the interactive program than are potentially useful in a particular case. I lividity. 1). The orbicularis oculi muscle may react for a much longer time than the time limits given (Table 1) if a (fresh) haematoma or emphysema of the eylids is present [4]. t-online. the stimulation was performed on the other side. The program uses the results of the method/criterion performed first (usually. the non-temperature-based methods could be used at least partially in addition to the method of body cooling in 69 out of the 72 cases examined. II rigor. however. a computer program (C. 6. but not necessarily. Results Efficiency According to the situation at the scene. the non-temperature-based methods provided a reduction in the span of the period since death as estimated by the temperature method. At the scene. In 49 cases. Information (modus “help”) is given about particular circumstances in which a particular method/criterion must not be used which helps the examiner to avoid mistakes. All mathematical operations are performed automatically. Henssge. The integrated file data system and the file manager of the program can be used to make a critical analysis of the data from all cases enabling the examiner to profit from past experiences. In a further 6 cases at least one of the limits of the period since death as estimated by the temperature method was con- .

excit. eye NO VI 11.0 3.0 4.0 13.0 7.1 7. Mydriasis of iris to atropine Electr.69 (2nd) 1.6 2.5 5.5 Lower hpm 4.0 2.0 Electr.0 8.0 3.0 3. excit. eye NO VI Lividity confluence Cooling Electr.0 10.0 9. eye VI Idiomuscular contraction Electr. part I [1]). Cooling No mydriasis of iris to Mydriaticum Lividity confluence Rigor maximum No electr. excit.0 3. excit. excit.0 6.5 3.0 10.0 7.6 3.0 Electr.0 11. oris m.9 3.4 3.8 6. excit.0 0.0 1.1 5. excit.0 7.0 7. orbic. excit. eye III Cooling Rigor re-establishment Lividity complete shifting Mydriasis of iris to atropine Rigor re-establishment Electr.0 4. eye V Cooling Lividity complete shifting Method/criterion hpm hpm Method/criterion Upper limit Lower limit Estimation 28 5 Case 4.1 8.0 13. eye NO VI Cooling Lividity maximum Cooling Lividity maximum No mydriasis of iris to atropine Electr. part I [1]) The temperature-based method was not used because of heat exposure by a room fire + Because of the particular circumstances (see Table 10.4 6. excit.3 6. eye V Mydriasis of iris to atropine Rigor re-establishment Cooling+ Electr.7 3.4 3.0 2.2 h later after transportation of the body to institute First examination at the scene Same scene as 47 (Table 4) The temperature method was not used because of the particular cooling conditions (see Table 10.0 16.0 7.0 3.0 46 69 (1st) 1. eye NO IV No electr.3 6.0 10. the time from cooling was not used in expertise + At the scene the intensity of lividity was estimated hastily as maximal (wrong conclusion: lower limit 3 h).5 8. Mydriasis of iris to atropine Cooling Electr. oris m.9 5. eye NO IV No electr. excit. oris m.0 8.4 6. excit.5 3. oris m.5 1. The error was corrected immediately Comments C.8 1.5 ? 5.0 1. eye NO I Cooling No mydriasis of iris to Mydriaticum Cooling Lividity confluence+ Electr.: Estimation of time since death II 323 . oris m.0 8. excit.0 31 38 3.8 4.3 3. orbic. orbic. Later at autopsy the intensity was clearly more pronounced. oribic. Electr.0 6. excit. excit.0 10. Mydriasis of iris to atropine Cooling Electr. Electr. excit. excit.5 Upper hpm Ascertainment (limits) Table 2 Details of cases in which the non-temperature-based methods provided both the best lower and upper limits Second examination 1.0 1.0 45 0. orbic. eye V Electr.0 1. eye II Mydriasis of iris to atropine Cooling Rigor re-establishment Rigor beginning Electr. eye NO II Rigor beginning Electr. excit. excit. Henssge et al. excit.0 10.0 10.0 10. oris m.0 11. oribic.0 5.0 7.

excit.0 3.4* Idiomuscular contraction Cooling Electr.3 3.4 9.0 25.0 4. eye I Cooling Rigor re-establishment+ 5.3 2.0 6.0 Electr.1+ 3.1 5.5 5.26 23 22 21 20 19 12 11 4 Case 2. Mydriasis to atropine 7.4 h before examination + It was uncertain whether the broken rigor was reestablished slightly or not Comments 324 C.0 3.8 h before examination + Missing for 7 h *Finding the body 3.excit.9 8. eye III Cooling Mydriasis of iris to atropine Rigor re-establishment+ 7. eye NO IV Cooling No electr.8 Lower hpm 7. Cooling Electr.2 11.9 ? 9. Henssge et al. Mydriasis to atropine Electr.0 6. excit. excit.0 7.6 3. excit.0 13.8 ? 6. orbic. excit. eye Cooling Electr. oris m. eye NO V Rigor no re-establishment Cooling Lividity maximum Electr.6 11. oris m.0 11.1 0. excit.0 7. excit.0 6.: Estimation of time since death II . the incomplete shifting of lividity was observed at autopsy + Survival of the fatal pressure on the neck for “at least 30 min up to 3 h”: some extravascular emigration of polymorphic leucocytes in the subcutaneous fat of the ligature mark +Missing for 9.0 10.3 Upper hpm Ascertainment (limits) Cooling Method/criterion hpm hpm Method/criterion Upper limit Lower limit Estimation Table 3 Details of cases in which the non-temperature-based methods provided either the best lower or the best upper limit +Being inconsistent with the time of investigation *Body found lying prone but was transported lying on the back.7 2.8 h *Finding the body 2.0+ 7. eye IV Electr. oris m. excit. eye III Cooling Electr. excit. excit.0 1. orbic.eye 11. excit.0 8.6 Cooling Electr.0+ 13.4 9.7 10.4 2.0 4.0 5. eye NO II Cooling Cooling Lividity maximum Lividity no incomplete shifting No electr.9 24. excit.0 5. eye NO III Cooling Electr.0+ 30.0 4.7 22.0 10.8+ 7.8* 3.0 29.0 9. eye NO IV Cooling Lividity confluence No electr.0 8.0 13.0 11. excit. excit.0 18.3 ? Mydriasis of iris to Mydriaticum Cooling Electr.0 3. eye IV Electr.0 11.0 16.7 ? Mydriasis of iris to Mydriaticum Cooling Lividity incomplete shifting* Rigor no beginning Cooling 2.9 30.0 2.7 8. orbic.

the beginning of ventricular fibrillation could be defined exactly to the minute + Supposed malignant hyperthermia.0 8. excit.4 3. excit. eye No mydriasis of irsi to Mydriaticum Cooling No miosis of iris to acetylcholine Lividity confluence Cooling No electr.0 8.7 3.8 3. eye 20.8 4. excit. excit.0 10.0 10.0 6.3 Electr.0 8.0 2.5 1.5 Lower hpm Lividity positive thumb pressure Cooling Electr.4+ 5.6 14.0 11. excit.5 37 0.2 3. eye Cooling Lividity maximum No electr.0 10.2 3.9 40 49 1.9 8.0 2.7 14. Rigor re-establishment Cooling Cooling Mydriasis of iris to atropine Mydriasis of iris to atropine Cooling Electr.excit.0 5.0 2. orbic.0 17.: Estimation of time since death II 325 . eye VI 3.3 7.8 3.0 1. Henssge et al. excit.5 3.5 1. Mydriasis of iris to atropine Cooling Rigor no beginning Electr. oris m.0 5. excit.0 11.3 34 0. excit.1 4. eye Cooling Rigor beginning Lividity confluence Cooling Electr. part I[1]) Comments C.6 20. excit. eye IV Lividity complete shifting Cooling+ Cooling Method/criterion hpm hpm Method/criterion Upper limit Lower limit Estimation 27 Case Table 3 (continued) *Finding the body + Infliction of the stab wounds. eye NO IV No electr.5 25.6 7. excit.3+ 8.0 6. Mydriasis of iris to atropine Cooling Electr.1 7. No electr.0 6.5 16. eye VI Lividity complete shifting Cooling Electr.0 21. orbic.0 13. excit.3+ 7.5 10. By analysing the tape. excit. orbic.0 8.1.0 8.0 6. excit.0 1. excit.0 33 35 2.5 6. eye V Electr.0 5.0 11.2 18.4+ 4.0 1. oris m. orbic.7+ 5.7 5. excit.0 11.0 No electr.0 46.2 11.8 3. eye NO V Cooling Lividity no incomplete shifting Cooling+ No electr.5* 6.7 6.3 12. Further comments in text Same scene as 36 (Table 5) + Functioning storage-ECG device found. eye Cooling Lividity confluence Electr.0 3. not used in expertise (Table 10.1 3.0 10.0 4.3 Upper hpm Ascertainment (limits) Miosis of iris to acetycholine Cooling Lividity positive thumb pressure 16. eye NO VI Cooling Rigor beginning Cooling Lividity confluence Electr.0 8.0 44 57 53 5.8 0. oris m. excit. eye III Electr. oris m.

excit.4 71 48 3.5 16. eye II Cooling Idiomuscular contraction Cooling Rigor re-establishment Electr. the statement at the scene did not take this criterion into account.5 Lividity maximum Cooling Cooling Rigor maximum Lividity maximum Electr.9 5. excit.0 5. The upper limit of the time since death investigated later on (14. excit. As a precaution.0 3. eye IV Rigor re-establishment Cooling 11.3 7.5 8. eye IV Rigor re-establishment Lividity complete shifting+ Cooling Lividity positive thumb pressure Cooling Electr.4 Lividity incomplete shifting+ Cooling Lividity positive thumb pressure 14.0 6. eye Cooling Electr.0 20.excit.5 2.8 8. eye Electr.0 3.0 14.eye NO IV Cooling No electr.5.5 2.2 10. excit. excit.8 1.2 5.4 20. oris m.0 67 3.0 60 59 58 13.0 61 63 2. eye NO V Lividity maximum Cooling 14.0 5. excit. transported lying on the back.3 4.0 13.eye NO II Cooling Cooling No idiomuscular contraction Electr. oris m.9 68 72 3. eye V Electr.4 24.0 No mydriasis of iris to atropine No electr.1 17.0 No mydriasis of iris to Mydriaticum 10.eye NO V No mydriasis of iris to atropine Cooling Cooling Electr.0 5.0 hpm) was identical to the lower limit of the estimated period since death based on this criterion + Observed at the scene after turning the body from LL to LB Same scene as 70 See text + Body found lying prone. excit.0 5. excit.0 7.4 17. eye IV Electr.0 5. No mydriasis of iris to atropine No mydriasis of iris to Mydriaticum No electr.5 4.0 6.0 3.0 8.9 2.2 8.0 8.0 3.0 5.0 3.4 9.9 8.0 15.7 1.1 20. Henssge et al. excit.0+ 2.6 8.0 Lividity maximum No electr. oribic.2 7. excit.0 3.excit.0 13.0 3. excit.3 14.: Estimation of time since death II .6 2.0 8.excit.7 3.2 3.1 + This finding would provide an extraordinarily small range of the period since death.1 3.7 9.3 6. eye NO V Cooling No electr. eye III Cooling Cooling Electr. the incomplete shifting of lividity was observed at autopsy 326 C.1 2. eye NO III Cooling 16. excit.6 0. Electr.0+ 23.0 3.8 14. oribic. excit.0 7.7 11.0 5. eye Cooling No miosis of iris to acetycholine Electr. excit.0 11.0 6.

3 1.0 8.4 7. Electr.0+ 8.0 7. m.6 8.0 8. excit. eye V Lividity complete shifting+ Cooling Electr.0 2.5 1.8 2. eye NO II Cooling Lividity maximum+ No electr.0 3.0 47 3. oris. excit.3 1. The overlapping time of examinations does not allow a statement as to the sequence of deaths Comments Table 4 Details of cases in which the non-temperature-based methods improved one and confirmed the other limit of the period since death estimated by the temperature method C.0 5. excit.2. excit.8 7.0 15. excit.orbic. excit.eye NO VI 10.0 6. Mydriasis to atropine Rigor re-establishment Electr.0 7.0 3.9 11. eye NO VI Lividity confluence Rigor maximum+ Lividity maximum+ Electr. excit.0 2. eye NO III Lividity maximum Cooling Lividity no complete shifting Cooling Lividity no incomplete shifting No electr.0 3.0 8.0 8.0 2.0 10. Cooling Electr. eye NO V Cooling Lividity maximum Cooling Rigor beginning Lividity confluence Rigor beginning Cooling Electr.5 2.0 7.0 6.excit.0 8.oris m.5 h later than 46 The man shot the woman first and then himself in the presence of witnesses: Contemporaneity proved + Slight uncertainty of the examiner at the scene because of bloodstained body + Unsure + After repeated examination at autopsy 2 h later Same scene as 6 Same scene as 7 The husband (case 7) strangled his wife with his hands (case 6) and committed suicide by hanging.0 2.4 4.2 Mydriasis of iris to atropine Cooling Rigor re-establishment Cooling Lividity complete shifting Cooling Rigor no beginning Lividity no beginning Rigor re-establishment Cooling Electr.0 9.8 1.5 5.0 8.5 4.6 ? 5.0 1. eye IV Rigor re-establishment Cooling Rigor re-establishment Electr.0 0.5 2. excit. eye VI Lividity complete shifting Cooling Electr. orbic.0 2. oribic.0 3. orbic.5 15.0 6.2 2. eye IV Electr.0 6.0 11.1 3.0 3. Henssge et al.0 6.0 Rigor maximum Lividity maximum Cooling Electr.0 3.1 8.7 6.0 3.0 3.0 7.9 Upper hpm Ascertainment (limits) Same scene as 46 (Table 2). oris m. excit.6 8. excit. excit.excit.9+ 4.0 3.0 5.0 0.0 0. oris m.3 ? 4.5 2.: Estimation of time since death II 327 .0 11.0 5.0 3.eye NO V Lividity maximum Cooling Electr. excit.4 4. examination 1.0 0. excit.eye V Cooling Method/criterion hpm hpm Method/criterion Upper limit Lower limit Estimation 43 41 39 15 7 6 2 1 Case 7. excit.6 1. eye Cooling Electr.5 0. Electr.5 Lower hpm 7.

0 8. eye NO VI Cooling 13. However. eye NO VI Cooling 13. .2 Cooling Lividity confluence Electr. excit. partially in 6 cases and death could have occurred within the overlapping part of both the estimated and the known period.6 3.4 2. Table 3) there was a contradiction between the conclusion of the maximum time since death provided by re-establishment of rigor (8 hpm) and the known time of death (9. The final result in fact develops with each consecutive result obtained by the further examinations. excit. The results of the temperature method and the various non-temperature-based methods showed no contradictions in all cases.8 + Observed at the scene after turning the body from LP to LB 328 firmed. excit.0 Cooling Rigor maximum Electr. The period since death estimated from body cooling alone was reduced by more than 2 h in 23 cases by inclusion of the additional methods which led to total spans of the period since death of up to 1.0 7.5 h in 5 cases and up to 3. In 9 cases where the time of death could only be ascertained from the enquiries within a time range sometimes much greater than 4 h. oris m. Cooling Rigor no beginning Electr.: Estimation of time since death II 2.0 2.0 1. Rigor no beginning Electr. excit. excit.0 2.4 hpm). The reliability of the reduced period since death could be verified only in these cases. excit. All criteria of the non-temperature-based methods contributed to some degree to the final evaluation. orbic. Henssge et al. eye VI Lividity complete shifting+ Cooling 0. excit. The close interrelationship of all the findings can be clearly seen in most cases listed in Tables 2.0 5. excit.0 7.0 11. Reliability The interval since death could be determined by the police enquiries with certainty within a different range of time (accuracy) in 44 out of the 49 cases in which the non-temperature-based methods provided a reduction of the period since death as estimated by the temperature method. excit. eye IV Rigor re-establishment Cooling 11. 3. oris m.0 8. the period since death obtained by the compound method was not contradictory.0 1.8 7.0 7.0 52 51 1. In 1 case (number 23.2 7. The lower or upper limit was improved by the nontemperature-based methods in 28 cases (Table 3) and one of the limits obtained from body cooling was improved and the other limit was confirmed in 13 cases (Table 4).6 Electr. excit. eye NO V Lividity maximum 1.3 5. Table 6 lists the total number of improvements or confirmation of a limit of the period since death obtained from the non-temperature-based methods in relation to the limits obtained by the method of body cooling and in several cases one of the limits obtained by body cooling was improved or confirmed by more than one criterion. Fig.7 hpm) and from the criterion mydriasis of the iris after atropine application (10 hpm) were not in contradiction. In 7 cases the non-temperature-based methods provided both the best lower and upper limits of the final estimated period since death (Table 2) among which there were 3 cases in which the temperature-based method could not be used.6 Lividity confluence Electr. oris m.6 Electr.0 6. eye V 11.C. oris m.0 Idiomuscular contraction Electr.0 3.8 2.0 8. excit. 4 and 5. orbic. eye V 4.0 1. 2) fell totally within the reduced period estimated by the compound method in 28 cases. The non-temperature-based methods could not improve but at least confirme one of the limits obtained from the method of body cooling in 6 cases (Table 5). but in 14 cases the inclusion of non-temperaturebased methods did not provide additional information.0 11. orbic.0 6.0 3.8 Idiomuscular contraction Electr.1 4. Electr. orbic.0 7.0 7.5 h in a further 15 cases.2 3. Rigor re-establishment Cooling Electr.0 65 55 1. The period since death which was known within an accuracy of 4 h (35 cases. the upper limits of the time since death concluded from the nomogram method (11.

6 Electr.4 36 64 Table 6 Number of instances where a criterion of a non-temperature-based method led to improvement or confirmation of the period since death estimated from body cooling Lower hpm Upper hpm ? ? Cooling 26.0 15.4 26. eye NO III Cooling 3.0 3.0 3.1 20. oris m.0 14.3 Electr.8 27.0 2.3 6. The degree of accuracy is moderate but balanced by the short time period needed for the examination of the body at the scene. eye No mydriasis of iris to Mydriaticum No miosis of iris to acetylcholine Cooling 29.0 3. excit.0 5. In spite of its limited accuracy. oris m. excit.0 2. oris m.0 3. excit.: Estimation of time since death II 329 Table 5 Details of cases in which the non-temperature-based methods could not improve but at least confirm one limit of the period since death estimated from the temperature method Case 3 Estimation Ascertainment (limits) Lower limit Upper limit hpm Method/criterion hpm Method/criterion Rigor maximum Lividity maximum 11. eye II Mydriasis to atropine Cooling 5. eye No mydriasis of iris to Mydriaticum No miosis of iris to acetylcholine Cooling 24 2.0 3.0 Cooling 11.8 13. This may promote the acceptance of this method by police investigators at a scene when reliable results can be given in the early stages of an investigation. orbic.0 16.8 8. Henssge et al.0 9.0 8.7 Lividity no complete shifting No electr. excit. Cooling 17 5.1 No electr. excit. Electr.6 Method/criterion Improvement Confirmation Electrical excitability eye Electrical excitability orbicularis oris muscle Mydriasis of iris to atropine Mydriasis of iris to Mydriaticum Roche Miosis of iris to acetylcholine Rigor beginning Rigor maximum Rigor re-establishment Idiomuscular contraction Lividity beginning Lividity confluence Lividity maximum Lividity completely displaced by thumb pressure Lividity completely shifted after turning over Lividity incompletely shifted after turning over 33 6 9 4 1 5 3 6 1 0 6 9 3 5 3 18 5 3 1 2 4 0 7 1 0 3 3 0 5 1 Discussion Our field study demonstrates both the possibilities and limitations of estimating the period since death in the early post-mortem period by the compound method described. eye III Cooling 7.1 No electr. orbic. excit.0 14.1 18 5. eye NO IV Cooling 2. orbic.0 Electr. excit.0 9.0 No electr.1 8. Electr.9 Cooling 5.0 3. excit.5 Lividity positive thumb pressure Cooling Comments + Observed at the scene after turning the body from LP to LB 6. excit.1 Cooling 4.8 24.0 10. the estimated period since .0 15.5 3.0 5.C.0 Rigor maximum Lividity no complete shifting+ Lividity maximum 3.

It is recommended that conservative estimates are given if there is an occasional uncertainty to differentiate between reaction grades II/III or IV/V and in these cases the grade which results in the wider range for the time since death should be used. because the estimation of time limits was largely independent of the ambient conditions.330 Fig. Henssge et al. The data obtained from this field study clearly demonstrate that the use of the non-temperature-based methods can lead to a considerable improvement of the results of the temperature-based nomogram method without loss of reliability. There are no reports of field studies for the non-temperature-based methods used and which are of practical use at a scene. 6] and combined with the temperature-based nomogram method on 32 bodies in casework [3]. The lower and upper limits of the time since death estimated from non-temperature-based criteria given in the literature (Table 1) were not re-examined here with the exception of the electrical excitability of the facial muscles [5.: Estimation of time since death II which provides both a lower and an upper limit of the period since death with the exception of reaction grades 0 and VI. The limits of the time since death used are based on the limits of variation resulting from the examination of 5765 eyes from 3979 corpses [4]. The extraordinarily small range of the period since death provided by the lack of a reaction of the iris to acetycholine in case 48 (Table 3) was not used as a precautionary measure to avoid an unreliable estimation. is much greater than that of the other non-temperature-based methods (Table 3). this result did not contradict the value obtained from the police investigation. This may contribute to the greater effect of this method compared with the criteria of the other non-temperature-based methods which merely provide either a lower or an upper limit of the period since death. This usefulness is evident in cases where the temperature method could not be used (as in cases 31. 2 Cases where the period of death was known to within 4 h (open bars) compared to the period since death estimated by the compound method (dotted bars) and by the temperature-based method (solid bars) death could be used to direct the investigative efforts in a number of cases (see results of part I [1]). To examine the reactability of the iris to subconjuctival injection of chemicals is not a common procedure but proved to be valuable in some cases. This method is the only non-temperature-based method C. Our study confirms these results. 33. The 95% limits of confidence [7] used for the data on 447 bodies [4] were re-examined on 30 bodies [5. 38 and 45). The efficiency of the method of electrical excitability of facial muscles stimulated by standardized impulses via electrodes inserted into the eyebrow. A slight re-establishment of rigor should not be considered for the estimation if there is an uncertainty as to . Nevertheless. 6].

Palm W (1960) Über die Todeszeitbestimmung in den ersten 10 Stunden. Bolt J. Knight B (1995) Practical casework. Berl Med 18: 577–582 9. the only case of a contradiction between the estimated and known period since death (case 23.C. Madea B. and Table 1 in part I [1] of this paper for cases 8. I Rectal temperature time of death nomogram. 38. In this case the broken rigor was slightly reestablished 9. In this respect. Henssge et al. Gallenkemper E (1988) Death time estimation in case work II. Hoppe B. Mallach HJ (1964) Zur Frage der Todeszeitbestimmung.: Estimation of time since death II whether the rigor was broken completely or not. Freislederer A. Int J Legal Med 113 : 303–319 2. Humboldt-Universität Berlin 8. Forensic Sci Int 39: 77–87 3. Akademie Dresden 5. London. 40. Göhler W (eds) Forensische Medizin. pp 239–252 4. Table 3) demonstrates that the upper limit of 8 h [8] is not the maximum of the time since death in which the completely broken rigor can be slightly reestablished. Prokop O (1975) Supravitale Erscheinungen. MD thesis. Henssge C. the estimation of the period since death by the compound method at the scene is closely related to the findings at autopsy. Madea B. Med. Haffner HT. The usefulness and reliability of the criteria of lividity and rigor are generally neglected because there is a very wide variation. Klein A. Klein S (1978) Die Todeszeitbestimmung am menschlichen Auge. it should be emphasized that the period since death estimated by the compound method is not necessarily identical with the time when a fatal injury was inflicted (see Table 3 for case 21.4 h post-mortem. Nevertheless. In: Prokop O. Dotzauer G (1958) Idiomuskulärer Wulst und postmortale Blutung. Z Arztl Fortbild (Jena) 54: 734–737 11. Henssge C (1982) Methoden zur Bestimmung der Todeszeit. Apart from this exception. 331 References 1. 45. i. Integration of different methods. our study demonstrates that these criteria can sometimes be useful and reliable if the limits of variation [8] only are used. 66). Schneider V (2000) Experiences with a compound method for estimation of the time since death in practical casework at the scene. Volk und Gesundheit. Henssge C (1990) Electrical excitability of skeletal muscle postmortem on casework. Finally. In: Knight B (ed) The estimation of the time since death in the early postmortem period. Henssge C. 57. histological and toxicological examinations by forensic pathologists. MD Thesis. 20. Arnold. In: Knight B (ed) The estimation of the time since death in the early postmortem period. Arnold. Althaus L. Henssge CA. Berlin. and whether there was a very slight re-establishment or not (case 12). Madea B (1995) Postmortem electrical excitability of skeletal muscle in casework. Dtsch Z Gerichtl Med 46: 761–771 . London. Madea B. Forensic Sci Int 47: 207–227 6.e. pp 181–183 7. Henssge C. Powassilew J. pp 16–27 10.