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30 October, 2019 - 12:34 By Kate Sweeney

New insect database to help with forensic investigations

Researchers at The University of Cranfield are using blowflies and other insects to develop a database that will provide a complementary method of estimating time since death in forensic investigations.

The database – thought to be the first of its kind in the world – uses chemical profiles from the waxy coating on the outside of insects and will provide a library for forensic entomologists to refer to when investigating cases.

Forensic pathologists can give an accurate post-mortem interval estimate up to 72 hours after death. 

After this, forensic entomologists are often called to crime scenes and use the age of insects that inhabit decomposing remains to give a more accurate indication of how long the person has been deceased. 

Dr Hannah Moore, Lecturer at Cranfield Forensic Institute, said: “Knowing how long someone has been dead, particularly in the case of murder, is vital in proving the innocence or guilt of suspects. 

“Insects can also tell us if the person consumed drugs, if their body was moved or whether it has been frozen – they’re the most reliable witnesses in many cases.”

The project will also examine geographical differences within the same species across different climates to model the stability of the CHC samples, which are taken from the larvae of the insects. 

It is estimated that the database will take five years to complete and will include all forensically important species.

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