Computer simulation that creates 3D model of a dead body and surrounding scene can determine time of death down to MINUTES instead of hours by showing how body temperature has dropped

  • Scientist developed a computer model to determine a person’s time of death 
  • They fed the model data such as the victim’s skin, body size, position, clothing
  • The team also added information about the air surrounding the body 
  • The model determined no more than 38 minutes from their time of death 
  • The   ‘gold standard’ produces results that are 3-7 hours within the time of death 

Forensic scientists work tirelessly to determine a murder victim’s time of death in order to aid law enforcement in reconstructing events that occurred during the horrific crime.

Experts typically use temperature measurements, but a new model could provide even more accurate details of the unlawful act.

Scientists are developing 3D computer simulations of dead bodies that pulls data from the victim’s skin, body size, position, clothing and air temperature surrounding them.

The model then calculates postmortem body cooling, allowing scientists to determine no more than 38 minutes from their time of death – the gold standard has a window of three to seven hours.

Scientists are developing 3D computer simulations of dead bodies that pulls data from the victim’s skin, body size, position, clothing and air temperature surrounding them. The model then calculates postmortem body cooling, allowing scientists to determine no more than 38 minutes from their time of death

The model was created by a team at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, as first reported on by NewScientist.

The team analyzed four dead bodies that were donated to research, which had been determined with a time of death ranging from five to 50 hours.

To test the model’s accuracy, researchers added ‘body posture, stature, and composition as well as (time-dependent) environmental variables such as contact surface, (partial) submersion in water, and (partial) coverage by clothes are all readily integrated in our model (including environmental changes before and after discovery of the body),’ they shared in a study published in ScienceAdvances.

The results were within 38 minutes of the exact time since death, which is more precise compared to the three to seven hours produced by the standard that relies on measurements of rectal body temperature.

Maurice Aalders, who developed the simulation model, told NewScientist: ‘The next step now is to bring it to the crime scenes.’ He also noted that the technology will be tested in the field, but will not be used as evidence in court at this time

The standard process, known as Henssge’s model, uses body decay and other exponents including the victim’s weight and surface contact.

And although it is the ‘gold standard’ researchers note ‘it is subject to limitations.’

‘The model uses a discretized three-dimensional representation of the body and its surroundings to calculate the heat exchange between the involved materials,’ reads the study describing the new model.

‘By repeating this calculation for consecutive time intervals, the change in body temperature can be simulated.

The sum of the necessary computational repetitions required to reach a location-specific measured reference temperature then corresponds to the numerically reconstructed PMI (postmortem interval).’

Maurice Aalders, who developed the simulation model, told NewScientist: ‘The next step now is to bring it to the crime scenes.’

He also noted that the technology will be tested in the field, but will not be used as evidence in court at this time.

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