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Forensic Sci Int. 2003 Oct 14;137(1):60-6.

Homicidal and suicidal ligature strangulation--a comparison of the post-mortem findings.

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Department of Forensic Medicine, University Hospital Benjamin Franklin, Free University of Berlin, Hittorfstr 18, D-14195 Berlin, Germany.


Suicides by ligature strangulation are rare events. In Berlin (3.5 million inhabitants; ca. 500 suicides per year) approximately one case per year occurs. Here, we present the main findings of 19 cases investigated between 1978 and 1998, compared to 47 cases of homicidal ligature strangulation. Two of the 19 suicidal victims had single fractures of the upper thyroid horns and one victim a fracture of a lower thyroid horn; other types of laryngohyoid injuries were not observed. In the homicidal series, the laryngohyoid structures were unaffected in 26 cases (12 of these victims were children or adolescents), single thyroid horn fractures were present in three cases and more significant injuries in 18 cases. Macroscopic bleedings of the laryngeal muscles were found in 12 victims of the homicidal group and in none of the suicidal. Bleedings in the neck muscles seldom occurred in suicides. According to these findings, the laryngohyoid injuries can be helpful in the differentiation of suicide from homicide, if more than a single thyroid horn fracture or a laryngeal soft tissue trauma is present.

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