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Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2004 Mar;25(1):83-6.

Features characteristic of homicide in cases of complete decapitation.

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Institute of Legal Medicine, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany.


Four cases of complete decapitation connected to homicidal acts are presented. In 3 cases, decapitation was inflicted postmortem after killing the victim. The motives for decapitation were considered defensive, aggressive, and a possible combination of the 2 in one case each. In one case, decapitation was a vital injury and accounted for death. In this case, an offensive motive for mutilation was suspected. The combination of death scene findings and autopsy results will in most cases distinguish between homicidal and other modes of death.

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