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J Forensic Sci. 2011 May;56(3):810-2. doi: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2011.01719.x. Epub 2011 Mar 1.

A case of suicidal suffocation simulating homicide.

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Institute of Legal Medicine, University of Cagliari, Via Università 40, 09124 Cagliari, Italy.


This case concerns an unusual suicidal plastic bag suffocation. An elderly white man was found dead and partially disrobed in his apartment lying supine on a sofa with a plastic bag closed by a rope over the head and the upper and lower extremities tightly tied with two other ropes, the end of both arranged into slipknots (self-rescue mechanism). Police investigations found no pornography in the apartment, and circumstantial data alleged no psychiatric disorders or suicidal intentions. The autopsy excluded signs of struggle and sexual intercourse as well as any type of injury or physical illness. Chemical analyses on the peripheral blood excluded acute drugs and/or alcohol intoxication. A differential diagnosis of the manner of death was performed, including scenarios of accidental autoerotic asphyxiation, homicide during either sexual activity or ritualistic, elderly suicide. The collected data most strongly supported the hypothesis of a suicidal asphyxiation simulating homicide to devolve a life insurance to the victim's sons because of economic difficulties.

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