identification of the deceased


Personal property found on or with the deceased may be of assistance in supporting a presumptive identification, although it should be remembered that people may be wearing clothing or jewellery belonging to someone else! Similarly, documents, such as driver’s licence etc (that have survived the fire!) may not belong to the deceased.

If there is only limited fire damage to the body, it may be possible to obtain a visual identification of the deceased; facial features may become distorted by heat/ fire, and such identification may not be reliable or desirable.


Other personal characteristics include;

  • Height/ weight - although there may be heat-related shortening and weight loss (evaporation)
  • Hair colour/ length
  • Eye colour
  • Skin colour/ tattoos
  • Scars
  • Surgical implants etc
  • Fingerprints
  • DNA

When there is marked fire damage to the face, dental identification may be most appropriate; although tooth enamel can survive extremes of heat, it may become friable and in such cases, the pathologist can preserve the teeth prior to an odontological examination by spraying them with hair lacquer/spray. If the jaws have not survived the fire, the x-ray appearances of the frontal sinuses may be used for comparison with ante mortem skull x-rays.

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