Exhumation following incorrect identification. A case report

Phillips V.M. ; Thompson I.O.C. (1992)


The exhumation of two victims of a light aircraft accident was performed in February 1991 at Oudtshoorn, Cape. The exhumation was ordered by the magistrate on request of the parents of one of the victims who suspected that their son had been wrongly identified at the postmortem examination. At the pre-burial autopsy all the victims were positively identified, but the identity of two of the victims was subsequently reconsidered and reversed because one of them wore a silver bracelet. Burial then took place. The exhumation was ordered one month after the accident at which stage the bodies were in an advanced state of decomposition. Oral autopsies were performed on each of the victims, the jaws were radiographed and postmortem dental records drawn up. Dental records were obtained from the dentists who treated them and the information from these records was used to draw up ante-mortem dental records. A comparison between the postmortem and ante-mortem records showed that the victims were incorrectly identified and reburial in the correct graves was subsequently carried out. This case again emphasises the importance of dental identification in cases of severe burning, mutilation or decomposition in order to avoid mistaken identity and incorrect burial in the future.

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