Let me set the record straight and tell you what it’s really like to be at an autopsy and what perils await us CSI’s. We are used to being in this environment but sometimes even we can be squeamish!
The reality is that if you die in the warm weather or in your house with the heating on and you aren’t found for a while the result is not going to be pleasant. It’s a fact! You will swell up, turn a different colour and you will smell horrendous! The stench of a dead person is very unique and not one you will ever forget. It lingers in your clothes, your hair and your nose. And you can definitely still smell the death hours later even after having a shower or three. If being inflicted with this stench of death isn’t quite enough to turn your stomach there will be other things going on that definitely will!
There will most definitely be flies everywhere, clinging to the windows trying to escape, buzzing around your head. If you think about it, you already know what they have been feasting on so you definitely don't want them touching you! Too late, one's hit you in the face! The worst part for me is that flies come hand in hand with a tonne of maggots. Their stench along with the death stench is sometimes unbearable. They won't just be where the body is, oh no, the flies will have laid their eggs all over the place. As you walk through the scene (thankfully wearing 'overshoes') you will be crunching on the crusty ones and squishing the hatched ones before they grow wings to fly at your face!
When you can smell death from outside you know the smell inside is going to make your eyes water - literally!
And if that isn’t enough of a horror for you, sometimes your own dog has decided to have a nibble at you! Genuinely! Another reason I refuse to have a dog....in case it eats me when I die! Its a true fact (not fake news), I've known it to happen more than once!
My Illustrious Leader and I turned up at one such scene in the middle of the night. Obviously someone has died, we dont get called out of our beds for a criminal damage! It may be the night time now but the recent weather has been warm and no-one has seen this person for days. True to form the body is decomposing - gladly not to the maggot stage today, but there are other issues that are more cause for concern here. I was almost wishing for maggots!
I won't be going into all the details of how this person has died, you can read many a website on crime scenes, the background and who-dunnit. I'm going to be giving you an insight into what 'we' as Crime Scene Investigators have to do when we get to such a scene, the stuff they don't show on CSI Miami!
So the scenario is we have a dead body on the sofa, there is blood everywhere, literally everywhere in the room we are in. There may not be maggots yet but the body is not in good nick. With the heating on full and the length of time they have been there for they have swollen up with the gases being created inside them. The issue facing me that is troubling is not the stench of death, although it's really bad but it pales in to insignificance. What is troubling me is that where the body has swollen it has created several weak spots in the skin that look like ready to burst volcanoes and a few of these areas had actually burst! So there is 'death fluid' (as I shall name it) coming out of the body combining with the blood!! Seeing my issue??
If you are not understanding why apart from the smell of death this scene is troubling me, let me explain. Our job as CSI's is simple. Record the scene by photographing it, collect evidence of crime to work out who has committed it. And in this case, body retrieval. The autopsy isn't going to be taking place on the sofa is it! Nope, we need to get the body to the morgue for examination. And that means lifting it. By hand. There is no little 'body lifting' crane we wheel in to do this for us clearly! Although that sounds like a great idea to me!
So we have the smell of death, the blood and the oozing; 'death fluid'! Sounds lovely doesn't it! The instant I walked in to that house my thought was "oh god I have to touch that"!!! Gross!! I decided I needed to be somewhere else for a bit so off I went to get my camera to photograph the scene. Maybe a magic fairy will have appeared and placed the body in a body bag for me by the time I've finished??? I took my time, it was a fairly big house and carnage was everywhere.
A short while later.......... My prayers had been answered! The 'fairies' had arrived!!!! Two very keen CSI's had just come on duty, seen the job on the list and come to offer assistance. They were exceptionally new & keen, so who was I to take this golden opportunity/experience away from them. They were already suited up after all, ready to get stuck in! Fill your boots little CSI's!! I will stay nice and clean with my camera thankyou very much! Feel free to get involved (and covered) in the body fluids of death! I’ve touched enough of them to last a life time! And they did!
The body was slowly but successfully peeled away from the sofa it had welded itself to with its own death juice and was now safely inside the bag. The CSI's & my Illustrious Leader looked like they had had a bit of a wrestle with the corpse though as their suits were not longer white! More a yellow, red, brown colour now - lovely! Might catch on?
More than happy that by now that I would not be smelling like a dead person I finished up and went to wait for the Illustrious Leader in the van.
As my Illustrious Leader & I had travelled together, it was only polite to give them a lift back. Although little did I know that when they got in I would wish we had come in separate vans! As soon as they sat in the passenger seat and closed the door I smelt it. Unmistakably the smell of death! “You smell like a dead person” I said, gagging. I thought I'd left that smell back at the scene, now it seems like I would have to travel back to the office with it surrounding me - for 45 long minutes!!
Driving was fine while we had the windows open, but the route back involved 1 million traffic lights, all on red. Every time we stopped the breeze would go and the stench would rise up!
God it was awful, really strong just like I was conveying the corpse back with me, not my Leader! We worked out that it must be on their boot lace, the heavy duty overshoe hadn’t quite covered enough boot. There must have been a gap between the white suit and the shoe cover. It appears that 'death fluid' had taken advantage of this and covered the shoe!!! Heave!!
Just like CSI Miami yeah???
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As much as I love my job, I love food more. I have a strong stomach for the grim visions of death I see on a weekly basis. Very essential in my job I’m sure you will agree! But there are still times when the sights and smells of a particular scene get to me and I lose my appetite – tragic!! And the main event that puts me off my dinner is when I attend an autopsy.
I have created especially for you a list of the 9 most unpleasant exhibits that I personally hate to pick up. They definately do not show this on CSI Miami, but I can assure you it’s all true. You may never complain about your day job again once you have got to the bottom.
Enjoy……..you probably won’t though!