Flies: the myths, the science and the history

Does the idea of examining flies and decomposing material make you squeamish, or excited? If like Dr Paola Magni, you’re not afraid of getting your hands dirty, studying flies could help you uncover crucial clues in unsolved murders and other crimes.

Dr Magni is a lecturer in forensic science at Murdoch and has worked in the field as an international forensics expert for more than 10 years. In her home country of Italy, Dr Magni was involved as an expert forensic witness in several cases of suspicious death and animal cruelty. In fact, Dr Magni had such in-depth knowledge about the role of insects in crime scenes that she was hired as part of the Italian CSI television show to help make the fictional series as technically accurate as possible.

Since relocating to Australia, her expertise has also been drawn upon for other cases here on our home soil. Dr Magni’s key focus is on the application of natural sciences to crime scene investigation especially in the area of entomology, the scientific study of insects.

While most of us bat away or curse the common housefly, Dr Magni’s curiosity for the secrets they hold could have you seeing them in a whole new light.

As sharks can sense the presence of a few drops of blood in a large amount of water, a fly can detect the presence of a dead body within few minutes after death and from a distance.

“Flies will reach the body, lay their offspring and while the adult will fly away, maggots will feed on the body. Many think maggots only destroy evidence but for a forensic entomologist maggots are precious clues. They are keepers of pivotal information useful for reconstructing a crime scene, like time since death, the movements of the body, the presence of drugs and foreign DNA,” says Dr Magni.

If hearing Dr Magni talk about these fascinating little, buzzing creatures makes you excited to learn more, check out our courses in forensics.
Posted on:

7 Mar 2019

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