Forensic expert to share insight with global audience

Insects are an incredibly accurate indication of what has occurred at a crime scene, according to Murdoch lecturer in forensic science, Dr Paola Magni.

Dr Magni uses bugs to help solve crimes and said a variety of common insects like flies, maggots and beetles can give forensic investigators crucial information about when, where, how and even who committed the crime.

“If well analysed, a little insect could represent the key piece in the puzzle of the investigation,” Dr Magni said. “Even if at first flies all look the same, different species live in different environments.

“If the species of bugs collected on a body do not relate to the environment where the body has been found, it’s good grounds to infer that the body was moved from a primary crime scene (where the crime happened) to a secondary crime scene (where the body was found).

“Fly maggots feed on the dead body, and in a very short amount of time can make essential evidence disappear. No evidence, no solution.”

Dr Magni, who is a forensic entomologist, has been chosen to showcase her investigative work and share her thoughts with a global audience through the TedX Fremantle on September 16. She is one of 10 creative thinkers presenting at the special ‘Perception vs Reality’ event.

TEDx talks have a global audience of 10 million on YouTube, and Dr Magni will invite international viewers into her world, where all species of bugs are key tools for crime scene investigators.

Flies and other insects the keepers of secrets

“The forensic entomologist is able to read the biological key left by the insects at the crime scene,” Dr Magni said. “For us, insects are not thieves of evidence, but keepers of secrets after death.”

“Insects feeding on a body at a crime scene are able to retain information about drugs or toxins that the subject consumed in life, maybe the drugs used as poison or that caused a deadly overdose.” she said.

“Therefore, flies can sometimes provide us with important information regarding the causes or the circumstances of death. This, together with the timeframe of the events, are the most important information for a correct crime scene reconstruction”.

Dr Magni said that even though her job as a forensic entomologist can sound gross to many, her results help to complete the picture of the investigation, often bringing a successful outcome to a case. She finds the sense of closure that her work can brings for families of victims very fulfilling.

“Some entomologists work with bees and are surrounded by flowers,” Dr Magni said. “I work with decomposing bodies, and it can be pretty confronting, I cannot deny that, but from the scientific point of view it’s extremely interesting.

“Being able to help in criminal cases allows the society to avoid miscarriages of justice.”

During her TEDx presentation Dr Magni will explore the controversial role of flies throughout history, and will provide the audience with evidence that flies are extremely beneficial to society, despite their nasty look.

Posted on:

10 Sep 2018



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