Why NOT to use Quicklime to Dispose of a Corpse

Posted: December 25, 2005 in CORPSE DISPOSAL
OH MY GOD! Someone has just been murdered. Its up to you to get rid of the body quickly.
O.K., You decide on burying it.  What will you need?
1.Tarpaulin? – check
2.Rope?       – check
3.Spade?     – check
4.Gloves?    – check
5.Quicklime?- NOOOOOO!!!
Too many people have copied the movies and ultimately paid with their lives.
 Right  , today we will be talking about Quicklime and other Lime type stuff thats used in films to supposedly ‘Speed up’ the decomposition of a body.But as we know films are full of crap.
Contrary to the legend that used to recur with pathetic regularity in tales of murder, the truth is that when a body is buried in Quicklime which is then slaked with water, instead of the whole body instantly becoming a fizzing mass of dissolving flesh, the reality is much different.
 But before I get into all that, I shall give you some more info on all the types which lime can come in.
For all practical purposes there are three states in which lime ( CaO ) is commonly encountered.
1. QUICKLIME              = Produced by strongly heating limestone to form CalciumOxide
                                      :  It has the appearance of irregular white lumps
2. SLAKED LIME          = Calcium Hydroxide
                                    :  This chemical is the product of Quicklime + Water, its a dry white powder
3. CHLORINATED LIME  = This is the product of the action of chlorine gas on slaked lime
                                            :  At one time it was widely used as a disinfectant
O.k. When a body is buried in quicklime which is then slaked with water, only a small degree of superficial ‘Burning’ will result, and the intense heat generated by the chemical reaction will simply dry out, or ‘mummify’ a certain amount of the body tissue.
   When slaking occurs gradually by absorbing the water from the body itself or from the surrounding soil, there will again be parcial desiccation (drying out) of the tissues.
In both of these instances the effect will be to prevent putrefaction ( something that no murderer wants, especially if trying to dispose of a corpse!) and effectively ‘preserve’ the body against external decomposing agents which would have been at work if quicklime was not used.
  In the case of Chlorinated lime, the effect is much the same, though it is used more often because of its disinfectant properties which serve to mask effectively the stench of decomposing flesh.
INFORMATION : Lime on Dead Flesh
The first forensic scientist to investigate systematically the effects of different forms of Lime on dead flesh was an ALFRED LUCAS. Lucas obtained the results by using Pigeons, dead and plucked but otherwise left intact and buried in boxes on the roof of his Cairo laboratory in the hot month of July.
  The results, according to Lucas’s report were that, ”First, the lime is a preservative, and second, that the act of slaking lime in contact with a dead body, whether this is brought on gradually or done suddenly, does not, in any case destroy the body.”
When Henry Wainwright shot an ‘inconvenient’ mistress in London in 1874. He interred her remains packed in a half-weight of Chlorinated lime and stored it in his Whitechapel workshop. A year went past until he had to move the packages from the premises of get found out. As he was attempting to move the packages, his landlord appeared and offered to give him a hand with the hand tied packages down the stairs and in to the boot of the car, trying not to seem suspicious Wainwright agreed and told the landlord to mind the parcels while he went out to open the boot. By this time the landlord had noticed a liquid leaking from one of the parcels and so had a peek inside one of them. To his horror the package contained a human arm and hand attached,he quickly covered it up again before Wainwright came back. He was then able to go straight to the police who arrested Wainwright trying to dispose of the remains elsewhere.
  So well did the lime preserve poor Harriet Lanes (Her name) corpse that even one year later the physicians were able to prove her identity by a triumphant twelve points of similarity; twelve points that sent Wainwright straight to the gallows.
Here is Oscar Wildes so called ‘description’ of the fate of the recently executed corpse of Trooper Charles Woodridge as it lies in its coffin packed with quicklime:
And all the time the burning lime
Eats flesh and bone away
It eats the brittle bone by night
And the soft flesh by day
It eats the flesh and bones by turns
But it eats the heart away
The Ballard of Reading Gaol – Oscar Wilde 1898
  1. dean says:

    your blog cheered me up thanksmuch lovea xmas\’less mr cluase

  2. Unknown says:

    Hey Sarah, have a happy New Year..likin the red hair, btwAll the best, Sam xo

  3. Anthony says:

    I know a man who used an awful lot of lime in an area he had just filled with concrete. I ask him why and he told me it stopped rats from entering the building. The lime burned their feet. True or is there a body there?

    • the7thwreck says:

      I doubt there is a body. As you stated he used alot of lime ‘in an area he had just filled with concrete’, so instead of the lime being in contact with the body and doing its decomposing job, its on top of freshly laid concrete. So no, its very unlikely there is a body…..and if you look it up, alot of people use lime as a natural pesticide on plants and even spread it around an area which they wish to keep rodent free.

  4. Ami G says:

    …down the stairs and in to the boot of the car.
    Seriously? In 1875?

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  8. […] always use in the movies?” We’ve already been over this, but it’s called quicklime, and you absolutely do not want to use that while disposing the body. While doing a fantastic job of covering odors, quicklime […]

  9. Midknight says:

    I smell sticky wet brown stuff and it’s damn sure not shoe polish.

    • Rahul Shenoy says:

      No, the story is true. It just didn’t involve any automobile, and it wasn’t his landlord that dropped the dime. It was a fellow brushmaker unwittingly assisting the Wainwright brothers who discovered the grisly contents and alerted police.

  10. Michael Slater says:

    There were no automobiles (with or without boots) in 1874

  11. Rich says:

    Hi, I have been looking at alternative methods of heating the home and
    Heard that, quick lime has a massive reaction when combined with water,
    Would you have any information on
    Length of reaction for a given amount of water and what temperature would you expect to be produced, like the site. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

  12. E V Eetlesby says:

    Ballad, not ballard

  13. jason says:

    Maybe movies use lime because they hope the moronic people that might get any ideas of disposing bodies will get caught by preserving the body…

  14. […] Here’s an interesting article (no claims on validity) of why lime shouldn’t be used to dissolve a corpse. […]

  15. Geo says:

    A most interesting case study of Wainwrights relocation of his mistresses body. Except that it would have been difficult to fit a body in the boot of his car as described. In 1875 when he moved the body there was only one car in existence. That was a prototype owned by the inventor Mr Marcus. This was nothing more than a tiny power unit mounted on a push cart. There was a very few steam powered locos too but these also had no boot. Ten years later Benz created the first commercially available car. But this also had no boot as it was just a seat mounted on top of a cart agasla

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