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
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.
INTERESTING CONNECTED INFORMATION
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