Dead pigs used in Edmonton animal scavenging study will help improve human remains investigations: Police, forensic expert

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Pig carcasses will be used at two separate Edmonton locations to determine how animal scavenging disperses human remains, say police, partnering on the project with a world-renowned forensic expert.

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The city police canine unit and Dr. Shari Forbes, Canada 150 Research Chair in Forensic Thanatology at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières and director of the first human taphonomy facility in Canada, will launch the study Aug. 11.

“Forensic taphonomy studies all agents that affect human remains between death and discovery,” said Forbes in a Tuesday police news release. “Namely, we look at the physical and chemical processes of death, decomposition, and how this knowledge applies to detector dogs.”

Staff Sgt. Paul Shafer with the canine unit said the project will help police improve searches for human remains “which ultimately allows us to recover the deceased, gather evidence for our investigations and hopefully, bring some degree of resolution to the families of the deceased.”

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The completion date of the study will be determined by the progress at each research site. The canine unit will then conduct a search training day to locate as much of the scavenged remains as possible.

Forbes, who has conducted similar studies with police in Ontario, is also giving an educational presentation to Edmonton officers, including search managers, members of the homicide section, forensic identification services and the missing persons unit.

The research by Forbes, formerly an Australian Research Council Future Fellow (2012-2016) in the Centre for Forensic Science at the University of Technology Sydney, Australia, helps police canine units enhance training for cadaver-detection dogs. Her expertise is also used to assist with locating and recovering buried or concealed evidence, including drugs, explosives, weapons, and money.

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