Discovering Decimation, Decomposition, Death and Disaster

One thing I’ve noticed is that few crime writers focus on the unfortunate witnesses who, whilst out minding their own business, stumble across a nasty corpse in various stages of decomposition. How nasty. The shock of realizing mangled remains actually belong to a human being. You would think there is an emotional  aftermath after all, how does a person process a grisly sight, and maybe odour, he or she will never forget? However it would appear that not everyone is shocked, devastated, or even concerned. Different strokes, I guess. Some interesting facts claim that a dead body can appear quite waxy, so these remains are less traumatizing than those that are dismembered or in various stages of decomposition. While, for some, the horror lasts a few seconds, others are haunted for years.

Trevor Saunders – discovered Gemma Adams – 1st Victim of the Ipswich Serial Killer
I noticed something protruding from the water. I brushed some dirt away and thought it may be a vict102-5332762mannequin. I touched the shape; it was freezing cold. I wondered if it was a human being, but I couldn’t see a head. I realised I had found a dead body. I now think of her as Gemma [Adams]. The body was face down, with the arms outstretched and bent at the elbows. It had been in the water for at least two weeks, which had slowed down decomposition, and I am grateful for that. Her face was on its side, her eyes were half-open. She just looked like a normal person. When I lifted away the debris, a small globule of dried blood drifted past. That really stuck in my mind.

I dialled 999 and then called my boss. The police came in 15 minutes. I pointed to where I had found the body and they asked me to stay away while they got up to their knees in mud to reach her. Then the circus started. There must have been at least half a dozen police cars, plus motorbikes and the press. They set up a portable toilet and a catering van. I was there all day. I was the only member of the public allowed at the spot, because I had to show people around the lakes and the area. The following night I had a dream. I was at the brook and Gemma was there. She turned to me and said, “Thank you.” I’m a very emotional person. I couldn’t help thinking over and over, “What makes a person do something like that?” When it came close to the first anniversary, I bought Gemma a buddleia and planted it in her name by the brook. I visit every day. I feel like I know her; she’s part of my life. It’s as though she is a friend, a very strong bond. 

Ken Jiggins – Discovered the Bodies in the Essex Boys Murders

It was a freezing cold morning in December 1995 and I had gone to help my friend Pete feed the boybirds at his farm in Essex. We were driving along a track when we saw a parked Range Rover, and. I went to see if it could be moved because it was blocking access to the fields. As I came closer, I saw two men in the front and thought, “Bloody hell, they aren’t half big.” The driver had one hand on the wheel and one on the gear lever, and the passenger was looking out the front with a mobile phone in his hand. From the nose up they looked normal. But the lower halves of their faces were shot off, flesh and blood hanging down like beards.

I banged on the window and got no response, and I thought, “Oh Christ!” I said to Pete, “They’ve both been shot and they’re both dead.” Pete came over, looked and said, “There’s one in the back as well.” I called the police and they arrived shortly afterwards. While they were examining the scene, we went to feed the pheasants. We weren’t in shock. I didn’t even feel a rush of adrenaline. We had done our duty, having stumbled across something that had nothing to do with us. At the time the IRA were quite lively, and we didn’t know if it was a contract killing, but I wasn’t going to get my fingerprints on the motor. We could have been in the frame for it because we were there and we owned shotguns. It’s strange because the experience lasts only a few seconds. The police offered me counselling, but I’d seen pictures of dead bodies in the paper. Although I wouldn’t want to experience that again, it’s not like finding a child or a woman. That would have affected me, as it would anyone. 

John Tucker – Discovered a Drowned Woman’s Body in a River

It was 7am, a crisp, autumnal day in 2008, and I was walking my dogs about two miles from drowned_woman_noCarmarthen. I was heading along an old railway line that runs parallel to a river, and the water was flowing swiftly. Then I saw it: the body of a woman in shallow water, partially clothed. I couldn’t see if she had been injured, because I didn’t want to get too close – I was afraid of contaminating the area. Initially I felt a sense of inquisitiveness and excitement. I didn’t feel any real panic when I realised I was in the company of a dead body, but I did feel an adrenaline rush. I had a couple of minutes to weigh up exactly what I had discovered, and how she might have got there, before I called the police. 

I had no sense of fear, but felt sorrow for the individual and her family, and for the futility of it all. After I had dealt with the police, I felt undertones of guilt, but I don’t know why. I don’t think I suffered any post-incident stress. I gave evidence at the inquest, and that brought back memories of discovering her, but perhaps the formality of the day suppressed the emotional aspects. The woman died as a result of drowning, and the coroner recorded an open verdict, saying there was not enough evidence to suggest suicide. 

Abigail Stepnitz – Found a Head in a Bin in San Francisco
One sunny day in March 2005 I was asked to accompany some colleagues on a trip to the park with a group of pre-school kids. I heard rattling noises coming from a trash can and decided to look inside in case a person was trapped in there. It was probably just rats, I thought. But as I peered in I saw a severed head perched on a pile of rotting food. My first thought was, “We can’t let the kids walk back this way.” I was terrified at the thought that the rest of the body – or, indeed, the murderer – might be around somewhere. 

HeadIt was a man’s face, lying on its side, its long blond hair mingling with the rotting chicken, sour milk and nappies. I couldn’t tell if he had been beaten to death because, like him, most homeless people in that area have cuts and bruises on their faces, and teeth that are falling out. I said something like, “Jesus fucking Christ” and put the lid down. I was just a couple of steps from the sidewalk and I ran on to it. I panicked. I called the police, and warned the childcare centre not to take the kids anywhere near the area. These cops don’t care – they police a park where the popular way of getting rid of homeless people is to douse them in gasoline and set them on fire. I never found out who he was, and if I were to make a list of my 10 worst experiences, this probably wouldn’t be on it. In some ways, it is actually more distressing to step over the people still suffering on those streets, the ones you see lying in their own blood.

I found a funny site detailing the 12 strangest body-discovery stories in the author’s opinion. Personally, I agree with quite a few. This article includes videos about the cases I’ve selected to list here. They’re pretty cool so I suggest you click on the link.

Woman found dead in her cubicle, one day later. This one kills me (pun). Even the author snickered there must be a Dilbert comic for this discovery.

Ticket Master
A corpse was ticketed by parking police 7 times before a passerby realized he was dead. You just knew parking police were a spiteful bunch.

Frozen Body Found Dead in Elevator Shaft
This poor man was in this condition for at least 3 days before anyone alerted police to his untimely demise. There was no information on how the poor bugger got trapped in the elevator. Anyone reading this with an elevator phobia has now discovered yet another reason to fear elevators. Sorry.

Naked Couple Found Dead at the Base of a Tall Building
The couple appear to have fallen from a roof from a building, after they’d helped each other up. A witness repeated the victims’ final words. “She said, “I hope I don’t fall.” He said, “You ain’t gonna fall.” Never trust a naked man’s promises.

Boy Found Dead Hanging on a School Restroom Hook
10-year-old Aquan Lewis was found hanging on a hook in Oakton Elementary School, in Chicago. The coroner actually labelled this case a suicide, possibly due to bullying. The poor little boy had a history of self-harm. One of the creepier facts is that Aquan was hanging in the restroom for quite a length of time. One person commented, “how does that happen?” How does any of it happen?
This is a series of Youtube reports. I’m skeptical about a number of them, however they make for interesting viewing.

Ohiopyle_hiking_trailThe Lost Hikers
Two young men who were hiking in a woods during what appears to be the summertime, found themselves quite lost. One hiker was videotaping their disoriented attempt to re-trace their steps. It was the camera man who noticed the corpse. “My God what is that up ahead??Right there. It’s a body!” His friend responds, “Oh my God.”  The camera man continues, “Do you see it?” His friend:”Well I see a bone. The camera man insists “Right there! It’s a body!Look! There’s a bone!” Their voices are silent with disbelief. It is difficult to see the body being filmed; brush is covering it and the remains are supposedly dismembered. Seconds ago the hiker’s greatest challenge was to re-trace their steps back to camp. Now it was identifying victimized human remains. Lovely ending to a day spent camping,

Two Female Hikers
They’re quite collected about it so I would argue this one is fake, especially since there is a camera man who seems quite calm. I’ll play along. “The dirt has been pushed in there I swear to God. An animal could not have done that.” one says. “I need counselling,” the other says. So would I.

Death of a Friend
A man narrated his sad encounter with his friend’s corpse after the friend’s suicide. His emotional struggle is obvious. He sits in the chair where his friend’s corpse was found. He reflects on the loss of this man, struggling not to cry. He describes the victim as possessing great anger and always ready to fight. His conclusion is that the man was bullied to death. “It all boils down to the childhood. I mean I was bullied as a child. I’m sure Randall was probably bullied….he was short and small little guy. I’m sure he got bullied in school. He was always quick to anger…”

facebook-logo-reversedCyber-Suicide – Another Reason to Hate Facebook
Although not quite the same as discovering a body, people have witnessed unexpected suicides over Facebook and other social media. The woman’s ongoing participation in social relationships, resulting in her social isolation, was deemed the culprit, Ah, multiple uses for technology.

World’s Worst Tenant – Dead Bodies Everywhere
Err, it’s quite possible much of this edition (and all of them) is staged. However I included the clip of the inept funeral manager since this type of body decimation actually happened. Do you remember Dr G – Medical Examiner reality autopsy reality show? Her first job consisted of being called to a funeral director’s phony operation where he accepted bodies for cremation and burial but failed to dispose of them. They were found in closets and beneath floors. The stench was overwhelming. I don’t remember the total number of bodies discovered but it was a 2-figured number.  Ick.

Accidental Death
You’d think a medical doctor would have enough intelligence not to consider entering her boyfriend’s locked house via the chimney. Perhaps she thought it was December 25th and was trying to stuff a Christmas tree down there. A neighbour found the woman’s body inside the chimney and within 5 hours, the fireplace was dismantled and the woman’s body was removed possibly for autopsy. Dr. G shouldn’t miss this one.

Homicide Investigation
Of course this woman is alive and unharmed, but the investigation of what is supposedly a Satanic murder ritual is kind of interesting.

Two People Walking on a Trail Discovered a Body
What is it about woods, rivers and hiking trails that serve as a dumping ground for bodies? Nature has its own share of problems without having to deal with ours.

Then there’s the opposite phenomenon: gossip-mongers who enjoy spreading the word that living people are dead. To wit:

Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated.  –  Mark Twain 

He was one of the lucky ones I should think.


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