Archive for November 1st, 2007

November 1st, 2007

The Grim Smell of Death

Posted in The Job - General by 200

Post mortems can be really interesting.

I haven’t been to one for a while but I’ve been to a fair few in my time.

Back in the day, going to a post mortem (pm) was an essential part of police training. Every probationer had to go to one.It was part of the ‘toughening-up’ education of an officer. Everyone has to deal with a dead body so get them in there under controlled conditions to see what death looks like, feels like and smells like. In a mortuary, it doesn’t matter if you throw up or faint, this isn’t the case in Mrs Miggins’ front room.

During my time as a tutor constable I used to arrange a PM for all my probationers. Some of the pathologists loved it; I guess they didn’t have too many opportunities to show off their skills and wax lyrical on the average weight of a human lung or displaying the fatty deposits inside the blood vessels to the heart. If you could ignore the smell it could be a fascinating journey through the biology you only touched on in school.

The body is usually prepared by a mortician. These are a unique band of people who spend their day cutting the tops off people’s heads with electric saws, crunching through rib cages with enormous pliers & opening up the body cavities for people with far more training to paw over in the search for a cause of death. Most morticians are male and most of the ones I’ve met are short. I don’t know what, if anything, that says about them.

I rang one once to ask what he had on for the next few days as I had a bunch of probationers to entertain. He told me they had, among others, a railway suicide tee’d up for the following day so I said we’d be there.

When we arrived I was greeted by Eric who, after handing out overalls & rubber boots, treated us to a tour of the mortuary of the old county hospital. There were 3 bodies laid out. Two had been prepared and the third was being saved for us to witness the delicate skills of a mortician at work. "NO don’t stand there sonney, not unless you want bits of skull sprayed all over your face." he said powering up the little circular saw.

The railway suicide was reasonable obvious, it was the one which had been cut neatly in two through the stomach. I don’t know if Eric had a particularly sick sense of humour or just a general irreverrance for the dead but it did look rather strange seeing the top half of the body laid on its back, all internal organs open for display while the bottom half which consisted of the bum and the legs facing downwards so the bum was facing the sky, separated from the torso by a couple of inches.

It was surprising how many of the 5 or 6 probationers didn’t notice until the pathologist made a comment & Eric had to turn the bum round the right way.