Body identification

Body identification is a subfield of forensic science wherein investigators need to identify a body. Forensic (literally, "for the courts") purposes are served by rigorous scientific forensic identification techniques, but these are generally preceded by simply asking bystanders or other persons for the victim's name.[1]

If a body is not badly decomposed or damaged, two persons (or one) who knew the deceased well should visually confirm the identity.[2]

Authorities will also compare supportive documents such as driver's license, passport, or other authoritative photo ID before accepting a personal identification with which to further their investigative and/or forensic purposes.[3]

Any formal investigation should "reality check" additional forensic and scientific evidence to reinforce or question the supposed identity of the victim.[4] Reliable identification becomes increasingly difficult as time passes.[5]


In many cases, people who have died while serving in military branches remain unidentified due to how long their remains went undiscovered or due to various other causes. If unidentified bodies of service people are returned to their country, formal treatment is required in respect for the decedent. In the United States, servicemen from each branch of the military supervise the delivery and other transportation of the remains. While under examination, the unidentified person is placed in a white sheet until they are identified. After the person's body is identified, a funeral and burial takes place in accompaniment of members of the respective branch that the person served.[6]

See also


  1. Burnt Beyond Recognition coronerstories
  2. Hallam, E.; Hockey, J.L.; Howarth, G. (1999). Beyond the Body: Death and Social Identity. Routledge. p. 82. ISBN 9780415182928. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
  3. The Medical Times and Gazette. 2. J. & A. Churchill. 1863. p. 281. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
  4. "Death Investigation - The Graveyard Shift". Retrieved 6 April 2015.
  5. Wilcox, Charlotte (2000). Mummies, Bones & Body Parts. Minneapolis, Minnesota: San Val, Incorporated. p. 48. ISBN 0613438531.
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