In my last blog, I explored ways in which human corpses can legally be disposed of before they start to get whiffy. Or after they’ve gotten a bit whiffy. But what if a body needs to be disposed of without attracting the attention of certain authority figures? Never fear! There are plenty of options available for what I’m sure is your perfectly legitimate reason for secretly removing a corpse.
Why Dispose of a Body Illegally?
- To prevent, hinder, or delay discovery of the body
- To prevent identification of the body
- To prevent autopsy
- To avoid causing changes in things lie pension payments, social security, insurance payouts, etc. that may be affected by death or the cause of death (e.g., suicide or illegal activities)
Animals Love People
Never Trust a Pig Farmer
To quote Snatch’s Brick Top, “[Pigs] will go through bone like butter.” You can find lots of stories online about pigs eating their owners who collapsed inside the pig enclosure, and of serial killers who disposed of victims this way. Pigs offer both speed and thoroughness. How fast and how thorough? An average American man is 5’9” and carries 195.5 pounds of flesh and bone. For a hungry pig, that’s a week, maybe a week and a half of munching.
How long it takes for the body to be turned into unidentifiable pig manure depends on the size of the dead body and of the pig. A general estimation for how much food a pig eats is about 5–6 pounds per 100 pounds of pig every day. The weight range for a domestic pig is around 110–770 pounds, but the heaviest recorded pig tipped the scales at 2552 pounds. So the range is 5–150 pounds a day.
Taking the average of everything—the average human body weighs 137 pounds, the average pig is 440 pounds, eating 5.5 pounds per 100 pounds of body-weight, means 24.2 pounds consumed per day—yields 137/24.2 = 5.66 days for the average pig eating an average amount consuming the average human body. But according to a Canadian agriculture development agency, fully grown boars don’t eat nearly as much as lactating sows, which can eat 10-14 pounds in one sitting.
To be as efficient as possible (and kind to the pigs) remove the parts they can’t digest: hair and teeth, and cut the body into pieces.
Feed it to the ‘Gators
Another animal that can be quite helpful for disposing of a body is the alligator. Like pigs, alligators have no problem eating any kind of meat they can get their teeth on. Because alligators are cold-blooded, their feeding habits and digestive rates vary with the temperature outside, so this method of illegal corpse removal is largely limited to very hot regions of the world.
Although alligators are much less likely to attack humans than Hollywood would like you to believe, they are perfectly happy to eat meat that stays still. When available, human carrion suits them just fine.
As with pigs, it is safest to remove identifying markers like teeth and hair, as well as bits that are most likely to break off and wash up where they can be found (hands and feet, fingers and toes). Chop up the rest into chunks an alligator can swallow in one gulp, and toss it all into the scrum.
Perhaps the most notorious criminal to use this particular method of hiding the bodies was Joe Ball, eventually known as the “Bluebeard of Texas” or simply “Alligator Man.” In the early part of the twentieth century, he is known to have killed at least two and possibly as many as twenty women and fed their bodies to his pet alligators. Joe Ball shot himself rather than be taken in by the police, so the exact details remain speculative.
But he’s not the only one! In 2018, a woman in Fort Bend, Texas was convicted of trying to feed her victim’s body to alligators. A Spring Break partier was abducted and allegedly dumped in an alligator swamp in 2009. Her body was never found.
Illegal disposal of bodies in water—to dispose of the evidence?
- Dumping in a river, hoping it will wash away, is the method most likely to be quickly discovered because the body gets washed up on the river bank or hung up on some obstacle—or is seen just floating.
- A large lake or ocean is more likely to hide the body, if it is properly weighed down. Even so, the body may wash ashore, get caught in fishing nets or lines, or be discovered by divers.
- Swamps have the double benefit of being largely impassable and having a plethora of bacteria and scavenging animals to aid in decomposition.
- Weighing bodies:
- the Mafia is infamous for encasing the feet of victims in concrete;
- a variation on that is attaching concrete blocks to the body;
- the Chicago overcoat involves wrapping heavy chains around the victim;
- in Venice, barrels filled with a human body and concrete are sometimes found in the canals.
Methods of illegal disposal used in actual cases and in fiction (according to Wikipedia):
- Illegal use of conventional methods, commonly burial in a place unlikely to draw attention, or water disposal (e.g. Cleveland Torso Murderer)
- Dissolution was used by Jeffrey Dahmer, smashing or dissolving the skeleton
- Cannibalism (e.g. Jeffrey Dahmer)
- Grinding into small pieces for disposal in nature, disposal via a sewer system, or use as fertilizer
- Boiling (used by Futoshi Matsunaga and Dennis Nilsen)
- Encasing in concrete (e.g. murder of Junko Furuta)
- Hiding in trash or landfill (e.g. murder of David Stack, disappearance of Natalee Holloway)
- Feeding to animals (e.g. pigs or flesh-eating insects; used by Ted Bundy and Robert Pickton)
- Abandonment in an area where the body can degrade significantly before being discovered, if ever, such as a remote area (e.g. West Mesa murders), cave, abandoned well, abandoned mine, or a neglected or hazardous third-party property (known as a dump job); sometimes dropped in an easily discovered but out-of-the-way location to obscure the identity of the murderer (e.g. Fountain Avenue, Brooklyn)
- Dropping into a destructive or impassible natural hazard, such as a volcano, quicksand, or crevasse
- Destruction by industrial process, such as machinery, chemical bath, molten metal, or a junked car
- Injection into the legitimate body disposal system (e.g. morgue, funeral home, cemetery, crematorium, funeral pyre, cadaver donation) or killings at a health care facility (e.g. Ann Arbor Hospital Murders and Dr. X killings)
- Burning, often in a building (e.g. possibly the Clinton Avenue Five)
- Disguising as animal flesh (e.g. abattoir, food waste, food; as Katherine Knight did)
- Attachment to a vehicle travelling to a distant place
- Creating false evidence of the circumstances of death and letting investigators dispose of the body, possibly obscuring identity
- Indefinite storage (e.g. in a freezer or refrigerator, as in the murder of Paul Marshall Johnson, Jr.)
When I started this blog, I envisioned a few headings, each with a few bullets below. But it just grew! I hope it held your personal interest and/or generated some plot ideas!