What kind of death is this?

The second brother from the animation of the Deathly Hallows from Harry Potter

The second brother from the animation of the Deathly Hallows from Harry Potter

Doing some more research on suicide tonight (my first post about it was back in January, you can read it here)… this time with a focus on how to tell the difference forensically between a suicide and, well, not a suicide.

First: the method (jumping off a building)

According to a really interesting site I found called ‘Lost all Hope’:

The most important factor in suicide by jumping is height. Stone2 states that jumping from 150 feet (46 metres) or higher on land, and 250 feet (76 metres) or more on water, is 95% to 98% fatal. 150 feet/46 metres, equates to roughly 10 to 15 stories in a building, depending on the height of one story. 250 feet is the height of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

The LAH author got his information from a book by Geo Stone called Attempted Suicide: Methods and Consequences, and you can read more about that here:

So interestingly, for a 95% chance that you will actually be killed by your attempt, you need to fall 10 to 15 stories from a building.

Second: the body (what is the injury pattern)

Without getting into too much gruesome detail, I looked around for some data that would help me with the physical forensic evidence from a suicide-by-jumping and found this article from the US National Library of Medicine.

The most common injuries were fractures of the thoracic and lumbar spine (83.0%) with a preference for the thoracolumbar junction. Fracture of the lower limbs occurred in 45%. The most frequent injuries were fractures of the os calcis (64.4%) and the ankle joint (26.6%). Twenty-five percent of all patients suffered from fractures in the upper limbs with a preference for the distal radius (56.6%) and the elbow (44.0%).

The article goes on to say that only 27% of the people they studied for their report died from head injuries… which of course begs the question if that didn’t kill them, what did?

Another interesting article about this kind of data is: The Study of Pattern of Injuries in Fatal Cases of fall from height

Third: the after-effects (legally and religiously) of suicide

I’m not a member of a christian religion, but I believe in 1930s London, most of the population was, so I am going to make this character a Catholic. Catholics seem to have very clear beliefs when it comes to suicide, so if this death is ruled a suicide, the character will not be allowed to have a burial with a priest at his church.

Legally, I cannot find evidence in British Law that changes how the heirs to inherit from someone who committed suicide VS someone who died by some other cause. What is clear that suicide and natural causes will fast-track the fulfillment of the will, while any suspicion of foul play will delay everything as the truth is worked out.

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