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Firearm Injuries Dr. Sanjaya Hulathduwa Senior Lecturer

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1 Firearm Injuries Dr. Sanjaya Hulathduwa Senior Lecturer
Medico Legal Module 21st Batch June 2014 Dr. Sanjaya Hulathduwa MBBS, MD, DLM, DMJ Path(Lond) DMJ Clin(Lond) , Dip. Crim, MFFLM(UK) Senior Lecturer

2 Firearms Firearm - a device designed to propel a projectile through a cylinder/ barrel. The force needed for the propulsion of the projectile is usually generated by the pressurized gas produced by the combustion of a small amount of explosive material known as propellant in an enclosed space.

3 Ammunition It is a general term to denote cartridges, grenades, mines, rockets and artillery. Cartridge ‘complete round used for firing after insertion in to a barrel ‘.

4 Smooth bore weapon cartridge is usually consisted of a case with a metal base, propellant, projectile (shot), cap/primer and wads. The shot usually consists of multiple metal balls. Rifled bore weapon cartridge is made of metal alone. The two main components of the cartridge are the bullet (the projectile) and the case. The rifled bore weapon cartridge has a length (height) and a caliber/ bore.

5 Firearms can broadly be divided in to two main types.
Smooth bore weapons Rifled bore weapons

6 Smooth Bore Weapons Types of Smooth Bore Weapons seen in Sri Lanka
Breech loading shot gun Breech loading shot pistol Muzzle loading shot gun Muzzle loading trap gun (‘Kandan thuwakkuwa’, ‘maruwela’, bandina thuwakkakuwa’) – A country made shot gun Muzzle loading shot pistols Swan-off shot gun (‘Galkatas’) – An improvised modification of shot gun

7 A shot gun could be a muzzle loader or a breech loader.
Ammunitions do not come in a compact form. Components of a shot should be refilled before each shot Breech loader Ammunition is always a standard factory made (shot gun cartridge).

8 A shot gun is of two types
Single barreled Double barreled When double barreled, they are usually positioned side by side or rarely one below the other.

9 Rifled weapons A rifled weapon has a barrel with multiple fine grooves which make the bullet to spin around its own axis when it leaves. This gyroscopic movement will minimize the wobbling of the bullet enabling it to keep its track to find the target thus enhances the accuracy.

10 Types of Rifled bore weapons
Revolvers Self – loading pistols (semi automatics) Sub machine guns Machine guns Self – loading rifles (SLR) Snipers

11 Identification of Firearm Injuries
A firearm injury is usually a perforating laceration. The identification of an injury as a firearm injury is based on the following criteria; Familiarity b. There is an entry, track and an exit. The characteristic features of a firearm injury - abrasion collar, burning, blackening and tattooing may be present.   d. The history by eye witness – circumstantial evidence

12 Effects and Components of Firing
A bullet or a collection of pellets (shot) Wads (if available) Residue of primer (burnt, partially burnt and unburnt) Residue of propellant (burnt, partially burnt and unburnt) Residue lubricants Fowling present in the barrel due to previous shot Compressed gas containing soot Flame Heat Noise

13 Medico-Legal Issues in the Investigation of an Alleged Firearm Death
Is it a firearm injury or not? If it is a fire arm injury, what is the nature of the firearm and ammunition? How many fire arms have been used? How many shots have been fired?

14 What is the sequence and direction of firing?
What are the circumstances? Are they accidental, suicidal, homicidal or done in self defense? Recovery of spent cartridges and other trace material from the scene. Have the spent cartridges been shot from this specific gun? (Specific identity of the weapon) Identity of the assailant.

15 Identity of the deceased.
Identity of the entry, the path inside the body and respective exit wounds. The cause of death Time since death Possibility of volitional activity. Reconstruction of the event. Approximate distance of firing.

16 Entry Wounds and Exit Wounds
Entry Wounds Usually smaller, circular or oval (approximately the size of the missile) Abrasion collar and contusion collar are present. Burning, blackening and tattooing may be present. Muzzle mark may be present. Margins are inverted. Clothes are driven inward in the track. Pinkish discolouration of the wound may be present due to Carbon monoxide. Beveling of the inner table of the skull.

17 Abrasion collar absent. Burning, blackening and tattooing absent.
Exit Wounds Typically large and irregular. (but could be smaller. Ex: in contact and near contact entries) Abrasion collar absent. Burning, blackening and tattooing absent. No muzzle mark. Margins everted. Tissues from the track protruding out. No carbon monoxide. Beveling of the outer table of the skull.

18 Range of Fire Smooth Bore Weapons
Smooth Bore Weapons Contact range – Muzzle mark on the skin around the entry wound. Burning, blackening and tattooing with pink discolouration (cherry pink colour due to CO). Near contact – No muzzle mark but with evidence of local explosive effect and burning, blackening and tattooing. Within 1 foot – single entry with burning, blackening and tattooing. Within 2 feet – single entry with blackening and tattooing only. Within 3 feet (1 yard) – single entry with tattooing only. Beyond 3 feet – tattooing is absent and the dispersion of the pellets begin and there will be individual entries caused by the dispersing pellets either singly or in combination.

19 Rifled Weapons Contact range - Muzzle mark on the skin around the entry wound. Burning, blackening and tattooing with pink discolouration. Near contact – No muzzle mark but with evidence of local explosive effect and burning, blackening and tattooing. Within 6 to 12 inches - Burning, blackening and tattooing. 12 to 18 inches – Blackening and tattooing only. 18 to 24 inches – Tattooing only. Beyond 24 inches – Tattooing absent. Extreme ranges – The entry is large and ragged.

20 Direction of Fire The direction of fire can be determined by the following factors. The shape of abrasion collar, contusion collar, burning, blackening and tattooing; Circular –fired at right angle Elliptical – fired at an angle The beveling of the skull; Equal on all sides – fired at right angle More on one side – fired at an angle Shelving and undercutting are seen when fired at an angle.

21 Circumstances of Fire Homicidal Suicidal Accidental

22 Suicide Homicide Usually single injury (may be multiple) with one fatal injury. Multiple injuries on various parts of the body with more than one fatal injury. Weapon found close to the body usually gripped in hand in cadaveric spasm. Weapons not found with the body or the surroundings. Entry wounds are found in accessible sites. Entry wounds can be at any place of the body. Entry wound in an elective site such as temple, mid forehead, roof of mouth, under the chin, precordium. Not an elective site. Range always contact or near contact unless a mechanism is used to pull the trigger. Range beyond arms reach (distant range) Associated with psychiatric disturbances and previous para- suicidal attempts. Associated with enmity, robbery, rivalry etc. Usually no eye witnesses. Eye witnesses’ accounts

23 Medico legal investigation
History – reference to type of gun, number of shots, range and relative positions of victim and assailant. Visit to the scene Identification of the body Preliminary procedures Photography X – rays

24 Collection of trace materials
 (missiles and wads, soot, burnt and unburnt gunpowder from the clothing and the entry wounds, gun powder from the hands of the weapon-user -useful in suicidal firearm injuries) Clothing – for burns, powder residues and infrared photography General external examination Specific external examination – entry and exit wounds Internal examination (track including injuries to internal organs and tissues/ recovery of pellets, bullets wads etc.) Laboratory investigations by the Forensic Ballistics expert Documentation and reporting

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