An Aquatic Decomposition Scoring Method to Potentially Predict the Postmortem Submersion Interval of Bodies Recovered from the North Sea

Marjolijn Van Daalen, Dorothee De Kat*, Bernice Oude Grotebevelsborg, Roosje De Leeuwe, Jeroen Warnaar, Roelof Jan Oostra, Wilma Duijst

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This study aimed to develop an aquatic decomposition scoring (ADS) method and investigated the predictive value of this method in estimating the postmortem submersion interval (PMSI) of bodies recovered from the North Sea. This method, consisting of an ADS item list and a pictorial reference atlas, showed a high interobserver agreement (Krippendorff’s alpha ≥ 0.93) and hence proved to be valid. This scoring method was applied to data, collected from closed cases—cases in which the postmortal submersion interval (PMSI) was known —concerning bodies recovered from the North Sea from 1990 to 2013. Thirty-eight cases met the inclusion criteria and were scored by quantifying the observed total aquatic decomposition score (TADS). Statistical analysis demonstrated that TADS accurately predicts the PMSI (p < 0.001), confirming that the decomposition process in the North Sea is strongly correlated to time.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-373
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


  • forensic science
  • forensic pathology
  • forensic taphonomy
  • postmortem changes
  • aquatic decomposition process
  • postmortem submersion interval
  • TIME

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