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“We carry the dead with us. They remain in our hearts, in our minds.” 

The permanent burial of the physical body, or the burial of cremated remains, should be seen as a symbol of our entrusting that person to God, once we are in the cold ground, we have been laid to rest. The disinterment of a body might call to mind images of satanic rituals under the cover of darkness, but the main reasons are practical and domestic. People moving from one side of the country to the other apply to have the buried remains of their parents (it’s usually parents) moved with them so that they can better attend their graves. Remains are not always exhumed to be reburied elsewhere, other common reasons include the scattering of cremated remains, the cremation of buried remains, the moving of remains to another part of the same burial ground and the reinternment of remains in the same grave, normally so that family members can be buried side-by-side. All sensible reasons, but ones to consider carefully, particularly if you are God-fearing. The dead, hopefully at peace, are not lightly moved.

What if the exhumation could assist with a police investigation?

Science and medicine have moved on considerably over the past few decades, bodies can now be exhumed to help provide concrete evidence to legal teams and police forces to aid their investigations. Before proceeding with an exhumation it is important to first examine why forensics dictates that a body may need exhuming. What advances have been made in forensics that could now assist inquiries? What mistakes were made in the original investigation?

With so many advances in forensic medicine it is possible to exhume a body that has been buried for many years and take bone or DNA samples, which could prove if a person had been poisoned. In the 50s, 60s, & 70s these tests were non-existent. Unless the pathologist was convinced an individual had been poisoned it was impossible to prove, even if the pathologist was sure that an individual had been poisoned, they would have to perform separate tests for each poison.

The exhumation of a corpse can help provide valuable DNA analysis as well as blood and tissue samples which can be used to positively identify a corpse that has been buried for some time. The ability to extract usable DNA after burial is dependent upon various factors such as soil conditions, exposure to long term heat or moisture and the degree of decomposition of the body prior to burial.

What difference does the embalming process make?

The embalming process is essentially a procedure designed to disinfect and preserve the body after autopsy and prior to burial. The embalming process should not interfere with the ability to extract viable DNA, especially if the primary samples used for DNA analysis are bone, teeth, fingernails, or toenails. The embalming fluid does not enter these samples to any significant degree.

So a certain University of Adelaide personality believes that there is ‘compelling evidence’ Robin Thomson was the son of the Somerton Man and wants to exhume the Somerton Man's remains. It has been suggested before that Jestyn's son, who died in 2009, may have been a child of either Alf Boxall or the Somerton Man and passed off as her husband's. DNA testing would confirm or eliminate this speculation. Prof. Abbott believes an exhumation and an autosomal DNA test could link the Somerton man to a shortlist of surnames which, along with existing clues to the man's identity, would be the "final piece of the puzzle". However, in October 2011, Attorney General John Rau refused permission to exhume the body stating: "There needs to be public interest reasons that go well beyond public curiosity or broad scientific interest." This didn't stop Prof. Abbott from trying again. He even had an Indie-go-go page. Sadly it failed to reach its target. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/identification-of-the-somerton-man#/story

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