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More like a coincidence I found the information that a boy of fourteen was executed in 1831 in

England. He was the youngest to struggle on the gallows in 19th and 20th century.
Here is the story I found about this malefactor, the crime and his victim and also some background
information how he was executed as well as what might happen to his body afterwards.
Our readers will be astonished when they learn that this wretched malefactor, at the time of his
execution, had attained the age of fourteen years only ; but the circumstances of the bloody tragedy
in which he was the chief actor show him to have been fully deserving the fate which befell him.
He was indicted at the Maidstone assizes on Friday, the 29th of July, 1831, for the willful murder of
Richard F. Taylor, a boy aged only thirteen years, in a wood in the parish of Chatham.
Few cases had ever produced a greater degree of interest in the county of Kent than that of this
wretched culprit, and his still more unfortunate victim.
From the evidence it appeared that Taylor was the son of a poor man of the same name, a tallowchandler, living at Stroud. On Friday, March the 4th, the little fellow, who was described as having
possessed peculiar intelligence and an amiable disposition, was dispatched to Aylesford to receive a
sum of 9S., the amount of a weekly parish allowance to his father. He was dressed at the time in a "
south-wester," with a belcher handkerchief round his neck, blue jacket and waistcoat, brown
trousers, and shoes and stockings ; and his father, at his request, lent him a knife, with which he
expressed his intention to cut a bow and arrow on his way home. The boy arrived safely at
Aylesford, when Mr. Cutbath, the relieving officer of the Parish, gave him the usual amount of 9s.
The boy had before been instructed by his father as to the mode of carrying the money, and the little
fellow had shown him how completely and how securely he could conceal it, by putting it into a
little bag, which he could carry in the palm of his hand inside a mitten which he wore ; and on this
occasion he was observed to place the silver in the customary manner in his hand. He usually
reached home at about three o'clock, but on this afternoon lie did not return. As night advanced his
father became alarmed at his absence ; and on the next morning he determined to go himself to
Aylesford, for the purpose of making inquiries for him. The fact of his having received the money
was ascertained ; but all search for him proved unavailing, and his parents were left in a most
painful state of doubt as to the cause of his sudden disappearance.
Several weeks passed without any circumstance being disclosed at all calculated to calm their
apprehensions ; and it was not until the 11th of May that the real fact of the murder of the unhappy
boy was discovered.
On that day a man named Izzard was passing through a bye-path in a wood situated at a distance of
about two miles from Rochester, and about thirty rods from the high road, a spot which lay in the
road from Stroud to Aylesford, when he found the body of the boy lying in a ditch. The mitten
was cut from his left hand, and his clothes were disarranged as if in a scuffle ; and although the
body was so much decomposed as to prevent his being able to discover by what means his death
had been produced, the remains of blood upon his shirt, coat, and neckerchief left no doubt of the
dreadful death which he had suffered.

Information of the discovery was at once conveyed to the parents of the boy, who lost no time in
proceeding to the spot; and a surgical examination of the body took place on the ensuing day. Mr.
Seaton, a surgeon, conducted this inquiry; and the result was an expression of his undoubted
opinion that the deceased had died of a wound which had been inflicted in his throat with a sharppointed instrument, the mark of which was still visible, notwithstanding the extreme decomposition
of the surrounding- flesh, which could not have been inflicted by the deceased himself, unless
by the exercise of extraordinary determination and nerve.
A diligent search was immediately instituted for the purpose of endeavouring to find the instrument
with which this terrible murder had been committed, and in a short time a common white hornhandled knife was found, corroded with rust, which had every appearance of being the weapon
which had been used by the murderer. The discovery of this weapon afforded some clue to the
parties implicated in the transaction ; and a man named Bell, and his two sons, John Amy Bird Bell,
and James Bell, respectively of the ages of fourteen and eleven years, were taken into custody.
These persons lived in the poor-house, nearly adjoining the spot where the murder was committed ;
and the information obtained by the constable, by which the knife which had been found was
discovered to have belonged to the boy John Bell, afforded conclusive testimony of one at least of
them having been concerned in the foul deed.
An investigation into the circumstances of the murder took place before the magistrates at
Rochester, the result of which was, that convincing proof was obtained of the implication of the two
boys. During this inquiry it became necessary that the body of the deceased should be exhumed, for
it had been buried immediately after it had been discovered and the coroner's jury had sat, in order
that the person of the boy might be searched an operation which had been previously most
unaccountably omitted. At the time of this examination being made, the two younger prisoners were
taken to the grave-yard, for the purpose of observing the effect of the proceeding upon them. The
elder boy, John, maintained throughout a sullen silence ; but his brother James, on being desired to
enter the grave and search the pockets of the clothes of the deceased, which had been buried on his
person, cheerfully complied, and brought forth the knife which the father of the unhappy lad had
lent him on his setting out for Aylesford.
This was the only article found upon him, and robbery, therefore, it was at once seen, had been the
object of his murderer.
The prisoners after this underwent another examination before the magistrates ; and upon their
being again remanded, the younger boy confessed that he and his brother had committed the murder
that his brother had waylaid the deceased in the wood, while he had remained at its outskirts
to keep watch. Upon this the evidence of the younger boy was accepted ; and the father having been
discharged from custody, although strong suspicion had been excited of his having been an
accessory after the commission of the crime, the prisoner, John Amy Bird Bell, was committed
for trial. The statement of the younger boy exhibited a remarkable degree of depravity in the
conduct of his brother and himself. He said that they had long contemplated the murder of their
wretched victim, having learned from him the errand upon which he so frequently traveled from
Stroud to Aylesford and back ; but various circumstances had prevented the completion of their
design until the 4th of March, when it was carried out by John, who afterwards gave him 1S. 6d. as
his share of the proceeds of the transaction.
On the way to Maidstone, the prisoner acknowledged the truth of his brother's statement, and
pointed out a pond where he had washed his hands of the blood of his victim on his way home after
the murder. He also pointed to the opening leading to the spot where the murder was committed,
and saying to the officer, " That 's where I killed the poor boy," added, " He is better off than I am
now; do not you think he is, sir ?" an observation to which the constable assented. He afterwards
proceeded to describe more minutely the circumstances attending the murder. He said that he had

met the deceased on his way home, and had entered into conversation with him. He induced him to
enter the wood ; and having taken him through a great many windings, at last sat down and declared
that he had lost himself. The poor boy also sat down and began to cry, declaring that he did not
know his way out ; upon which he threw himself upon him and stabbed him in the throat. He had
some difficulty in finding the money, but at last discovered it in his left hand, from whence he took
it. He said that it consisted of three half-crowns, a shilling, and a sixpence, and that he had given the
two latter coins to his brother. He added, that he wished that his brother should see him executed,
for he knew he should be hanged, as it might prove a warning to him.
At the trial the prisoner exhibited the utmost indifference to his fate, and appeared to entertain no
fear for the consequences of his guilt. He maintained his firmness throughout a most feeling address
of the learned judge, in which he was sentenced to death, but exhibited some emotion upon his
being informed that a part of the sentence was, that his body should be given over to the surgeons to
be dissected.
The hardihood which he had displayed hitherto, however, deserted him when he entered his cell,
and then he wept bitterly. "When his mother visited him on Sunday afternoon, he accused her of
being the cause of bringing him to his " present scrape." On Sunday evening, after the condemned
sermon had been preached by the reverend chaplain, he made a full confession of his guilt. His
statement did not materially differ from that which was given on the trial ; but he added some
particulars of the conduct of his victim before he murdered him, which make the blood run cold.
He said that when he sprang upon Taylor with the knife in his hand, the poor boy, aware of his
murderous intention, fell upon his knees before him, offered him all the money he had, his knife, his
cap, and whatever else he liked said he would love him during the whole of his life, and never
tell what had happened to any human being, if he would spare him. This pathetic appeal was lost on
the murderer, and, without making any answer to it, he struck the knife into his throat.
At half-past eleven o'clock on Monday morning, the solemn peals of the prison-bell announced the
preparations for the execution. After the operation of pinioning had been completed, the culprit,
attended by the chaplain, walked steadily to the platform. When he appeared there, he gazed
steadily around him ; but his eye did not quail, nor was his cheek blanched.
After the rope was adjusted round his neck, he exclaimed in a firm and loud tone of voice, " Lord
have mercy upon us. Pray, good Lord, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us. All the
people before me, take warning by me !" Having been asked if he had anything further to say, he
repeated the same words, and added, " Lord have mercy upon my poor soul." At the appointed
signal, the bolt was withdrawn, and in a minute or two the wretched malefactor ceased to exist. The
remainder of his sentence was also carried out, his body being given to the surgeons of Rochester
for dissection.
There were not fewer than eight thousand persons present at his execution.
(from Kent Police also some information)
In March 1831, 13 year old Richard Taylor walked from Rochester to Aylesford to pick up his
father's Parish Relief grant of nine shillings which he collected but never returned home. The Parish
Constable questioned two boys Richard had been seen speaking to - 14 year-old John Any Bird Bell
and his 10 year-old brother, James.
Despite an extensive search no trace of Richard was found until some eight weeks later when a man
stumbled across his body in some woods near where Rochester Airport now stands. Although badly
decomposed it was clear that the boy's throat had been cut. The Bell brothers were again
interrogated and the younger boy tearfully admitted that his brother had cut Richard's throat with
Richard's own knife and stolen the money. James was released and John confessed to the crime,

adding that he had put the knife in the dead boy's jacket pocket in which he had by now been
The Constable got permission for the grave to be opened and, when the coffin lid was removed, he
ordered John Bell to clamber into the grave and retrieve the knife from the coat worn by the
putrefying corpse. Incredibly he did so without a murmur and was returned to Maidstone prison.
There, an equally sadistic warder gave John his bread and cheese meal and told him he could use
the bloodstained murder weapon to cut it. This finally proved too much for the boy who refused to
There was little sympathy for this young boy who was sentenced to death and, at his public
execution outside Maidstone Prison, a crowd of at least 4,000, mostly women, surrounded the
gallows to witness the event. (

Picture from page 333 of History of Strood by Henry Smetham, 1899

On the next page :The younger brother was sentenced to a term of penal servitude, to which he
was taught the trade of a taylor. After serving his sentence, he worked at his trade for a clothier at
Chatham. It is recorded (Retrospections: C. Roach Smith, p.12 Vol. III) exhibited himself at Strood
Fair, when he imitated, before succeeding audiences, the cries of the poor little victim, as he, in
pantomime, there re-enacted the incidents of this awful crime! The writer has amply verified the

truth of this fact; what apology can be made for this audience is beyond his power to suggest.
John Any Bird Bell was the first to be executed in front of the New Gaol at Maidstone.
The gallow was a so-called 'New Drop' where a trap door is used to suspend the condemned by the
neck. The drop given at that time varied, from 10 to 3feet. Executioner William Calcraft was in
charge in his case and had the reputation for using the shortest rope for his jobs.
The next picture should give an impression what it may look like at that time.

Appendix 2
The Life, Trial, And Awful Execution Of John Any Bird Bell,
Only Thirteen Years Of Age, Who Suffered An Awful Penalty
At Maidstone, On Monday, August 1, 1831, For The Wilful
Murder Of A Lad Named Robert Taylor
The example of the unfortunate boy, who expiated his enormous guilt on the scaffold before he had
completed his fourteenth year, took place in front of our county gaol this morning, having been
found guilty of the murder of a youth named Taylor, in a wood near Rochester, in March last.
Taylor, the father of the deceased, being very ill, received 9 s. per week from the parish of
Aylesford, which the lad used to fetch every week; this being known to Bell, he and his two sons
way-laid him on his return home and murdered him. Old Bell was sentenced to be banished life, the
other admitted evidence and John to be executed. The interest which was excited on the occasion is
almost incredible; the town was crammed with spectators from all parts of the country. A report
being prevalent that the execution would take place at eight o'clock, every station from where a
view of the platform could be obtained was occupied even at daybreak; and when it was announced
that the sheriff would not attend until the customary hour (11 o'clock), although some
disappointment was manifested, hundreds retained their stations, many of them under painful
circumstances. We must now turn to the miserable object of this intense anxiety, who was engaged
at his late devotions; the hardihood he had hitherto manifested, now entirely forsook him; and the
callous youth who could affect a smile at his aged father when he twice fainted on hearing sentence
pronounced on his child, was prostrate in tears at the throne of mercy. His case presents an awful
warning to parents, who [?] passions and perverse dispositions of their children, such were the
parents of this unhappy lad and during his last interview with his mother, with his parting breath, he
reproached her with bringing him to his present scrape, by encourageing him in every species of
vice, and neglecting to instruct his mind. After the Condemned Sermon which was preached on
Sunday evening from these suitable words, The wicked shall not live out half their days he made
a full confession of his guilt. He said that when he sprung upon Taylor with the knife in his hand,
the poor boy, aware of his murderous intention, fell upon his knees before him - offered him all the
littel that he hadhis knife his cap - and whatever else he liked! said he would love him during the
whole of his life - would never tell what happened & actually kissed the hand just raised to shed
his blood!!! But the only answer this precocious assassin gave to this touching appeal was by
plunging the knife into his victim's throat! On passing a pool while in custody of an officer, he
pointed to it and said - In that pool I washed my hands after the job!.

(transcript from original in bad condition).

The officer having arrived, and the culprit being pinioned, the mournful procession steadily
ascended the platform, accompanied by the Chaplain and other functionaries. When he appeared on
the scaffold, he gazed on the [crowd] before him but without any apparent emotion. W[?] was then
adjusted, he [?] exclaimed: Lord [?] upon us! Pray Lord have mercy on me! With this prayer this
unhappy youth continue to supplicate Divine Mercy until the bolt was drawn, which launched him
into eternity, amidst at least ten thousand spectators! After hanging the usual time, his body was
given to the surgeon of Rochester for dissection.

A new copy of the verses

Oh! every one both far and nigh your serious thoughts engage
On one so soon condemned to die not 14 years of age,
Cut off just in the dawn of life by the laws of man & God
For oh! my hands are stain'd of fellow creature's blood!
R. Taylor was my victim's name, his father ill & weak,
had sent the lad to Aylesford some money for to seek,
My father and my brother too did join me on that day,
To [?] the lad within the wood through which his road did lay.
In vain the victim of my rage implor'd my hand to stay,
He knelt in deepest distress to me, my anger to allay,
I'll give you all, my victim cried, if you spare my life,
My prayers shall never be denied, my money cap and knife.
But nothing would my feelings touch, his cries availed nought,
For out my sharpened knife I took, and plung'd in his throat,
I saw his life blood ebbing cool as ever the lad had stood,
Then hastened to a neighbouring pool and washed me from his blood.
Ten weeks the murder lay conceal'd, in vain the lad was sought,
We thought 'twould never be revealed and unto [?] brought
The voice of blood at length was heard & I am doom'd to die
For mercy, which I once denied, to thee, o' God ! I cry.
(W. Heppel, printer, Birmingham)

Repro du ct ions of Crime Broa dsi des: "T he Kent T raged y" ( 18 31) cou rt esy of H ist orical &
Spe ci al Col l ect ions, H arv ar d L aw School Libr ary.

Another picture of a 'New-Drop' gallow

John Any Bird Bell

The youngest person to be executed at Maidstone was 14 year old John Any Bird Bell who was
hanged on the 1st of August 1831 by William Calcraft in front of the prison, for the murder of 13
year old Richard Taylor in a wood in the parish of Chatham. John Bell and his 11 year old brother
James, killed Richard Taylor for the sum of 9 shillings (45p) which he was collecting from the
Parish on behalf of his disabled father. Bell was tried on Friday, the 29th, of July, his brother James
being the principal witness for the prosecution. The jury did not even need to retire to find a guilty
verdict, although they requested mercy for him in view of his age and lack of education. At this
time, the law required that murderers be hanged two days after sentence unless this would mean that
the execution would take place on a Sunday, which in this case it would have. So the tearful boy
was led out to be hanged just after 11.00 a.m. on the Monday morning, using the "New Drop"
scaffold erected for the first time outside the main gate of the prison. His execution was witnessed
by some 5,000 people. His body was given to surgeons at Rochester for dissection.
As was customary, following dissection the corpse was skinned and after being scraped and tanned,
was sold in small pieces as souvenirs to ghoulish-minded collectors.

Dissection of a criminal
Bell was hanged using what is now called a short-drop hanging (contrary to a long-drop hanging
where the goal is to break the neck).
(I thought it is a good description what causes death in a short-drop hanging. Just want to let you know that I have no other interests on that website..)
Short drop/suspension hanging achieves death by cutting off the oxygen supply to the brain and
body (asphyxiation) and/or the compression of the arteries (carotid and vertebral) and veins
(jugular) in the neck. It requires little or no drop, as death is achieved simply by constriction of the
trachea and/or the blood vessels. Indeed, a shorter drop is preferable for this method as it places less
strain on the neck muscles.
Whilst generally the literature considers asphyxiation via constriction of the airway as the main
cause of death in short drop hanging, Stone1 does discuss how short drop hanging can take place
without the pain and discomfort of the airway being blocked. The idea is to have enough pressure

from the noose on the right side of the head, just below the jaw, to constrict the carotid artery.
Interrupting the blood flow to the brain causes swift unconsciousness (in 15 seconds or less2), then
what should be death in five to ten minutes.
Likewise, death can also be achieved by constricting the jugular vein under the left side of the jaw,
which prevents blood from getting back to the heart.
Stone also discusses the amount of pressure require to constrict the blood vessels to and from the
head. Whilst the jugular might be constricted with only 2kg (4 lbs) of pressure, the carotid would
need 5kg (11lbs), but these figures do vary from person to person and with the width of the rope (or
whatever else is used around the neck).
If the airway is constricted, and full suspension achieved (i.e. feet fully off the floor), this method,
at least initially, is likely to be very painful, as the person struggles for air against the compression
of the noose and against the weight of their own body, being supported entirely by the neck and jaw.
Clark3 quotes estimates of 1 to 3 minutes before unconsciousness sets in, with full death within 20
It is sometimes possible to revive a person after short drop/suspension hanging if discovery occurs
before death. People who have survived hanging have described the pain diminishing after a while
and seeing bright lights as they drift into unconsciousness.
Hanging (
Hanging is that form of asphyxia which is caused by suspension of the body by a ligature which
encircles the neck, the constricting force being the weight of the body. The whole weight of the
body is not necessary, and only a comparatively slight force is enough to produce death. In partial
hanging the bodies are partially suspended, the toes or feet touching the ground, or are in a sitting,
kneeling, lying down, prone or any other posture. The weight of the head (5 to 6 kg) acts as the
constricting force. In typical hanging, the knot is situated over the nape of the neck ligature runs
form the midline above the thyroid cartilage symmetrically upward on both sides of the neck to the
occipital region other position of knot is called Atypical Hanging. When the body is completely
suspended by a Ligature with full weight acting as constricting force it is termed as Complete
Hanging,when any part of the body is in contact with the ground it is termed as Partial Hanging.
Ligature: A suicide will use any article readily available for the purpose, like a rope, metallic
chains and wires, leather strap, belt, bed sheet, scarf, dhoti, saree, turban, sacred thread, etc. The
doctor should note whether the mark on the neck corresponds with the material alleged to have been
used in hanging and if it is strong enough to bear the weight and the jerk of the body. He should also
note its texture and length, to know whether it was sufficient to hang. Before removing the ligature
from the neck, it should be described as to the nature and composition, width, mode of application,
location and type of knot. Sometimes, the rope will break or become detached and the deceased will
be found lying on the ground with a ligature around his neck.
Symptoms: The first symptoms are loss or power and subjective sensations, such as flashes of light
and ringing and hissing noises in the ears. There is intense mental confusion, all power of to logical
thought is lost; the individual can do nothing to help himself even if it were possible. These are to
followed by loss of consciousness, which is so rapid, that it is regarded as a painless form of death.
Then follows a stage o convulsions. The face is distorted and livid, eyes prominent, and there is
violent struggling. Respiration stops before the heart, which ay continue to beat for about 10 to 15

Causes of Death :
(1) Asphyxia : The constricting force of the ligature, causes compressive narrowing of laryngeal and
tracheal lumina, and forces up the root of the tongue against the posterior wall of the pharynx, and
folds the epiglottis over the entrance of the larynx to block the airway. A tension of 15 kg. on
ligature blocks the trachea.
(2) Venous congestion: The jugular veins are blocked by the compression of the ligature which
results in stoppage of the cerebral circulation, and a rapid rise in venous pressure in the head. This
occurs if ligature is made up of broad and soft material, which cannot sink into tissue to any depth.
The jugular veins are closed by a tension in the rope of 2kg.
(3) Combined asphyxia and venous congestion: This is the commonest cause.
(4) Cerebral anaemia: Pressure on the large arteries on the neck produces cerebral anaemia and
immediate coma. This occurs with ligature made of thin cord, which sinks deeply into tissues. A
tension of 4 to 5kg on ligature blocks carotid arteries, and 20 kg. the vertebral arteries.
(5) Reflex vagal inhibition form pressure on the vagal sheath or carotid bodies.
(6) Fracture or dislocation of the cervical vertebrae.

Delayed Death: Death delayed for several days is rare. Delayed deaths occur due to (1) aspiration
pneumonia, (2) infections, (3) oedema of lungs, (4) oedema of larynx, (5) hypoxic encephalopathy,
(6) infarction of brain, (7) abscess of brain, (8) cerebral softening.
The secondary effects of hanging in persons who have recovered are sometimes hemiplegia,
epileptiform convulsions, amnesia, dementia, cervical cellulitis, parotitis, retropharyngeal abscess,
amnesia, and dementia.
Fatal Period : Death occurs immediately if the cervical vertebrae are fractured, or if the heart is
inhibited; rapidly if cause is asphyxia, and least rapidly if coma is responsible. The usual period is 3
to 5 minutes.

Post-mortem Appearances :
External: The ligature mark in the neck is the most important and specific sign of death from
hanging. Ligature mark on the neck depends on: 1) Composition of ligature: The pattern and texture
is produced upon the skin, e.g., if thick rope is used, its texture may be impressed in the form of
superficial abrasion. 2) Width and multiplicity of ligature : When ligature is narrow, a deep groove
is made because much more force per sq. cm. Of ligature is directed inwards. A broad ligature will
produce only a superficial mark. If the ligature is passed twice round the neck, a double mark, one
circular, and the other oblique may be seen. The ligature may have one, two or more layers. There
may be multiple congested areas where the skin has been caught between the various layers. 3) The
weight of the body suspended and the degree f the suspension: Heavier he body and greater the
proportion of the body suspended, the more marked is the ligature impression. 4) The tightness of
encircling ligature: The ligature impression is deeper opposite the point of suspension, but it may

tail off vary rapidly if ligature consists of loop rather than a noose. If the noose tightness completely
around the neck, the ligature mark will be seen completely encircling the neck. 5) The length of
time body has been suspended: Longer the suspension, deeper is the groove. Even a soft, board
ligature can cause a clear-cut groove if suspended long. If the ligature is cut down within a short
time and a soft broad ligature has been used, there may be no external mark. 6) Position of the knot:
The main force applied to the neck b ligature is opposite to the point of suspension. If the point of
suspension is in occipital region, front of the neck is involved. If in front, the depth of the groove is
limited posteriorly by cervical spine. 7) Slipping of ligature during suspension: Frequently, only the
portion adjacent to the knot moves. There is a tendency for the ligature to move upwards, this being
limited by the jaws. The upward movement may produce double impression of ligature. The lower
mark is usually very superficial and is connected by fine abrasions, caused by the slipping ligature,
to the mark made by ligature in its final position.
Knot: It is frequently in the form of a simple slip-knot to produce a running noose or fixed by
granny or reef-knot; occasionally a simple loop is used. The knot is usually on the right or left side
of the neck, ligature usually rising behind the ear to the point of suspension. Sometimes, the knot is
in the occipital region and rarely under the chin. After suspension in hanging, the knot is at higher
level than the remainder of ligature, the movement of knot being due to the act of suspension. The
involvement of another party may be suggested by certain types of knots and nooses. Removal of
the noose from the neck is done by cutting the noose away from e knot and tying the cut ends with
string or wire.
Ligature Mark: The ligature produces a furrow or groove in the tussue which is pale in colour, but
it later becomes yellowish or yellowbrown and hard like parchment, due to the drying of the
slightly abraded skin. The course of the groove depends on whether a fixed or running noose has
been used, when the loop is arranged with a fixed knot, the curse of the mark is deepest and nearly
horizontal on the side opposite to knot, but as the arms of the ligature approach the knot the mark
turns upwards towards it. This produces an inverted V at the site of the knot, the apex of the V
corresponding with the site of the knot. An impression from a knot any be found if the ligature is
tight on the skin, usually on one or other side of the back and occasionally beneath the chin. A slipknot may cause the noose to tighten and squeeze the skin through the full circumference of the
neck. In the case of a fixed loop with a single knot in the midline at the back of the head, the mark
is seen on both sides of the neck and is directed obliquely upwards towards the position of the knot
over the back of the neck. In the case of a fixed loop with a single knot in the midline under the
chin, the mark is seen on the back and both sides of the neck, and is directed obliquely forwards
towards the position of the knot over the front of the neck. In the case of fixed loop with the knot in
the region of one ear, the mark differs on each side of the neck. On the side of the knot, the mark is
directed obliquely upwards to the knot, and on the other side it is directed transversely. If the
ligature is in the form of a loop, the mark will be most prominent on the part of the neck to which
the head has inclined and less marked over the region of the open angle of the loop. When a running
noose is applied, the weight of the body will cause the noose to tighten in a mainly horizontal
position. The mark is seen on both sides of the neck, and is usually directed transversely across the
front of the neck resembling that of a ligature mark in strangulation, except that it is likely to be
seen above the level of thyroid cartilage. If a running noose fails to tighten, the mark may resemble
one produced by a fixed loop. If the noose is a belt dig into the skin. In hanging from a low point of
suspension, the groove produced by the ligature is less well marked, and may be at about the level
of the upper border of the larynx and more horizontal. In partial hanging when the body leans
forward, a horizontal ligature mark may be seen. The ligature mark usually encircles the entire neck
except for the place where the knot was located. The firmer muscular tissues at the back of the neck
do not show clear and deep grooves, as are teen of the depression, a thin line of congestion or
haemorrhage will be seen above and below the groove at some point, usually the deepest, if not

throughout its course. Ecchymoses alone have no significance as to whether hanging was caused
during life or not, but abrasions with haemorrhage are strongly suggestive of suspension taking
place during life.
The mark is situated above the level of thyroid cartilage, between the larynx and the chin in 80
percent of cases. It may be at the level of the cartilage in about 15 percent, and below the cartilage
in about 5 percent cases, especially in partial suspension. The width of the groove is about, or
slightly less than the width of the ligature. Any well-defined pattern in the ligature is match of
patterns. When fresh, the ligature mark is less clear, but becomes prominent after dying for several
hours. A portion of skin and deeper tissue in relation to ligature should be examined microscopically
for evidence of tissue reaction, which if present indicated ante-mortem hanging. The absence of
tissue reaction does not exclude ante-mortem hanging (Gordon, et al). however, hanging may occur
without visible marks on the victims neck. If there is a beard. Or if a portion of clothing is caught
between the ligature and the skin, no ligature mark any be found under it.
When a folded cloth has been used, there may be great difference between the appearance of the
neck mar and the size of the ligature. When fabric is pulled tight, certain parts of it become raised
into ridges, which form the ligating surface, and only these may be reproduced on the skin. When
nylon, silk or terylene fabrics are used, they may leave a mark only 2 to 3 mm wide. A loop made of
soft material e.g., towel, scarf, etc. may not produce a ligature mark, but the knot may produce an
abrasion due o its firmness. If there is no ligature, the mark should be taped, as it may pick up some
fibers by the ligature and facilitate the identification of the material of which the ligature was made.
The ligature mark of hanging may be reproduced by dragging a body aong the ground with ligature
passed round the neck soon after death. decomposition obliterates the ligature mark. The ligature
mark may disappear after several bourns following removal of the ligature.
In obese persons or infants, skin folds on the neck may resemble a ligature mark, especially after
refrigeration of the body has caused coagulation of the subcutaneous fat. When there is swelling of
the neck tissues due to decomposition, marks may be produced by jewellery or clothing.
Partial Hanging: Hanging may occur simply by leaning against the noose secured to a chair or
door knob, the leg of a table, a bedpost or rail, or the handrail of a staircase, which is slightly higher
than the position of the head, the deceased being in a kneeling position, or fall back or forward and
lie prone with only the face and chest off the ground. In these cases, the constricting face is less and
congestive changes are more marked. Hanging may occur when pressure is applied only at the font
of the neck, e.g. by the arm of a chair, rung of a ladder, etc. in such case, the marks on the neck may
be indistinct or absent.
Other Signs : Asphyxial signs are present in about half the cases of death due to hanging. The neck
is stretched and elongated and the head is always inclined to the side opposite to the knot. The face
is usually pale, due to cerebral ischemia or vagal inhibition, but is sometimes congested and swollen
(swelling often disappears when the body is cut down), f the veins were constricted before the
arteries. Occasionally, the congestion drains away from the head, inspite of the ligature being still in
position. This probably occurs through the vertebral venous plexus, which is not easily compressed
as the jugular veins. The brain is often drained of blood in this way. The petechial haemorrhages in
the skin and conjunctivae remain, as they are extravascular. The signs of asphyxia are most marked
in cases in which the noose as placed high up on the throat. Obstruction of the jugular veins, while
the arteries remain patent, leads to severe engorgement of the head and neck. Slow asphyxia is the
exception in hanging and is likely to occur only when the point of suspension is a low one, or
ligature exerts pressure below the chin and does not encircle the neck. When suspension is in
complete or in the standing posture, asphyxial signs are slight, petechial haemorrhages are relatively
uncommon due to the complete obstruction of the arterial system, but are usually present when
hanging has been from low point. Sometimes, they are so minute and diffuse that the head and neck
have a dusky appearance which may be mistaken for congestion, especially when petechiae are in
subcutaneous tissues. They may be completely than usual due to congestion. Te conjunctive are

open, and the pupils are usually dilated. If the ligature knot presses on cervical sympathetic, the eye
on the same side may remain open and its pupil dilated. It indicates ante-mortem hanging (le facile
sympathique). The tongue is usually swollen and blue especially at the base, and usually forced
against the teeth when the jaw is shut, or the tip may be found projecting between the lips. The
protruding part of the tongue is usually dark-brown or even black due to drying. The lips, and the
mucous membrane of the mouth are blue. Saliva may be found dribbling from the angle of mouth
when the head is drooping forward. This is due to the increased salivation before death due to the
stimulation of the salivary glands by the ligature. Slight haemorrhage or bloody froth is sometimes
seen at the mouth and nostrils, and some blood may be found under the head. This results from
rupture of engorged blood vessels, and should not be mistaken for evidence of foul play.
Occasionally, haemorrhage into the middle ears is seen due to excessive congestion. The hands are
clenched, especially in violent hanging. Engorgement of the penis with blood occurs from
hypostasis it may be semierect, and semen may be found at the tip. Urine and faeces may escape
due to relaxation of the sphincters. If the body has been suspended for sometime, post-mortem
hypostasis is seen in the legs, feet, hands and forearms, while the upper part of the body will be
pale. Petechial haemorrhages may be found in the skin of the legs in 2 to 4 hours. If the body in
removed within 4 hours after death and is placed in supine position, post-mortem hypostasis in the
limbs will fade and new areas of lividity will appear along the back and buttocks.
Internal: The neck should be examined after removal of the brain and viscera from the chest and
abdominal cavities. Superficial incision of the groove may show small haemorrhages in the
underlying layers f skin, caused by the direct trauma produced by the ligature. The tissues under the
mark are dry, white and glistening with occasional ecchymses in the adjacent muscles. In most
cases, there is no bruising of strap muscles or other soft tissues, the muscles of the neck, especially
the platysma and sternomastoid are ruptured (5 to 10%), if violence has been considerable. In some
cases (5 to 10%), the intima of he carotid arteries show transverse splits with extravasation of blood
in their wall due to stretching and crushing. Several horizontal intimal tears scattered along the
carotid arteries at different levels are sometimes found in hanging associated with a long drop. To
demonstrate these tears, the carotid arteries should be opened to the level of mandible. The vertebral
arteries show rupture, intimal tears, and subintimal haemorrhages in some cases. Opinion varies
regarding the frequency of fracture of the hyoid bone. Estimates range from 0 to 60%, but the
average is 15 to 20%. Fractures are rare below 40 years because of the elasticity of the cartilage and
mobility of the joints. The fracture is common in persons above 40 years and involves the great
horns, at the junction of inner two-thirds and outer one-third. The fracture is usually a direct result
of the ligature, but it can be a traction or tua fracture. The superior horns of the thyrohyoid may
be fractured from pressure on the thyrohyoid ligament in about 40% of cases above 40 years. Injury
to the trachea is unusal. Petechial haemorrhages may be found on the epiglottis, in the larynx and
trachea. The trachea is usually congested. The lungs are congested, oedematous, and exude bloody
serum on section in cases of constriction occurring at the end of expiration; but they are pale if
constriction occurred at the end of inspiration. Subpleural ecchymoses may be found. The
abdominal organs are usually congested. The brain is usually normal, but may be pale or congested
according to the mode of the death. subarachnoid effusions are common.

Ligature mark around the neck,

Presence of abrasions, ecchymoses and redness about the ligature mark,
Trickling of saliva from the mouth,
Ecchymoses of the larynx or epiglottis,
Rupture of the intima of the carotid, and
Post-mortem signs of asphyxia.

The Circumstances of Death: Scene of Crime: Note the posture of the body, any signs of violence or
disorder of furniture, etc., and the condition of the clothing of the deceased. The texture and length
of ligature should be noted to know whether it was sufficient to hang. If the ligature had broken and
the victim is found on the ground, free ends of the ligature should be compared to know whether
they coincide and that a break had occurred.
Accidental hanging: Accidental hanging may occur [1] during play or at work, and [2] in sexual
deviation. It is seen in children during play while imitating judicial hanging or in athletes who are in
the habit of exhibiting hanging. Some padding between ligature and neck suggests accident.
Workmen in falling from scaffolding may be hanged by becoming entangled in ropes. When boys
climb trees or railings they may loose their foothold and in falling, some garment is caught by
branch of tree or bar and is drawn tight round the neck. Infants wearing restraining apparatus may
wriggle partly out of it, and become asphyxiated by its tightening around their neck as they try to
crawl away or fall over the side of the bed. The ligature need not completely encircle the neck to
cause death. It is sufficient if it is applied beneath the chin so as to compress the sides of the neck,
e.g. suspension of the chin by the steering wheel of a motor car, the tailboard of a lorry or cart, the
edge of a sofa, or the arm of chair. A person who slips when descending a ladder may be suspended
by one of its rungs, or a slip on a staircase may result in suspension on the edge of one of the treads.
It may be associated with abnormal sexual behavior.
Suicidal Hanging: Hanging is a common method of committing suicide. A typical method of selfsuspension is to attach a rope to a high point, such as a beam, window-casing, ceiling fan, branch of
a tree, etc. The lower end is formed into either a fixed loop or a slip-knot which is placed around the
neck. The victim stands on a stool, chair or other platform and jumps off or kicks away the support,
due to which the body is suspended. The body must be in a position compatible with selfsuspension. It is important to examine the point of attachment and the surrounding area. If the point
is high, then it is likely that there will be recent disturbance of dust caused while attaching the
ligature. The deceaseds hands and sometimes part of his clothing may also show the presence of
corresponding dust marks. There may also be disturbance of dust from the attached cord or from an
abraded area particularly if a beam has been used to attach the ligature. Complete suspension of the
body is the absence of any platform is unusual in suicide. Unusual positions, e.g., where the parts of
the body touched the ground, kneeling or reclining, are almost diagnostic of suicide. The hands and
feet himself, to prevent a change of mind. The position of the ligature with reference to the knot and
the manner in which it is attached to the support must be compatible with self-suspension.
Determination of purpose will often compensate bodily infirmity. Blindness or age is no bar to
hanging. The victim might pull away the ligature to free himself from the constriction and if he had
long nails, nail marks may be inflicted on the neck. Sometimes, the upward movement of the rope at
the time of suspension may scratch the skin. In an attempted resuscitation, scratches or nail marks
on the neck may be produced by another person. Sometimes a person may hang himself after other
forms of suicide, e.g., cutting the throat or wrists, stabs, firearm wounds, ingestion of poison, etc.,
have failed to produce death. suicide pacts effected by hanging are rare.
Homicidal Hanging: It is extremely rare. It is difficult for a single assailant to carry it out unless
the victim becomes unconscious by injury or by a drug, or is taken unawares, or is a child or a very
weak person. Homicide should be suspected (1) where there are signs of violence or disorder of
furniture or other objects, (2) where the clothing of the deceased is torn or disarranged, (3) where
there are injuries, either offensive or defensive. Any definite scratches, especially crescentic nail
marks point to manual strangulation, and if associated with bruising of neck structures and fracture
of larynx, the probability of murder is strong. In all doubtful cases, circumstantial evidence is

Lynching : It is homicidal hanging. Sometimes a suspect, accused or enemy is hanged by a rope

from a tree, etc., by the mob.
Post-mortem Hanging: A person may be murdered, and the dead body suspended to simulate
suicide. Look for signs of dragging to the place of suspension. When a dead body is suspended, the
rope is usually tied first around the neck, and then around the beam, branch of a tree, etc. The beam
shows evidence of the rope having moved from below upwards as the body has been pulled up. In
true suicidal hanging, the rope moves from above downwards. Further, fibers from the rope may be
found on the hands of the victim in suicidal hanging, but not in case of post-mortem hanging. The
rope should be examined for presence or absence of any paint similar to one on the beam. In most
cases, the internal signs are clearly not those of hanging, although in most cases ligature mark
cannot be distinguished. Rarely, for motives of revenge, fraud or for some other reason, a victim
arranges his suicide to appear to have been a murder.
Judicial Hanging: The face of the person is covered with a dark mask, and he is made to stand on
a platform above trapdoors which open downwards when a bolt is drawn. A rope to allow a drop of
5 to 7 metres according to the weight, age and build of the person, is looped round the neck, with
the knot under the angle of the jaw. The placement of the knot beneath the chin, in the submental
position is said to be more effective. On drawing the bolt, the person drops to the length of the rope.
The sudden stoppage of the moving body associated with the position of the knot causes the head to
the jerked violently. This causes fracture-dislocation usually at the level of the second and third, or
third and fourth cervical vertebrae. Less commonly, dislocation of the atlanto-occipital joint or
odeontoid process of the axis vertebra occurs causing pulping of the spinal cord and transection of
the cervical spine, causing the neck to be lengthened considerably. The upper cervical cord is
stretched or torn across, and sometimes the medulla is torn at the border of the pons. It results in
immediate unconsciousness, but heart beats and respiratory movements may continue up to 10 to 15
minutes and spasmodic muscular jerking may occur for a considerable time. The pharynx is usually
injured and the carotid arteries may be torn transversely, either partly or completely.

submental (smen)
submandibular (sm)
muscular-visceral (mus)
carotid (car)

The boundaries of the carotid triangle are:

posterior belly of digastric muscle
superior belly of the omohyoid
muscle (so)
anterior border of sternomastoid
muscle (st)

Roof of the carotid triangle

The first layer, under the skin and
superficial fascia includes the platysma,
which forms the roof of the carotid triangle.
Note the location of the carotid triangle in

Vein of the carotid triangle With the roof

removed, you can see the boundaries of the
carotid triangle and the superficial veins
related to it:
common facial vein (cf) (within
carotid triangle)

Other structures near by:

retromandibular vein (rm)
posterior auricular vein (pav)
facial vein (fv)
external jugular vein (ej)
anterior jugular vein (aj)

Nerves within the carotid triangle

The nerves that enter the carotid triangle
and that lie superficial to the internal jugular
vein, internal and external carotid arteries
hypoglossal (XII)
C1 root of ansa cervicalis (C1)
C1 fibers running with hypoglossal
nerve (nerve to thyrohyoid muscle
C2-C3 root of ansa cervicalis
ansa cervicalis (ac)