Postmortem submersion intervals in the River Thames

Ian Greatbatch PhD a, David Livingstone b , Gordon Hunter PhD b and Yvonne Saunderson c

a School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Portsmouth, UK;
b Faculty of Science,
Engineering and Computing, Kingston University London, UK,
c National Health Service, UK


This paper catalogues a dataset drawn from Metropolitan Police records in the period 2004-
2015 regarding drowning victims recovered from a tidal stretch of the River Thames and
provides a comparative study with a similar dataset from the time period 1956-1959 by the
County of London (Western District), H.M. Coroner of that time, Gavin Thurston, from the
information gathered in his professional role. In addition to drawing comparisons between
these time periods the paper draws inferences regarding the Post-Mortem Submersion
Interval (PMSI) and proposing further study required. Both datasets show a significant bias
towards male subjects counter to other comparable data in the literature. This bias is even
more pronounced in the 2004-2015 period where additionally there are significantly more
incidents during Full Moon Lunar Phase. Some weak seasonal trends were observed
regarding equinoctial peaks but these were not statistically significant.

There are few clear trends observable in factors that might influence Post-Mortem Submersion
Interval although there was a weak and counter-intuitive inverse relationship between clothing
weight and time in water.


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