by Emilio Nuzzolese, Forensic Odontologist, Bari (Italy)
Unidentified human remains require the complete collection of data during the autopsy stage to achieve, even belatedly, a positive identification. The very large number of people reported as missing in Italy (36,902) may represent an obstacle in the investigative process leading to the potential identity of the corpse, considering that 76.98% are foreigners. Add to this, the high number (1868) of “unidentified corpses” yet to be identified. A single case of a skeletonized corpse, listed in the list of nameless bodies is presented, with particular attention to odontology assessment. The case presented allows a broader definition of dental autopsy, which can no longer be considered a mere odontogram recorded by the medical examiner and/or a dentist with no forensic background. The case presented is not yet been identified also because no antemortem (AM) identified data of compatible profiles has not been shared by the Police and consequently, no comparison of AM, and postmortem data could be possible. The failure to routinely employ forensic odontologists in the postmortem collection of identifying data of human remains of uncertain nationality and the reconciliation process will result in a reduction of additional findings, which, together with other circumstantial evidence and DNA profiles, can lead to a delay in positive identification.
Postmortem assessment, evidence, and data collection of any unidentified human remains of unknown nationality should follow Interpol DVI principles, and forensic odontologists should be involved not only in the PM data collection but also in the AM dental data input, comparison, and reconciliation. The failure to routinely employ forensic odontologists can lead to a delay in positive identification and human rights violations.