Currently there is no scenario development done with the donors (e.g. stabbing, or shooting); there is
deposition of the bodies only.
In order to prevent contamination between the outside world and the facility, there is a clear separation
area built in to the entrance of the site. On one side you can wear ‘street’ clothes; once you pass through
you must wear the appropriate PPE.
Image of separation between clean & dirty
Image of weather station
Similar to the processes in the FAC, the donors in the AFTER are given a unique reference number which
follows the remains throughout the process. The AFTER facility has been set up so that bodies can be
placed in groups of four. The soil was tested prior to body deposition in order to get an accurate
background level for the components in the ground. The bodies are each placed in a plot 5m x 5m, as
testing has shown that this is the minimum distance to prevent leeching of decomposition between plots
(see Appendix 3 for plan of plots). There is also a weather station on site so that daily conditions can be
measured, and then correlated with research findings.
Already, with limited studies ongoing, the researchers at AFTER have been able to observe major
differences between the visual markers decomposition on human remains compared to pig carcasses
(which had been used for studies up until then). They are, however, planning research involving both
human and pig remains, so that it can be decided if any research can still be conducted using pigs
carcasses. They have already found that the Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) gases given off during the
early stages of decomposition differ between them. This is a potential issue, as body recovery dogs are
currently trained using pig carcasses in the UK - if the gases are detectably different then there is a chance
that our dogs may be missing out on recovering human remains.
Another issue that has been identified during the limited research being conducted in Sydney, is the need
to develop a new scale for describing the stages of decomposition in Sydney - the existing descriptors for
the stages of decay are not appropriate for the conditions in Australia. For example, they have noted that
some of the donors are displaying all stages of decay at the same time - the feet show no signs of decay,
the abdomen shows bloating, and there is partial skeletonisation of the skull.
None of the remains have been finished with yet, so they have not had to clean the flesh off the bones. It
is anticipated that this will be a post-doctoral research project. As in the FAC, the skeletons will also
become an important resource for researchers in the future. As in Knoxville, there is a memorial garden
with a monument for the donors’ families to visit.