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Year : 2018  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 137-139

A case of homicidal bride burning: An analysis of variables

Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Puducherry, India

Date of Web Publication6-Jun-2018

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Suraj Sundaragiri
Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Puducherry - 605 006
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


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Burning incidents amongst married women are a major concern in India as they have become persistent throughout all social levels and geographical areas. We report here a homicidal case of 25-years-old homemaker brought to our mortuary after sustaining fatal thermal burn injuries.

Keywords: Bride burning, dowry death, homicide

How to cite this article:
Mittal C, Sundaragiri S. A case of homicidal bride burning: An analysis of variables. J NTR Univ Health Sci 2018;7:137-9

How to cite this URL:
Mittal C, Sundaragiri S. A case of homicidal bride burning: An analysis of variables. J NTR Univ Health Sci [serial online] 2018 [cited 2020 Jul 7];7:137-9. Available from: http://www.jdrntruhs.org/text.asp?2018/7/2/137/233851

  Introduction Top

Burn injuries have medicolegal significance, as they might be considered as common causes of unnatural deaths in India. Burn injuries are very high among the most severe types suffered and attributing to high morbidity and mortality.[1] About 45% of the burns patients are dying due to septicemia.[2] Burn injuries are the fourth common type of trauma in the world, following traffic accidents, falls, and interpersonal violence.[3] Burn injuries are the global public health problem, the incidence is estimated to be around 26,5000 deaths per year. In India, annually 1 million people are injured due to burn.[4] The accidental burn is the commonest manner, with residential fires accounting for 10% of all accidental fatalities in developed countries.[5] Further, burns are also the important mode of suicide and homicide in the world. Moreover, the circumstances leading to these injuries are wrapped in obscurity, mystery, lies, and unreliable statements. The various reasons behind this may be personal, domestic, occupational, social tragedy, and particularly dowry.[6] Homicidal by burning of women who are married is a major concern in India for the medical and legal authorities associated with disputes of dowry all over the country. As many as 22 dowry deaths occur in India every day.[7] In such cases, it is often essential to determine antemortem versus postmortem burning. The medicolegal investigation in deaths due to burns deals determination of the manner and cause of death, the nature of burn injuries, i.e., antemortem or postmortem, time since death are important.[8]

  Case History Top

A 25-year-old illiterate homemaker from rural background belonging to low socioeconomic status married since 2 years was brought to our tertiary care hospital casualty after primary treatment at government hospital following thermal burn injuries sustained. On enquiring with relatives, police and going through case records, history revealed that deceased was set a blazed by her husband under the influence of alcohol while she was sleeping outside the house by pouring kerosene over her and then lit her by matchstick. The reason behind being some family disputes. Despite all supportive measures, she succumbed to the complications of dermoepidermal burns after about 22 days of admission. A medicolegal case was registered and the body shifted to the mortuary for postmortem examination.

At autopsy, external examination showed deceased was moderately built with brown complexion and having generalized anasarca. Rigor mortis was present throughout the body and postmortem hypostasis was not appreciable because of extensive burns. The distribution of burnt areas was given based on the Wallace rule of nines.[9] Antemortem dermoepidermal infected thermal burns was seen over the body involving face (3.5%), front of neck (1%), front of chest (9%), back of chest on right side upper half (2.5%), front of abdomen (9%), front and back of both upper limb (except back of left arm) (16%), and front of both thighs (10%) [Figure 1] and [Figure 2]. Base of the burnt surface was with granulation tissue formation with evidence of pus and slough, and reddish brown marginal peripheral areas. Peeling of skin and blisters were present at few burnt areas. Singeing of eyebrow and eye lashes present. About 50–55% of total body surface area was involved. Internal examination showed presence of about 600 mL of straw colored fluid in both pleural and peritoneal cavities. Lungs and brain were congested and edematous. The abdominal organs were intact and congested. The stomach contained about 50 mL of yellow colored mucoid fluid without food particles and without any particular odor. Chemical analysis was negative for any toxic substances including alcohol. Microbiology investigations showed blood culture positive for aerobic spore bearers. The cause of death was opined as complications of 50-55% superficial to deep infected thermal burns.
Figure 1: Superficial to deep infected thermal burns (front view)

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Figure 2: Superficial to deep infected thermal burns (lateral view)

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  Discussion Top

The deaths of married women within 7 years of marriage, i.e. dowry death as a result of burning is a major concern in India.[10] Burning usually occurs either accidently or intentionally.[11] Most of the accidental burns are among women in a kitchen as they are exposed to fire often.[12],[13],[14] Sometimes suicidal or homicidal burns are also presented as accidental by the in-laws.[11] It is of a great medicolegal importance where the manner of death is undetermined. In India, burns related deaths due to homicide is not uncommon.[15],[16],[17],[18],[19],[20],[21]

In most studies, it is observed that majority of deceased belongs 21–30 years age group, that is the marriageable age in India, leading to marital disharmony and dowry disputes as found in present case where age of the deceased was 25 years.[21],[22],[23],[24] In present case, the deceased sustained burn 50–55% of total body surface area, which is similar to observations of various studies.[11],[19],[22] Kerosene was the main factor in most cases of burns as reported as in present case.[11],[25],[26] The deceased was found to be illiterate as observed in most studies.[11],[17],[19],[20],[25] Education raise consciousness and independence in women, strengthening them sufficiently to escape from this brutal killing. The studies clearly suggests that young housewives from joint families are major targets but in our case the deceased was from nuclear family.[11],[19],[20],[24],[27],[28] Most of the cases have been reported from low socioeconomic group as reported in present case.[11],[19],[20],[24],[27],[28] In present case, the victim was housemaker hailing from rural community, who are commonly involved.[19],[23] Incidence were more in arranged marriages but in present case it was love marriage.[19],[20] Husband was found to be offender in present case, which is in consistent with other studies.[19],[20],[29] With reference to time of occurrence of vital events leading to death's showed that most of the cases have occurred at night hours as seen in present case.[19],[20],[26]

  Conclusion Top

“Bride burning” is a social scourge in present civilized society. This social malicious evil also needs to be targeted by a multifaceted and united approach by women welfare organizations, social media, police, and judiciary towards enhancement of socioeconomic and educational profile. The visit of the scene of crime and complete postmortem examination of the victim, history from investigating officer and relatives in suspected bride burning by forensic expert/medical officer are useful to decide manner of death, mode of death, cause of death, and time since death. Every case of burns especially among married women should not be taken as accident until proved otherwise. A forensic medicine expert should evaluate all these cases to minimize the likely hood of inaccurate diagnosis.

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form the patient(s) has/have given his/her/their consent for his/her/their images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patients understand that their names and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal their identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

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  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]


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