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  Significance Of Ligature Mark In Cases Of Strangulation

Very often we hear of deaths due to strangulation. Strangulation is a violent type of death due to asphyxia resulting from the constriction of neck by means of ligature or any other means where body is not suspended. This is also brought about by compressing the neck by means of foot, knee or any other solid article. In a form of Strangulation called? BANSDOLA ? the victim's neck is compressed between the two bamboos, one placed in front and the other behind the neck, the ends of which are fastened by the rope at the ends. 

In all these cases, a mark is left behind indicating the method used to strangulate the victim. The death occurs when the pressure applied is sufficient to obstruct the air passages and the blood vessels of the neck. Thus one thing is clear that a person cannot strangulate himself as he cannot exert that much pressure on himself because the person will become unconscious after applying little pressure on the neck and the pressure cannot be sustained thereafter.

The close examination of ligature mark and the state of structures in the neck region under the ligature mark provide vital clues as to the method applied for strangulating the victim. 

It is very common to find that a rope is twisted round the neck and pressure is applied by pulling both the ends of rope in proximity to each other. Thus such a method leaves behind a ligature mark encircling the neck once, twice or thrice (As the case may be) and is found all around the neck. This is circular but may be oblique if the victim is dragged after
tying the rope. There may be an impression of the knot which may be single or multiple. The oblique ligature mark is also found in cases where the victim is strangled from behind in a sitting position and the force used is from backwards and upwards. Generally these ligatures are situated below the Thyroid cartilage in the neck region. 

On removing the ligature, the base of the groove will be found pale and their margins will be reddish and ecchymosed. If this is examined after some hours of death, this will be dry, hard and parchymentised. Sometimes there are abrasions and ecchymosis in the skin around, when a rope made of jute is used. The pattern of the rope is judged from the impression of the impact left at the site of ligature. Rope is a hard material and thus the impressions are clearly visible. In cases where soft material like dhoti or scarf has been used, sharp impressions are not seen but the effects of the application of pressure at the site are clearly found out. Sometimes they are invisible, if the material used is yielding in character like stocking or handkerchief. In some cases, the clue is obtained from the fibers of the material used which are found at the site.

In cases where stick or foot is used to strangle the victim, a bruise is found in the centre of the neck and the mark of the substance used is found. In case one stick in front and one behind the neck have been used, the marks of bamboo sticks in real dimensions will be present.

In the common forms of strangulating the victim as mentioned above, sufficient pressure is needed to cause death and thus changes are found in the structures below the skin where the ligature mark is found. These changes are seen on dissecting the neck region in the area of the ligature mark. When this examination is done by dissecting the neck, the extravasation of blood (Accumulation of blood) in the subcutaneous tissues (Tissues beneath) is seen under the ligature mark. This is due to the rupture of blood vessels of the area due to the pressure applied. Besides thus, the muscles of the
neck in the area involved are also found lacerated (Torn). At times, the sheath of the Carotid artery (Main artery of the region) is found lacerated and there is effusion (Collection) of blood in its walls. If the force has effected the Hyoid bone, it is found fractured but when present, this is taken to be the surest sign of death due to strangulation. Similarly, the
cornua of the Thyroid cartilage may be found fractured.

Medicolegally, to say that the ligature mark has been caused due to strangulation, it may be kept in mind that the soft ligatures like dhoti, silk and scarf may not produce any mark. Sometimes similar marks may be produced by wearing a collar or band in the neck loosely and in decomposed bodies due to pressure of gases, in the region. They may give a picture to look like a ligature mark due to strangulation. So along with the ligature mark which may be circular round the neck presenting ecchymosis at its basewith parchmentisation ,with the lapse of time, the effects of violence must be
present in the underlying tissues like rupture of muscles and blood vessels as well as accumulation of blood underneath, besides other characteristic signs of strangulation in body. If the pressure applied has been great, there will be fracture of Hyoid bone at a particular site, which is considered as the surest sign of strangulation by some authorities.

A tip to advocates for defence in a case of strangulation :-
The scientific defence in case of strangulation centres round the postmortem report itself. The advocate should look into the findings mentioned in the report and compare them with the findings which should be found in a case of strangulation (Particularly the description of ligature mark and injuries to the deeper tissues as indicated in the article ) . The difference, if any, will be of help in defence . In case of doubt, advocate should consult a medicolegal expert.

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