Incomplete decapitation in suicidal hanging - Report of a case and review of the literature

Klára Töro, István Kristóf, Éva Keller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

27 Citations (Scopus)


Complete or incomplete decapitation is an unusual complication of suicidal hanging. We present a case of incomplete decapitation due to hanging with soft tissue injuries, spinal cord dissection between C2 and C3, fracture of the hyoid bone and injuries of cartilages. The 52-year-old male victim with a 95 kg body mass used a 1.5 cm thick and 3.1 m long nylon rope snap-hooked to a rafter. The comprehensive literature review of incomplete or complete decapitation by suicidal hanging emphasises the importance of investigation of biomechanical process. In the presented case we calculated the physical parameters (final speed: 7.8 m/s, kinetic energy: 2945 J, force: 9500 N). The previous observations were confirmed that body weight and falling distance were the most important factors in the pathomechanism of decapitation. In the hanging process energy can be stored by changing the position of the human body in the gravitational field, by changing the shape of the hanging rope and by changing the motion of the hanging body. We concluded that the occurrence of complete or incomplete decapitation can increase by the increasing energy stored as potential energy at the starting position and the characteristics of the rope extended by the hanging body.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-184
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Forensic and Legal Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2008


  • Energy transfer
  • Hanging
  • Incomplete decapitation
  • Spring model
  • Stored potential energy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law

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