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Forensic Pathology in the Jenny Tanner Case

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danelia kok

on 22 September 2014

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Transcript of Forensic Pathology in the Jenny Tanner Case

About Us
History of Forensics
Case Background
Forensic Anthropology
Stages of Decomposition
The Inquests
After we die our bodies undergo dramatic changes.
Post mortem events may preserve or destroy forensic evidence.
The stages of decomposition can be divided into 4 stages.
1. Fresh
Immediately- no blood transport- blue pooling of blood-
livor mortis
3-6 hours, the muscular tissues become rigid,
rigor mortis
The body begins losing heat to the surrounding environment,
algor mortis.
2. Bloat
First clear visual sign of microbial proliferation.
Accumulation of gases, such as hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, and methane.
Causes the distention of the abdomen.
3. Putrefaction
The decomposition of proteins results in breakdown of tissues and the liquefaction of most organs.
Caused by bacterial or fungal activity.
4. Putrid dry remains
Skin and soft tissues are no longer present (or in very limited amounts)
Danelia Kok
4th year Biomedical Science, Molecular Biology and Forensic Biology
Completed two case reviews: Tanner and Graeme Thorne Abduction
Esmeralda Nel
4th year Forensic Biology and Toxicology, Molecular Biology and Biomedical Science.
Specializes in Forensic Anthropology
Recently reviewed the Edward Splatt case.
Definition: Application of the science of Biology to Legal Investigations.
Forensic Science only become specialized in last 200 years.
Originated in early civilizations. -Imhotep- Physician of pharaoh Zozer, had to investigate all suspicious deaths.
Julius Caesar underwent Autopsy.
Autopsy by dissection was banned until 1240.
Clinical Forensic Medicine- deals with living cases eg child abuse
Forensic Pathology- deals with suspicious causes of death eg homicide
In Australia Homicide investigations form a small part of the work of Coroners- 1%
Other 99% of cases involve unexplained natural deaths and deaths suspected to be from direct or indirect trauma.
- Laurie Tanner arrived home at 10.22pm on 14 November 1984
- Finds his 28 year old wife Jennifer Tanner shot dead on the couch.
- Seated with a .22 bolt action farm rifle between her legs
- Bullet wound to the head
- 21 month old son- Samuel found asleep across the hallway.
- No sign of disturbance in the room- TV was on, electric iron on ironing board.
- Upper body pale and yellowish, lower body showing post mortem lividity with a blue bruised colour.
- 2 shots fired, spent cartridge in gun and one below heel.
-Police deduces Jenny had held the rifle with her hands cupped over the muzzle
-Shot herself through the mouth by operating the trigger of the rifle with her left big toe.
-Further deduced that her hand wounds were caused by the accidental discharge of the rifle as she was inserting her toe into the trigger guard.
-To all who attended the scene, suicide was certain
- The scene was cleaned up the next day.
- no Photographs, no DNA testing, no investigation

What can you identify from a skeleton?

1. Sex
3. Age
4. Stature
5. Trauma

.22 Calibre BRNO bolt action rifle
Magazine feed of 10 bullets
A deposit of partly burnt grains of powder in the bore.
The trigger pull measured 1.8kg.
Safety mechanism was effective.
The weapon could only be discharged by applying pressure on the trigger.
A large deposit of dried blood on the muzzle end of the barrel and in the bore of the weapon at the muzzle end.

1st Inquest
18 October 1985
Presided over by Coroner Hugh Adams
All witnesses agreed that nothing indicated the presence of a visitor
Dr Terry Schultz agreed that the cause of death was gunshot wounds
Coroner brought open finding but was critical of police.

2nd Inquest
Second inquest began 16 October 1997
Succession of witnesses were produced to prove that Jenny was murdered by Denis Tanner
Coroner declared first head shot as fatal or at least incapacitating
Accepted opinion from Prof Kaye who had only seen fiberglass model of skull
Hand wounds explanation did not match up to physical evidence
Spent shells location indicated position of gun vertical to ground
Killer hence needed too lie on ground directly below her to shoot at correct angle
Found that Jenny was murdered
Found that Denis tanner Shot her
“Denis Tanner shot his sister-in-law.” Section 19(3) of the coroners acts 1985 states that: “ A Coroner must not include a finding or comment any statement that a person is or may be guilty of an offence.”
Police were not required to fully investigate suicides in 1984
Evidence points to suicide
Denis Tanner guilty until proven innocent
Tanner has had no trial to clear his name
His team is currently working towards a new inquest
Investigator Bias- Police looked for evidence to prove their malicious intent.

Forensic Pathology in the Jenny Tanner Case
Blunt force trauma
Sudden introduction of a blunt instrument to the body with great force.
Eg. Piece of wood, hammer, or baseball bat.

Sharp force trauma
Any implement/ object having a sharp edge. eg.Knives
Chop wounds - implements such as machetes, meat cleavers, swords.
Severe in nature, and can include extensive soft tissue and bone damage.

Bullet wounds
Penetrating, when a bullet enters a substance but does not exit.
Perforating, a through-and-through passage of an object by a bullet.
When a bullet enters the skull it produces a sharp-edged "punched-out" hole in the outer table, with a larger corresponding "beveled-out" hole on the inner table.
Location: Bonnie Doon in Victoria
The death of Jenny Tanner in 1984 was deemed to be suicide.
Supposedly shot herself in the head twice.
The first bullet lodged in the temporal lobe of her brain.
She re-loaded the rifle and shot herself again.
However, she had shots through both of her hands fired from less than 30cm away.
The next day, Denis Tanner, a police officer who was also Jenny’s brother in law, cleaned up the scene.
Skeletonized remains of Adele Bailey found in mine shaft 25km from Tanner property.
Suspicion fell on Dennis Tanner who had previously arrested Bailey and knew Jenny
Adele Bailey
The skeleton of New Zealand born transsexual prostitute Adele (Paul) Bailey was found in the abandoned Jack of Clubs mineshaft.
Public on 19 July 1995.
8years after she went missing.
Mineshaft located close to to Tanner property- Dennis Accused
As the remains found were just bones, Forensic Anthropologists were called.
No Cause of death could be identified
The Crime Scene
The Case for Suicide
Many reported cases of multiple-headshot suicides
Particularly when the weapon is a low velocity .22 rifle which is designed to kill small animals and birds.
Multi-shot suicides can occur when an intending suicide test-fires the weapon or accidentally discharges it.
After the first non-fatal headshot, the victim can be dazed and may have lost vision or hearing.
The victim can lose consciousness, then revive and re attempt the suicide.
Pathologist Dr Peter Dyte, conducted the autopsy.
Noted that the first headshot had passed through the frontal lobes without affecting any vital centres and bruised the undersurface of the brain.
In his opinion, Jenny could have had the capacity to fire twice.
In murder cases, victims are instinctively evasive and moves about.
Wounds are found on the chest, head arms and back.
Victim of suicide will always stay still to enhance accuracy.
For a murder scenario to apply, the shooter would have to be kneeling infront of Jenny to achieve the same angle
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