Quotes from “Forensics” by Val McDermid

some societies, inheritance flowed not from father to son, but from father to sister’s son, because you could be sure that your sister’s son was of the same blood as you. You knew for a fact his grandmother was your mother; you couldn’t be certain your own sons shared your blood.
If ricin is swallowed, its symptoms are nasty but not fatal. But if it is injected or inhaled or absorbed through the mucus membranes, a dose the size of a few grains of salt will kill an adult man. Ricin inhibits the protein synthesis of cells, causing cell death, and damage to the major organs. There is a delay of a few hours before the appearance of symptoms, which include high fever, seizures, severe diarrhoea, chest pains, breathing difficulties and oedema
In 2008, Mike Berry commented (for Sky Television) on the extraordinary case of the disappearance of schoolgirl Shannon Mathews, in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. His analysis of events relied on exactly the sort of sensitivity to nuances of expression and behaviour which are needed for a psychological autopsy. ‘I noticed that when her mother [Karen] was being interviewed on the sofa with her young partner, one of her children was trying to climb up on her lap and she kept pushing the child away. I thought if you’ve just lost one of your children the expected reaction is to hug the others tightly to you, and she didn’t. Then she said something about “The street will be pleased when they find her”, rather than “I will be pleased. I’ll be over the moon.”’ It turned out that Karen had drugged her 9-year-old daughter with temazepam and given her to an accomplice, who had kept her for a month in his nearby house. The plan was for Karen’s boyfriend to ‘find’ Shannon and then split the reward money with Karen. But, following a tip-off, police found the little girl in the accomplice’s house, bundled into a drawer under the accomplice’s platform bed.
At 11 p.m. on 3 May 1957, Kenneth Barlow, a nurse from Bradford, phoned 999 to say that he had found his wife unconscious in the bath. He explained that he had pulled her out and spent a long time trying to resuscitate her, and that she had been suffering from vomiting and fever that evening. Investigators were suspicious when they discovered two used syringes in the kitchen. Kenneth explained that he was using them to treat an abscess he had with penicillin. Tests confirmed the presence of penicillin.
But pathologist David Price remained suspicious. During the autopsy he searched every inch of Mrs Barlow’s skin with a magnifying glass. Eventually he found two tiny holes consistent with injection needles, one on each of Mrs Barlow’s buttocks. The symptoms that Kenneth had said his wife was suffering from were those of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), which made David Price suspect that he had injected his wife with a lethal dose of insulin. There were no tests for insulin at the time, so Price took tissue from around the injection points on Mrs Barlow’s buttocks and injected it into mice. They quickly died of hypoglycaemia. Barlow was found guilty of murder and given a life sentence.
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