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efreysson
03-03-2012, 09:57 PM
I have arrived at a moment in the plot when I need a woman to be killed discreetly in the night. Two other women are breaking into a manor and need to do the deed without anything seeming suspicious about the passing.

Is the old "pillow held onto face" thing as effective a murder method as crime dramas would have us believe? If they surprised her in bed and worked together to cut off her air, how long might such a killing take?
And does this really leave no visible marks?

The setting is pre-industrial, so the killers don't need to worry about an autopsy.

ViolettaVane
03-03-2012, 10:32 PM
I did some research on that recently. Pillow-on-the-face works OK for someone who is deeply unconscious, but the problem otherwise is that the person will probably struggle, thus leaving tell-tale bruise marks.

http://www.exploreforensics.co.uk/asphyxiation.html

Most cases of Asphyxiation are the result of a frenzied argument or uncontrollable rage and it is - contrary to popular belief - unusual for an attacker to deliberately set out to kill their victim by means of strangulation. The most common reason for this is that the process is slow and arduous and requires a lot of strength to subdue the victim whilst also trying to strangle them.

Maybe if they tied her down first then did it? Or perhaps they hung her and tried to pass it off as a suicide.

mirandashell
03-03-2012, 11:19 PM
One way of making asphyxiation quicker is to lie on the chest whilst holding the pillow over the face. With two people this should be quite easy.

ironmikezero
03-04-2012, 02:47 AM
Try a plastic bag over the entire head and cinched around the neck rather than a pillow - especially if the accomplice helps to restrain the victim.

efreysson
03-04-2012, 03:02 AM
Try a plastic bag.

Pre-industrial setting.

BunnyMaz
03-04-2012, 03:03 AM
Pre-industrial kind of makes plastic bags a bit of a no-no. Also, wouldn't cinching that around the neck leave marks?

To the OP, what about poison? I know TV has people using substances like chloroform as if it's a perfect pass-outer but it's actually quite easy to kill someone with it if you don't know how to use it.

MeretSeger
03-04-2012, 03:42 AM
Asphyxiation takes several minutes longer than is usually depicted on tv.

ladyleeona
03-04-2012, 07:29 AM
Asphyxiation takes several minutes longer than is usually depicted on tv.

This. I think it takes from 10-30 seconds to render someone unconscious (depending on fitness of both victim and attacker). Severe oxygen deprivation, enough to starve a brain and cause death, is going to take a couple (if not several) minutes.

For any process that takes minutes, there'll probably be a struggle that'll leave bruises or alert someone close. Maybe you could start the attackers using chloroform (like BunnyMaz suggested) to initially subdue the victim, then finish up with a pillow? (Or you could probably just continually use the chloroform...though I have no idea how long that will take to off the vic.)

ironmikezero
03-05-2012, 05:25 AM
Oops, pre-industrial... darn, missed that.

I guess that means the miscreant would be reduced to using an animal bladder? Or a leather bag, soaklng wet? Hmmm, Victorian water-boarding?

Actually, a cloth saturated with chloroform or ether held tightly over the mouth and nose would suffice. One just doesn't release until death occurs.

ULTRAGOTHA
03-05-2012, 06:41 AM
Chloroform can irritate and burn the skin. I'd think that would be noticeable on the corpse.

Fins Left
03-05-2012, 06:44 AM
How about a different approach? Google Yew bush toxicity. The first sign of toxicity is often listed as "unexplained death". It doesn't take much to kill even a large animal within 5 minutes. They could boil up a strong 'tea' and syringe it into her mouth if she's unconcious or just offer her tea if she's awake.

Fins Left
03-05-2012, 07:02 AM
hmmm... guess hemlock would work better. Here's a pdf of all sorts of toxic plants: http://www.forestmanagementcenter.com/PDF/PoisonousPlants.pdf

CrastersBabies
03-05-2012, 09:01 AM
Interesting that I came here with a similar question. The replies have helped. If the OP doesn't mind, I have a related question.

Some of you speak of bruising. I'm trying to discern the amount of bruising that would occur if someone were being choked (hands on throat) for, oh, let's say, 15-20 seconds.

How much bruising would occur if the pillow method were used? And where would the bruising be?

Stijn Hommes
03-05-2012, 04:03 PM
A pillow might not leave many marks on the body, but it would leave a "death mask" on the pillow -- an impression of the deceased's face.

By the way, asphyxiation and strangulation are quite different things. Get your lingo correct.

ironmikezero
03-05-2012, 11:11 PM
Here's a link on strangulation...

http://stoprelationshipabuse.org/pdfs/Strangulation.pdf

efreysson
03-06-2012, 02:10 AM
By the way, asphyxiation and strangulation are quite different things. Get your lingo correct.

Er, you're the first person to mention strangulation.

Anyway, looking over my outline I actually think leaving the murder is in order for now. But in case I change my mind, I think I'll have one of the characters use a continuous sleeper hold to incapacitate the victim (thereby avoiding struggle-bruises), while the other smothers her to death. Is there any reason this shouldn't work?

I appreciate all the input.

Mark G
03-06-2012, 05:26 AM
I have arrived at a moment in the plot when I need a woman to be killed discreetly in the night. Two other women are breaking into a manor and need to do the deed without anything seeming suspicious about the passing.

Is the old "pillow held onto face" thing as effective a murder method as crime dramas would have us believe? If they surprised her in bed and worked together to cut off her air, how long might such a killing take?
And does this really leave no visible marks?

The setting is pre-industrial, so the killers don't need to worry about an autopsy.

When I think of asphyxiation, I imagine that it would be a long process. Think how long you can hold your breath underwater. The victim is most likely going to struggle and do their best to sneak in a breath now and then, making it even harder.

I think that the suggestions about poison, esp. an undetectable (in pre-industrial times) poison, would probably be the best way to go, if you want it to look "natural".

In the new release of the story "the mechanic", they choked a man to death and set a scene to make it look like it was "auto-erotic" in nature. This probably wouldn't make sense here, but brings up an idea - make it look like a suicide.

Hang a rope over a ceiling joist, and put a chair next to her?
Put a suicide note and a small pistol in her hand, aimed at her head?
Grab her and put her in the bath tub and slit her wrists?

Suicide might be suspicious though, especially if people knew that it would be out of character.

Since your goal is "without anything seeming suspicious about the passing", I'd have to go with the poison group. Something that would be undetectable with pre-industrial tech, and simulate a death by natural causes.

The only other option would be an "accident". Push her down the stairs and spill some tea at the top?

CrastersBabies
03-06-2012, 08:50 PM
A pillow might not leave many marks on the body, but it would leave a "death mask" on the pillow -- an impression of the deceased's face.

By the way, asphyxiation and strangulation are quite different things. Get your lingo correct.

I mentioned hands around the neck in one separate sentence (strangulation). Then, in the next paragraph and sentence, I mentioned asphyxiation.

Don't assume I'm mixing them up. They were separate questions.

CrastersBabies
03-06-2012, 08:51 PM
Er, you're the first person to mention strangulation.

Anyway, looking over my outline I actually think leaving the murder is in order for now. But in case I change my mind, I think I'll have one of the characters use a continuous sleeper hold to incapacitate the victim (thereby avoiding struggle-bruises), while the other smothers her to death. Is there any reason this shouldn't work?

I appreciate all the input.

Wouldn't the strangle hold cause bruises on the neck? Sorry if that's a dumb question. I feel dirty enough asking about this stuff for a book!

efreysson
03-06-2012, 08:59 PM
Wouldn't the strangle hold cause bruises on the neck? Sorry if that's a dumb question. I feel dirty enough asking about this stuff for a book!

Not judging by the sleeper hold videos I've seen on youtube. A few seconds of skillfully applied pressure and a person goes out until released.

jclarkdawe
03-06-2012, 10:29 PM
Wouldn't the strangle hold cause bruises on the neck? Sorry if that's a dumb question. I feel dirty enough asking about this stuff for a book!

Probably.

It depends upon the struggle of the victim, the weight of the victim, the pressure applied, and the duration of the pressure. Then it depends upon the skill of the medical examiner. Basically the more concentrated the force applied, the more likelihood of bruising. That's why a pillow isn't likely to leave a bruise. And that's why your thumbs are.

And one problem with asphyxiation that hasn't been mentioned is the fact that you can stop breathing from suffocation, even have your heart stop beating, and still come back to the land of the living. Commonly done with CPR, there is some question whether it has just happened. (Most causes of traumatic death are not reversible by CPR, although CPR might maintain life until a doctor can reverse whatever is causing the victim to die.) But if suffocating a victim, you need to be willing to invest the time to make sure that the victim is dead dead, and not just dead.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe
Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Emermouse
08-02-2012, 10:34 AM
Sorry to resurrect an old thread but I thought I should do that rather than start a new one.

Anyway, in the novel I'm working on, Character A stabs another Character B in the gut with the knife. Naturally death isn't instantaneous, but Character A wants things over and done with so she covers Character B's mouth and pinches his nose shut until he stops breathing.

My question is: how long would it take under those circumstances for Character B to die?

Snick
08-02-2012, 05:34 PM
Sorry to resurrect an old thread but I thought I should do that rather than start a new one.

Anyway, in the novel I'm working on, Character A stabs another Character B in the gut with the knife. Naturally death isn't instantaneous, but Character A wants things over and done with so she covers Character B's mouth and pinches his nose shut until he stops breathing.

My question is: how long would it take under those circumstances for Character B to die?

Ut depends on the individual, but it would be more than three minutes, and it could take more than ten minutes. As long as fourteen minutes have been reported.

I think that a simple garotte would speed things along quite nicely.