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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Using Sulphuric Acid in Mob Murders

Forensic scientists this month cast doubt on the claim by some Mafia members that they’ve used sulphuric acid to dissolve the corpses of their victims in less than a half hour.

Massimo Grillo, of the University of Palermo, in Italy, told fellow attendees at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences that Mafia songbirds had given testimony like the following, reports ScienceNews: “We put the people in acid. In 15, 20 minutes they were no more—they became a liquid.” Indeed, tanks of acid have been found at Mafia hideouts, and they had supposedly been used to dispose of the bodies of victims.

It’s unclear, however, whether prospective targets of the Mafia should take comfort from the work Grillo was reporting on. Lab tests, using pig carcasses, showed that sulfuric acid plus water could dissolve muscle and cartilage within 12 hours. It took an additional two days to turn bone to dust.

The upshot seems to be that it’s more or less true that the mafia can make you literally disappear. But there may be some residual dust left, and it will take longer than you may have heard.

Thanks to Christopher Shea

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