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  • Foto do escritorDr. João De Sousa

"One Murder Case: Advantages of a Holistic approach in Forensic Science

Atualizado: 24 de jan. de 2023

Poster presentation at the 64th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, February 2021, Atlanta, E.U.A.


Dr. João De Sousa Forensic Consultant

René Descartes (1596-1650) divided, supported and partially analyzed the complex kaleidoscope of reality in order to dissect the apparent complexity of the phenomena, exploring the natural world as if it was formed by pieces in movement (mechanicism). This methodology, which is the scientific paradigm that has followed us during the last 450 years, is strictly quantitative, building the reality from an intelligible structure of mathematic character. The analyzed measurable parts allow us to know the whole measured.

In light of the holistic paradigm are numerous examples that show that the parts identified under the previous reductionist view are "all" very different. The thought and the various sciences, separately and strictly defined, not currently provide valid responses to the questions.

In 1971 Marcel Mauss (1872-1950) postulated that "we must rebuild the whole", imposing a greater openness, a greater ability to find relationships and interdependent possibilities. Basically, understand the "all that is in part that is in all", i.e., identify the links, the relations, the connections and the interdisciplinary inter-phenomena patterns.

At July 10th, 2005, in Setúbal district, Portugal (approximately 20 kms from the country capital, Lisbon), after a fire extinction in a tree zone used for garbage ousting, the presence of a corpse was detected. This corpse was of a burned and nonidentified-male individual, with no signs of tattoos or any articles that would allow a positive identification. The corpse was also gagged, with hands tied behind his back, and after preliminary examination, presented signals of beating. Due to the lack of sufficient identification and interpretation elements about the location, it was necessary appeal to forensics sciences. It was necessary the use of Tanatology, Forensic Anthropology, Lofoscopy and Forensic Chemistry for corpse identification.

Given the complexity of the scene found, using the holistic paradigm of the researcher, reading the information of the whole drawing on the intersection points of the various forensic sciences, achieves the desired objective in all and any criminal investigation of a murder case, namely the clearance of the actual circumstances of death in the study.

With this work we show through an outline form, the evolution of criminal investigation. One should overlook the fact that the choice of the geometric scheme is purposely sinusoidal and two-way directional in order to illustrate the need to develop a dialectical investigative route, keeping constantly a global look, dynamic, connected, consequent, abductive and interdependent.


Complete and accurate clearance of the death circumstances. Two murder authors were identified. Two effective arrests. 25 (maximum sentence in Portugal) and 18 years effective sentencing.

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