Ildikò Szelecz

(cartoon by Nina Feddern)

In forensic science it is very important for legal investigations to be able to estimate the time since death, the so-called post-mortem interval (PMI). First medical and then entomological methods can be used, but the longer the PMI the less precise they become. I am looking for new methods to estimate longer PMIs and therefore I am investigating the soil beneath decomposing cadavers. In July 2013 I have set up an experiment with 13 decomposing pig cadavers (Sus scrofa), some of them directly on the ground, others hanging 1m above ground and additional control and fake pig plots. In this experiment I am especially interested in selected chemical markers, nematode abundance and community structure, testate amoebae abundance and community structure and comparing the results to real cases. Different research groups from Belgium, Germany, Scotland, Switzerland and the UK are involved in my experiment and are either supporting my research with their expertise or getting samples from my experiment for their own research.


Master thesis:

Szelecz, I.; (2010) “Soil organisms beneath a cadaver-a tool for estimating the time of death”, Johann Wolfgang-Goethe Universität, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.



Szelecz, I., Sorge, F., Seppey, C., Mulot, M., Steel, H., Neilson, R., Griffiths, B. S., Amendt, J., & Mitchell, E. (2016). Effects of decomposing cadavers on soil nematode communities over a one-year period. Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 103, 405-416.


Szelecz, I., Sorge, F., Feddern, N., Seppey, C., Mulot, M., Amendt, J., Mitchell, E.A.D. (2014) “Invertebrates: Above ground, below ground and in court ?”, Special issue of Antenna, Bulletin of the Royal Entomology Society, United Kingdom (submitted).

Szelecz, I. & Mitchell, E.A.D. (2014) “Les îles de décomposition”, L'Ermite herbu. Journal de l'Association des amis du Jardin botanique de l'Ermitage, N° 48.

Szelecz, I., Fournier B., Seppey, C., Amendt, J., Mitchel, E.A.D. (2014) “Can soil testate amoebae be used for estimating the time since death ? A field experiment in a deciduous forest”, Forensic Science International 236 : 90-98.


Szelecz, I. & Amendt, J. (2010) “Leichenfund im Wald. Bodenökologische Untersuchungen zur Eingrenzung der Leichenliegezeit” Forschung Frankfurt 2/2010.

The experiment in the press:

  • Scientific American Magazine (October 2014 Issue) “Amoebas on Deathwatch”
  • Neue Zürcher Zeitung (01.05.2014) “Schalenamöben helfen Forensikern. Verräterische Einzeller”
  • Swiss Radio: RTN (07.04.2014) “Porcs morts pour la science “
  • Swiss TV: RTS.ch (23.10.2013) “Des scientifiques datent les morts avec une methode inedite”