How does a corpse smell?

Forensic medicine: "The smell is only unpleasant if you know what it is"

At first death smells like disinfectant. And then, intrusive and pungent, for something else, strangers. It's a smell that never completely goes away in the Institute for Forensic Medicine at the Berlin Charité. The doctors autopsy corpses here day and night. Even the strongest cleaning agents cannot drive away the smell of putrefaction.

It's the only thing that reminds us of where we are on this summery May day in Berlin-Moabit. The clinic cleaned up for us. One does not want to expose journalists to the sight of cut corpses. Instead, the new Sat.1 series is presented here. It's called “On the trail of death”, and institute director Michael Tsokos presents his most exciting cases.

Berlin's dead are brought to him when a public prosecutor and a judge have decided that the cause of death must be investigated. There are 1000 corpses a year. Half of them are found to have died of natural causes. The other half died violently, either in an accident or by suicide. Or: by manslaughter. It is a homicide about 15 percent of the time.

The police crime statistics record 126 cases of murder or manslaughter annually for Berlin on a ten-year average. This means that statistically every third day one person is killed by another.

“You won't see any bodies. At most body parts "

Sometimes the forensic doctors provide the investigators with the crucial information, for example in the case of the “puzzle killer”, who is so called because he sank the body parts of his victim in various places in the Spree. His undoing was that nothing more could be said here that Tsokos was able to reconstruct the tattoos on the decayed torso.