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Forensic scientists are holding detailed talks with the government about setting up Britain’s first body farm, where researchers would study decomposing human corpses.

The aim would be to understand the precise manner in which cadavers decay in water or in soil or in open air. The US has several such centres, which have waiting lists of people who have left their bodies to forensic science. Their corpses are buried, hung from trees or immersed in water and analysed in detail to understand how they break down in different conditions. However, geographical conditions in America are very different from Britain’s, so researchers want to establish a centre here.

The lessons learned from the centres – which have featured in crime novels by Patricia Cornwell and in forensic science programmes on television – are then used to help find missing bodies and to understand when and how a person was murdered.

Anna Williams, a forensic anthropologist at Huddersfield University, said that cases like those of April Jones, Milly Dowler or the Soham murders “could have been helped with information of the type that we will get from such centres”.

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