Cyanide corpse color in China

The trial of Bo Xilai has brought a case of cyanide poisoning back into the news: Bo’s wife was convicted of killing a British man with cyanide, in a trial suspected of political motivation. But a forensic expert was skeptical on the grounds that red corpse color was not noticed. As the BBC reported (see also here)

Wang Xuemei told the BBC there was little evidence Mr Heywood died from cyanide poisoning.

Mr Heywood was found dead in a hotel room in November 2011.

Last month the wife of a prominent Chinese politician was found guilty of murdering him by poisoning.

However, the account given in court of how Gu Kailai killed Mr Heywood does not tally with cyanide poisoning, according to Ms Wang, who works for China’s top prosecutor’s office.

Cyanide poisoning would have caused lightning-fast asphyxia, spasms and a heart attack and turned his skin and blood bright red, which investigators would easily have spotted, she says.

A recent story about the forensic expert’s resignation repeats the point:

Last year, after the murder trial of Bo’s wife, Wang was the only senior forensic official who criticized the government’s evidence. She said that if Heywood had been killed by cyanide as authorities had said, forensic scientists would have been able to tell quickly from discoloration on the body. Instead, Heywood’s death was initially passed off as alcohol-related.

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