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Criminal Poisoning: Investigational Guide for Law Enforcement, Toxicologists, Forensic Scientists, and Attorneys. (Book Reviews).

Criminal Poisoning: Investigational Guide for Law Enforcement, Toxicologists, Forensic Scientists, and Attorneys by John Harris Trestrail III, Humana Press, Totowa, New Jersey, 2000.

Criminal poisoning is an offense that often receives little attention due to its apparently rare occurrence. Although statistics indicate that poisonings account for only 3 to 6 percent of homicides, many cases of criminal poisoning may go undetected as a result of the difficulties associated with detecting this type of crime. As noted by the author of the book, Criminal Poisoning, this type of crime frequently becomes known only after exhumation of the victim's remains. If this is the case, then how many additional poisoning cases are missed in the initial investigation process? In Criminal Poisoning, John Trestrail III provides investigators with a multidisciplinary guide for the investigation of criminal poisoning. To highlight some of the author's relevant experience, Trestrail has served as the managing director at a certified regional poison control center for over 20 years in addition to his work as an expert consultant in many criminal poisoning investigations. He also has presented numerous seminars on "Murder by Poison!" and "Poisoners Through History" and is a visiting instructor at the FBI Academy.

The author begins the book with a review of the historical use of poisons in ancient cultures, including the Sumerians, the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans, among others. He also discusses poisoners in the modern era, including the cases of Dr. Crippen (hyoscine) and Henri Girard (various biological agents), as well as the murders of Georgi Markov (ricin) and Stella Nickell (cyanide). The cases reviewed prove very interesting, and the author provides a list of suggested readings at the end of each chapter.

The remainder of the book focuses on the practical investigation of poisoning cases, including types of poisons encountered, classification of poisoners, poisoning victim characteristics, crime scene investigation, the forensic autopsy, and the prosecution of poisoners. In this portion of the book, the author shares much of his own experience in the investigation of criminal poisonings. His survey of actual poisoning cases indicate that the most widely employed poisons are arsenic, cyanide, and strychnine. He discusses his own classification system for poisoners, which categorizes offenders according to victim specificity and the extent of planning completed for the poisoning event. In the chapter on crime scene investigation, he includes a detailed list of information to obtain during a poisoning investigation.

While not a comprehensive reference, Criminal Poisoning is a useful starting point for those involved in criminal poisoning investigations. Readers desiring more detailed information should consult reference materials on their topic of interest. With this consideration, the author has compiled an extensive bibliography, including references on poisoners throughout history, poisoning in fiction, forensic poisoning, and analytic toxicology. This bibliography is an extremely useful tool for the investigator pursuing difficult to find reference information, as it lists many resources not likely found in the most widely used medical reference databases.

The author concludes that investigators should consider poisoning in all death investigations that have no visible signs of trauma until the facts prove otherwise. A useful tool for the investigator, Criminal Poisoning discusses the aspects of poisoning cases in an easily followed style and provides investigators with basic, but important, information for the investigation of criminal poisoning cases.
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Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Jufer, Rebecca A.
Publication:The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 2002
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