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  #1  
Old 10-04-2014, 03:47 PM
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SirJohnFalstaff SirJohnFalstaff is offline
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Default Detecting laudanum post-mortem

I have questions.

Is it possible to drug a victim with laudanum before killing her and the drug wouldn't show on a post-mortem (back in 1888, of course)?

Was MJK's blood tested for alcohol or other substance?



Not putting forward a theory, just looking for an angle for a fiction piece.

thanks
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Old 10-04-2014, 08:25 PM
Errata Errata is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SirJohnFalstaff View Post
I have questions.

Is it possible to drug a victim with laudanum before killing her and the drug wouldn't show on a post-mortem (back in 1888, of course)?

Was MJK's blood tested for alcohol or other substance?



Not putting forward a theory, just looking for an angle for a fiction piece.

thanks
Laudanum has an odd smell. I can't really describe it, but it's kind of sweet, kind of spicy with just a hint of vomit smell... all wrapped up in booze. Kind of smells like someone lit a apple pie spice candle in a drunk tank. Sort of...

But the effects of laudanum were well known, so if she had what was considered to be a therapeutic dose in her back then (which is considered a terribly dangerous dose now) her death would not have masked the physical signs of opiate use. And if she was a habitual user, theres a lot of damage to the body.

Alcohol would mask the smell if they weren't looking for it, at least in her mouth and esophagus. I think it could be detected in the stomach.

But the weird thing with laudanum is that it's pretty easy to take a lethal dose, but extremely difficult to knock someone out, or render them insensible. It's the alcohol/opium combo. They fight each other just enough to keep people generally upright, but enough laudanum to knock someone unconscious is enough to kill them. I mean, if women couldn't go about their business after treating their menstrual cramps, the stuff never would have been so popular.
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Old 10-04-2014, 09:36 PM
Magpie Magpie is offline
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Looks like it could be detected chemically in the stomach:

http://books.google.ca/books?id=SFs9...anum& f=false
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Old 10-05-2014, 11:19 AM
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SirJohnFalstaff SirJohnFalstaff is offline
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Thank you Errata and Magpie.

So there was no way that MJK could had a spiked drink without her noticing, or not appearing in the post-mortem that was done?
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Old 10-06-2014, 01:34 AM
RockySullivan RockySullivan is offline
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I feel like if they had tests for poisons they must have have tests for opiates. Nightshade compounds like scopolamine could be used to turn someone into a compliant zombie instantly and there would be no test available for it.
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Old 10-06-2014, 08:23 AM
Errata Errata is offline
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Originally Posted by SirJohnFalstaff View Post
Thank you Errata and Magpie.

So there was no way that MJK could had a spiked drink without her noticing, or not appearing in the post-mortem that was done?
Oh her drink could have been spiked. In fact, Laudanum was cheaper than liquor and had about the same alcohol content, so people drank it like they drank booze. Which was a terrible idea, but boy did it soothe the shakes. She may have even drank it willingly. And there is a pretty good argument to be made that she wouldn't have smelled it or noted it. Crowded in a bar with unfortunates, addicts, her own sense of smell likely compromised from drink, the weather, and from the various smells coming from the people around her (bakers, butchers, tinkerers) she may not have smelled it at all, or simply assumed that the smell was coming from something (or someone) else. In her own home, she would have noticed. But maybe not so much in a bar.

But some kinds of booze can blunt the smell. Not something like vodka, but real gin (not bathtub gin) certainly might. Wine might. Liqueurs like Anisette or something definitely would. Spike those with laudanum, and she would probably not noticed even in her own home.

As for showing up in an autopsy, I'm not entirely sure. After 6 hours or so, the stomach contents should be gone. How much of a residue is left, I don't know. If she continued drink after being dosed, it might "wash" out the residue in the stomach contents. And I don't know where the drug is absorbed. If it is absorbed in the stomach, there is a real time limit on finding it. It it's absorbed in the intestines, there is a better likelihood of finding some in the stomach longer. I can't imagine that it sticks around for more than 72 hours. Very few things do that don't involve heavy metals. But within that, assuming it all hadn't already been absorbed into the bloodstream, I think it could be found. The test is specific. The real question is, did they test for it, and if they did and found it, did they simply assume that she, like many other drunks, had drank it because it was cheap and easy?
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Old 10-06-2014, 05:15 PM
RockySullivan RockySullivan is offline
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Oh her drink could have been spiked. In fact, Laudanum was cheaper than liquor and had about the same alcohol content, so people drank it like they drank booze. Which was a terrible idea, but boy did it soothe the shakes. She may have even drank it willingly. And there is a pretty good argument to be made that she wouldn't have smelled it or noted it. Crowded in a bar with unfortunates, addicts, her own sense of smell likely compromised from drink, the weather, and from the various smells coming from the people around her (bakers, butchers, tinkerers) she may not have smelled it at all, or simply assumed that the smell was coming from something (or someone) else. In her own home, she would have noticed. But maybe not so much in a bar.

But some kinds of booze can blunt the smell. Not something like vodka, but real gin (not bathtub gin) certainly might. Wine might. Liqueurs like Anisette or something definitely would. Spike those with laudanum, and she would probably not noticed even in her own home.

As for showing up in an autopsy, I'm not entirely sure. After 6 hours or so, the stomach contents should be gone. How much of a residue is left, I don't know. If she continued drink after being dosed, it might "wash" out the residue in the stomach contents. And I don't know where the drug is absorbed. If it is absorbed in the stomach, there is a real time limit on finding it. It it's absorbed in the intestines, there is a better likelihood of finding some in the stomach longer. I can't imagine that it sticks around for more than 72 hours. Very few things do that don't involve heavy metals. But within that, assuming it all hadn't already been absorbed into the bloodstream, I think it could be found. The test is specific. The real question is, did they test for it, and if they did and found it, did they simply assume that she, like many other drunks, had drank it because it was cheap and easy?
I'm not sure laudanum would be very useful for the rippers purposes. It's always possible but my guess would be it wouldn't suit his purposes. You would need a pretty high dose to render someone defenseless. If he spiked a drink it would have to be large dose and victim would likely have a soon onset. I think that large of a dose needed would be easily detectable...if they knew to rest for it. I figure laudanum would be quite popular as well as opium.
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Old 12-22-2014, 07:20 PM
Gman992 Gman992 is offline
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Just lick the lips of the dead....Johnny Depp did....
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Old 02-01-2015, 12:39 AM
MacGuffin MacGuffin is offline
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Hi SirJohnFalstaff,


Quote:
Originally Posted by SirJohnFalstaff View Post
I have questions.

Is it possible to drug a victim with laudanum before killing her and the drug wouldn't show on a post-mortem (back in 1888, of course)?

Was MJK's blood tested for alcohol or other substance?



Not putting forward a theory, just looking for an angle for a fiction piece.

thanks
Qualitative analytical testing for opiates was available in the 1880's and considered to be reliable as legal evidence in the criminal courts.
Quantitative analysis was not quite as precise as qualitative at the time, so though it was also used in the courts, the accuracy could be argued by the opposition to achieve reasonable doubt.
Toxicological testing was not routine in that era, and wasn't often performed even in probable overdose cases. These tests were usually only done when there was suspicion of a murder/attempted murder by intentional poisoning, so the only analysis needed to prove intent would be in qualifying (confirming) that the suspected poison was in the sampled body fluids.

Only a few pages of MJK's autopsy report still exist, with no mention either way regarding toxicology; however, laudanum was widely used and abused at that time, and while it's odor could have been recognized by a medical examiner, in the case of a mutilated East End prostitute it would have probably been assumed that the victim had been self-medicating.
The idea that a (hypothetical) murderer might drug his victims before killing them might never have entered the pathologist's or law enforcement's minds.

Best Regards,

MacGuffin
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Old 02-17-2015, 04:00 PM
Michael W Richards Michael W Richards is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SirJohnFalstaff View Post
I have questions.

Is it possible to drug a victim with laudanum before killing her and the drug wouldn't show on a post-mortem (back in 1888, of course)?

Was MJK's blood tested for alcohol or other substance?

Not putting forward a theory, just looking for an angle for a fiction piece.

thanks
The officials supposed the women were lying down on their backs when the throats were cut, and the evidence is that few sounds were ever heard by nearby witnesses, led the police to consider drugging almost immediately. Im certain that to the extent they could they tested for substances.

Cheers
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