One of the first cases in which forensic entomology was successfully utilised in the UK was that of murderer Buck Ruxton in 1935.
In September 1935 in Dumfriesshire, Scotland, a woman was peering over a bridge above a stream when she made a gruesome discovery. A heap of decaying human remains was found in a small ravine below. Examination of the remains revealed the identities of two victims: the wife and maid of Dr Buck Ruxton – Isabella Kerr and Mary Rogerson. Ruxton, whose full name was Buktyar Rustomji Ratanji Hakim, was a popular and respected GP working in Lancaster at the time, where he lived with his common-law wife Isabella and their three children.
During the investigation various maggot specimens were collected from the remains and sent to a laboratory at the University of Edinburgh. It was there that specialist Dr Mearns identified the species as Calliphora vicina, more commonly known as blowflies. By examining the maggots, it was established that they were somewhere between 12 and 14 days old, thus giving the minimum time for which the remains had been left near the stream.
Suspicion quickly fell on Ruxton for a number of reasons. The two bodies had been dismembered with great skill, suggesting the suspect was knowledgeable in human anatomy, as Ruxton was being a medical doctor. Furthermore, Ruxton had obtained a cut to his hand around the time of the murder and a cleaning woman had reported revolting odours and blood stains in Ruxton’s house. Finally, parts of the victims’ bodies were wrapped up in newspapers, some of which were special editions from the Sunday Graphic, sold only in Morecambe and Lancaster.
Based on the statements of neighbours, it is believed that Ruxton murdered his popular, outgoing wife in a fit of rage, whom he suspected was having an affair. After being disturbed by their housemaid, he proceeded to murder her too, before dismembering the bodies in an attempt to hide their identities before dumping them.
On 5th November 1935, Ruxton was charged with murder and later hanged in May the following year, despite a petition for Ruxton’s mercy receiving over 10,000 signatures.
Goff, M L., 2000. A Fly for the Prosecution: How Insect Evidence Helps Solve Crimes. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.