- CASE FILES
Expert Sergey Nikitin conducting a skull superimposition
In recollection, nine hikers leaded by Igor Dyatlov went on a trek in the winter of 1959 in the mountains of the Northern Urals. A month later the rescuers discovered their cut tent. And in a radius of one and a half kilometers from it - five frozen bodies. The corpses of the rest were found only in May. Almost all the hikers were stripped and half-dressed. Some had fatal injuries. It is not clear even to these days why the hikers ran away at a severe cold to their demise.
"Komsomolskaya Pravda" organized the exhumation of the body of the most mysterious member of the Dyatlov group: The investigation continues.
On April 12 at the Ivanovskoe Cemetery in Yekaterinburg, we exhumed the body of one of the most mysterious members of Dyatlov's group - Semyon Zolotaryov. We will talk for the time being with the prefix - presumably - Zolotaryov, because DNA expertise is not yet ready.
The very moment when the skull was found
We are asked: why did you do this?
At our request, exhumation was conducted by forensic expert of the Moscow Bureau of Forensic Expertise Sergey Nikitin. Also at the cemetery was a tragedy researcher, doctor Galina Sazonova. We talked with them on the radio "Komsomolskaya Pravda" (97.2 Moscow), where they commented on the first results of the examinations.
Here is the transcript of the conversation.
Where did the stones come from?
Sergey Nikitin (SN): The grave turned out to be very peculiar. There was even a question, whether such burial is typical. It turned out that the grave was covered 90 percent with large pieces of granite and sprinkled with fine granite.
Correspondents (Cor): There is talk that the grave was opened, and then it was simply filled up with stones.
SN: I believe that in Ivanovskoe Cemetery almost all the graves are covered with stones, as it is on the mountain. When all the stones were extracted, we found the skeleton, which lies in the position on the back, legs - to the east. This is Orthodox orientation. They began to extract the bones of the skeleton. Galina and I laid out the bones in anatomical order on the sheets of cardboard. In particular, Galina was laying out his ribs. I was at that time handling the skull. It had to be washed and drained.
Galina Sazonova laying down the ribs
Cor: You took the skull in your hands and immediately said that it was the skull of a man and he was 35-40 years old.
SN: In such studies, the first questions to answer are: gender, age and race type of the person. So this skeleton belongs to a man, the age is within 35-40 years, the racial type is europeoid. Even individual bones can be the object of age determination. But the most informative is the skull, and then - the teeth. More correctly, their degree of deterioration. They allow you to more objectively and accurately determine the age with a special table. The skeleton of this man was within 35-40 years. And Zolotaryov should have turned 38 years old. We also estimate the dental status. We evaluate the traces of dental intervention. Absolutely, the condition of the teeth corresponded to that described at the autopsy in 1959. The same crowns of stainless steel on the same teeth.
Cor: There was one interesting crown.
SN: Yes, a kind of crown of the seventh tooth, the adjacent tooth was on the same root. And this crown is on the second root. These are the particulars of the dentist's approach. Apparently, he decided that it would be most efficient to intervene in this way.
Cor: Can this false crown be a spy tab? Sorry for this question, but it is asked on the forums.
SN: These are just features of the dental work. The doctor decided to preserve the roots as much as possible, so that the person could chew more fully.
Galina Sazonova (GS): Are crowns like this common in places of detention? (There is a version that instead of Semyon is buried a runaway convict - ed. note)
SN: There is nothing unusual in this dental work. Somewhat above average. Nothing remarkable or different. Conventional crowns are made of stainless steel.
GS: I helped only at the first stage, when they were still cleaning the bones from the ground, working with a brush. I did preliminary filtration of the bones. I did not do the expert layout of the skeleton. I have a question: where did the front tooth go?
SN: This loss occurred on April 12 this year, in the process of extracting the skull from the grave. We did not have time to look for it. He remained in the grave.
GS: Were there any other damages to the skull?
SN: The skull was not damaged. All the traumas occurred on the chest.
GS: Why isn't there any hair?
SN: This is a particular phenomenon. In some graves, hair is preserved under certain conditions. Even after hundreds of years, hair is perfectly preserved. And in other graves the hair is gone.
Expert Sergey Nikitin washes the skull for the superimposition forensic method
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The portrait of Semyon and the image of his skull coincided in 13 main positions
Cor: Can you tell us more about the this forensic method, superimposition, that you are using?
SN: This method was developed in 1956 by Yuri Mikhailovich Kubitsky, a Soviet military expert. He suggested that you can identify a person by putting a photographic image on the image of the skull. The skull is on the stand in front of the camera. At that time, the negative of the image was superimposed on the frosted glass of the viewfinder. By rotating, moving the skull and moving away, approaching it with respect to the lens, the skull was inscribed along the points, the contours were compared. And then we look at the conjunction of the contours.
Cor: What are the points where the images match?
SN: The main points are the ears, the corners of the eyes, under the nose, the point of the line of closure of the lips, under the chin, the contours of the parietal, the parietal-temporal, the temporal, the lower contour of the face. There are a number of other points. The maximum number of point to match are 24, if we have a high-quality photograph of a bald man and if the skull has no significant losses. But for identification, 12 signs are sufficient provided that we know the sex of the person and his age. In our case, there were 13 points. This indicates those are the remains of Semyon Zolotaryov.
He was lying on something solid
GS: In 1959, the forensic pathologist described that there were two fracture lines of Zolotaryov ribs. "After the extraction of the organs from the thoracic and abdominal cavities, fractures of the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth ribs on the right along the parasternal line and midaxillary line are determined." How much did it coincide with what we saw?
SN: This coincided almost completely. Except for a small minor amendment. I would define the axillary line not as an average, but as a back axillary line. Some bones were not examined. We looked at the right shoulder blade, there were three fractures. The act of this was not noted. I assumed first that this is a posthumous injury. The whole grave was covered with pieces of granite, the pressure on the bones of the skeleton can't be ignored. But then I reassessed, because the left shoulder was intact. If there were posthumous damages, it is logical to assume that both the left shoulder blade would be broken and in general would be other multiple fractures on the bones of the skeleton.
GS: Yes, we did not see damages like that. We found much more fragile bones. Even thyroid cartilage. And the skull itself is not crushed. It turns out that this weight had no effect on the bones.
SN: During the burial after the funeral the stones were laid to form a vault. They didn't press down. The ribs were broken on the right, and the right shoulder blade. This fits into the mechanism of fracture of the ribs.
GS: Is it correct to say that the chest as a construction can have structural fractures? In other words, one blow could cause several fractures?
SN: This indicates that at the contact zone, the impact exceeded the sizes from the first to the sixth rib. It was a large heavy mass. Most likely, snow.
GS: Can you determine when this injury took place?
SN: The presence of blood in the pleural cavity of Zolotaryov unequivocally indicates that he was alive.
GS: In what position was the person at the time of injury?
SN: It can be undoubtedly said that he was lying on his back. And the traumatic effect occurred from front to back, maybe some what from right to left.
GS: The surface on which the person was lying was relatively firm?
SN: Yes. It is unlikely that he was lying in the snow.
GS: You found that not all ribs are broken equally. Is it possible to say that the force that acted on the thorax in full force acted where the ribs are completely broken? And where they didn't brake completely, it seems like the impact was less?
SN: The ribs on the axillary line have broken as a result of excessive bending. This is called the flexural nature of the fractures. In the parasternal line, the character of the fractures was extensor. This suggests that the traumatic event occurred at the time when the person was lying on his back, and suggests the direction where the mass came from.
GS: Like as if squeezed a concrete slab? Or is it from the compression of a blow? There is a theory that a lot of snow has fallen.
SN: Was it impact or slow squeezing that took some time? When the corpse is examined not to the extent of decomposition in which the corpse of Zolotaryov was at the time of the autopsy, there are soft tissues, subcutaneous fatty tissue, one can estimate the hemorrhage into the subcutaneous fatty tissue. If it was a blow, we would see hemorrhages in the muscles and subcutaneous fatty tissue. If this mass of the snow layer type squeezed gradually, it is unlikely that we would see hemorrhaging.
GS: Hemorrhages were noted at the autopsy. And on histology, and in the act.
SN: This suggests that it was a sudden pressure, a velocity impact. Not gradual.
Cor: It's like a blow, lets say, by a car?
SN: A car is a comparison. In our case, we can say that this was the impact of a large mass.
GS: Could it be caused by explosive blast?
SN: It can be safely excluded. Injuries would be of a different nature.
What caused the fracture?
Cor: On the tibia of the foot, a callus was found, which indicates an intravital fracture. But there is an opinion that Semyon never had any injuries.
SN: During the investigation, a trace of a long-term intravital fracture of the right tibia in its middle part was found. It is impossible to judge the limitation period of a fracture.
GS: Can you judge the nature of the healing from such callus?
SN: The two halves were aligned along the axis. There was no dislocation. The banal fracture. Maybe he was formed in his childhood. Zolotarev went through the whole war. A bullet wound is unlikely, but we can't rule it out. If the bullet shoots through the bone, it will be a defect - a shortening of the bone.
From the authors
Could a hiker with such traumas walk a mile and a half along the slope?
We thank Sergey Nikitin and Galina Sazonova for an interesting conversation, and the work done. We want to add that in the certificate of death of Semyon Zolotaryov, issued on May 12, 1959 by the Registry Office of Yekaterinburg, to his mother, it appears that he died from "low temperature." As the results of the examinations show, this is not the whole truth.
After the broadcast, we asked additional questions to expert Nikitin, to clarify the picture of what happened.
However, we still have to thoroughly examine the nature of the injuries of Semyon's ribs. We plan to conduct a more thorough examination of the skeleton based on photo and video materials that were shot during the exhumation.