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A Modern Take on Protecting the Dead

How high-tech technology is being used to combat the age old problem of grave robbing.


An Italian funeral accessories company has devised an alarm system for coffins and urns in order to thwart the attentions of would-be grave robbers following several cases of stolen corpses in the country it has been reported.

The Art Funeral Italy company based in Caravaggio has devised what they call the MIKE system, an acronym for Monitoring Infringement Ksolutions Equipment which works by monitoring vibrations set off by disturbing a grave. The monitoring is carried out by crematoriums or funeral parlours who then alert police to the nefarious, nocturnal activities.

While this may all seem a little far-fetched, it’s nothing more than a modern take on an old practice, for in the 18th and 19th centuries grave robbing occurred throughout Europe and was particularly rife in the United Kingdom. In the early 1800’s there was an explosion in the numbers of trainee doctors and surgeons who required to be trained in their art, yet British law allowed only the bodies of executed criminals to be supplied to medical schools. Human nature being what it is, a solution was quickly found and the era of the body snatchers was born. It soon became common practice for freshly buried bodies to be stolen from their graves and sold to doctors at medical schools for dissection. As a counter-measure, in order to protect the bodies of their loved ones, relatives took to protecting their graves using a variety of methods including booby traps, mortstones and morthouses, facts which are portrayed and elaborated upon in a new documentary by Orickle Limited, a Scottish-based media company.

Said Leona Tyrie, producer of “The Body Merchants: The Shocking Truth About Anatomy Murder”, “Two hundred years ago body snatching was a huge problem in Britain. Fresh bodies were being stolen from their graves under cover of darkness and sold to anatomy schools for the purpose of dissection to provide practical instruction to medical students as there was a chronic shortage of bodies for that purpose. The documentary sets out to explain what led to those circumstances and how counter measures were taken to try to stop the body snatchers from stealing bodies from graves before they began to decompose and were therefore of no use to anatomy schools. Dr. Martyn Gorman, an acknowledged expert on the subject, features on the DVD explaining how the body snatchers plied their trade and how the relatives of the dead engaged in a sinister battle of wills to prevent them from stealing the bodies of their loved ones. Dr. Gorman has travelled all around Scotland researching the subject and brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to his craft, for which I am deeply indebted to him.”

But this is no dry, dusty academic film”, said Leona. “It has been shot in high definition and features authentic re-enactments to bring the subject to life and also features insightful commentary and analysis by leading experts in their field, including surgeons and anatomists.”

The documentary is the product of many hours of research”, explained Leona, “as I wanted to ensure that it was historically accurate while simultaneously also being informative and entertaining.”
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