The deliberate killing of a sheep with a fire extinguisher: a case report and experimental reconstruction study


The morphological findings of a sheep deliberately killed with a powder fire extinguisher in an act of cruelty are described. The animal was orally insufflated with the powder of a 6 kg fire extinguisher having the working pressure of 15 bar. This led to rupture of the esophagus and rumen, followed by rupturing of the abdominal wall. Furthermore, powder was applied rectally into the large intestine and vaginally into the genital tract. For a better understanding of the lesion patterns and of the course of events, fire extinguishers were used in an experimental case reconstruction study on sheep carcasses. Rupture of the rumen and abdominal wall could only be reproduced after intraesophageal insufflation but not after oral insufflation. Therefore, an esophageal application has to be considered in the killed sheep. Esophageal rupture in sheep carcasses could not be reproduced by oral or by esophageal application of the fire extinguisher. Nevertheless, in isolated fresh ovine esophagi, compressed air of less than 1 bar was sufficient to induce tissue separation in the esophageal wall. The described case reveals parallels with findings in rarely reported accidents with or in suicides committed with chemical fire extinguishers.

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The authors thank Dr. T. Kirschner for supporting the reconstruction studies with sheep carcasses at the rendering plant. We thank SARIA A/S GmbH & Co. KG, SecAnim for providing us with the carcasses and J. Peters for taking the photos at the rendering plant. Thanks to Frances Sherwood-Brock (English Editorial Office of the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover) and Dr. Tim Baltes for editorial help.

Special thanks to Dr. R. Zweihoff (Institut für Rechtmedizin, Dortmund, Germany) for critical reading of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Martin Peters.

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The authors declare no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship and/or publication of this article.

Both authors contributed to the study concept and design. The reconstruction studies were performed without exception on carcasses of dead sheep.

Statement on the welfare of animals

Reconstruction studies were exclusively performed on animal carcasses. There were no animal welfare conflicts according to the Local Animal Welfare Officer.

Both authors approved the final manuscript before submission.

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Peters, M., Wohlsein, P. The deliberate killing of a sheep with a fire extinguisher: a case report and experimental reconstruction study. Forensic Sci Med Pathol 16, 259–264 (2020).

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  • Fire extinguisher
  • Sheep
  • Deliberate killing - animal welfare