Skeletons in the closet: Maropeng Murder Mystery

  • October 18, 2013

Join forensic anthropology expert Dr Patrick Randolph-Quinney and Maropeng’s Bone Detective, Brendon Billings, for an evening of murder, mystery and forensic anthropology at Maropeng this November.

Brought to you by Maropeng and the forensic anthropology and archaeology divison on the Human Identification Unit at Wits University’s School of Anatomical Science, the Maropeng Murder Mystery evening promises to be a thrilling and insightful introduction for anyone with an interest in forensics, anthropology and the human body.

What is the murder mystery evening all about?

On 30 October 2013, members of the South African Police Service Special Investigations Unit were called to a building site in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs.

Construction workers, while preparing the foundation slabs of the housing development, had made an eerie discovery: bones buried deep underground.

After unearthing the remains and examining the burial site, police requested the assistance of forensic anthropologists.

The anthropologists confirmed that the bones were the skeletal remains of two individuals.

Officers at the scene investigated the surrounds and discovered no additional evidence relating to the discovery of the skeletons, although forensic intelligence was able to determine that the hole in which the skeletons were buried had been dug using a garden spade.

Remnants of clothing – zips, buttons and studs – were retrieved from the burial site, but no other associated evidence was found. Neither shoes nor evidence of identity were found.

Following enquiries by the police, it became apparent that in the past 20 years a number of residents in the area had disappeared under suspicious circumstances.

Dental and medical records were matched to the skeletons and DNA samples were taken from living relatives for genetic comparison.

A full anthropological investigation was requested.

The examination will take place at CSI: Maropeng.

Your role at CSI: Maropeng

It is your job to identify the skeletal remains, give them a name, and help bring the perpetrators to justice.

Assisted by specialists in forensic anthropology and skeletal biology, you will undertake analyses of biological and personal identity, and skeletal trauma.

Working with specialists you will learn how to assess identity from the skeleton, and how to analyse the effects of inter-personal violence on bone, helping to understand how they may have met their death.

Meet the mystery-buster team

Dr Randolph-Quinney is a senior lecturer at Wits University’s School of Anatomical Sciences

Dr Randolph-Quinney is a senior lecturer at Wits University’s School of Anatomical Sciences.

He is an experienced researcher and fieldworker with interests in the application of biological anthropology across differing historical timescales.

He has over 20 years' archaeological field experience in the recovery, identification and analysis of human skeletal remains and archaeological faunas.

He is an experienced forensic caseworker in areas of forensic human identification and forensic anthropology, human/non-human bone identification, forensic cremain analysis, and forensic archaeology and body recovery – including archaeological search strategies for discovery and recovery of clandestine burials, and recovery from fatal fires.

Brendon Billings is a faculty member and curator at Wits University’s School of Anatomical Sciences and is Maropeng’s resident “Bone Detective”

Brendon Billings is a faculty member and curator at Wits University’s School of Anatomical Sciences and is Maropeng’s resident “Bone Detective”.

Thirty-one-old Billings has completed his MSc in History of Science at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits), and currently doing a PhD in comparative neuroscience.

Prior to that, among his many accolades and awards were a Bsc Honours in human biology, a staff bursary for Wits University Medical School, and funding in 2010 for the refurbishment of the Raymond Dart Human Skeletal Collection.

He was also nominated as a member of the prestigious Council for the Royal Society South Africa.

Event details

Date: 9 November 2013

Time: Debriefing starts at 16h00 at Maropeng

Cost: R375 per person, max 30 people. Please note that this event is strictly adults only.

The event includes a dinner at Maropeng's Tumulus Restaurant, as well as welcome drinks upon arrival and a few surprise extras. 

Bring your best CSI impression and dress to impress.

Click here to book your place today

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