The zombie outbreak is contained and people survived in fortified cities and on islands and so on.

Humans who die in any way that does not destroy the brain will turn into zombies.

Rules of that is simple: 5-30 minutes until they start changing. Once they start the change they turn within a few seconds.

The biggest problem here is simple: What prevents a person from killing someone, then claiming they died and turned, then the person doing the killing were forced to kill them?

There are many many ways you can kill a person without showing signs of resistance or destroying the brain...etc.

The governments of the setting are exactly like ours.

Can the government in anyway figure out if a person who turned and got killed did in fact die naturally or was killed and then the murdered waited for them to turn to cover it up?

I mean using science or any certain methods not simply investigate the case. Not a 'torture suspects until they confess' sort of solution. Like how DNA testing is scientific

Edit: I'm not suggestion that police work is useless. I'm trying to explore other methods or at least how will the zombie factor change things. Because normal police work is not a mystery I'm not focusing on it as much.

Extra fluff

I'm only interested in can it be done or not. Suggestions outside of this don't seem to fit. Suggestions of put cameras everywhere don't sit will. But I'm not saying don't try to provide a solution, I mean I can't stop anyone, just saying that we are trying to solve a specific problem here.

I also understand that if a person did the killing on camera it's a done deal. This is for situations where no video evidence exists and there is a distinct lack of forensic evidence...etc

Suggestions of: "Police work" will fall apart here.

Sure hating someone might make you a suspect if they died by your hands. But that's not concrete evidence. A couple who fights daily, does not mean that one of them will murder the other!

If a person dies young then that makes it extra suspicious.

True. But since we don't have an exact time and date of the death of people, again a murderer can simply claim they died naturally and turned. Death just happens.

Pass a law to require people to report the deaths immediately.

That's not a terrible idea. But again people can work around it. Like you wake up to your partner shaking violently in the bed. Naturally you picked your pistol and killed them before they can kill you or the kids. But a worthy idea.

Also understand that in the post outbreak cities people carry weapons and are expected to murder zombies on sight. The survival of the block and entire city is more important than anything. So. It would be easy to exploit the system to get away with murder.

Anyway I don't want to bore people with my own ideas and suggestions here. Feel free to agree or disagree as long as it is detailed please.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Don't be so quick to dismiss police work. Forensics is a thing. If there's any change (is there?) in the blood/cells/tissue and whatnot between the non-zombies and the zombies, it would be detectable. So while the dead(er) zombie on the floor might be obvious, the splatter of fresh, non-zombie blood on the wall might be a clue. Though granted this method would take some sort of blood registry, but that could be reasoned out in a zombie world. $\endgroup$
    – Teak
    Dec 10, 2020 at 0:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Teak added an edit to clarify it, that works?. But like I said in the question: "I also understand that if a person did the killing on camera it's a done deal. This is for situations where no video evidence exists and there is a distinct lack of forensic evidence...etc" So. There is not point to discuss normal police work because it is will established and that will amount to me asking about a very well known subject that I already know a bit about. anyway like I said I want more scientific methods not just normal stuff $\endgroup$
    – Seallussus
    Dec 10, 2020 at 0:26
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Fair enough, also why I put it as a comment and not an answer. $\endgroup$
    – Teak
    Dec 10, 2020 at 0:28
  • $\begingroup$ "Within less than half an hour they will start to turn" - what is the minimum time? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Dec 10, 2020 at 0:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander, 5-30 for the shortest and longest recorded time Added that in the question. Thanks $\endgroup$
    – Seallussus
    Dec 10, 2020 at 0:49

7 Answers 7


Assuming zombies don't heal or convert the entire body's biochemistry, current biochemical-based forensics should still work, if a lab and trained people are available of course.

Some things are easy: Poison should still be detectable, signs of disease and infections as well, things that would establish a cause of death. Oxygen deprivation should also be traceable or even visible with one look at a purple-faced zombie. Most ways that a body fails and dies are accompanied by a specific cascade of biochemical processes that should leave their marks.

For all injuries, the key would be to look for signs that the injury triggered the body's fight/flight and/or healing processes. Blood coagulation, platelet accumulation at the site and possibly high adrenaline levels would indicate the person was still alive when the injury was inflicted.

Unfortunately, the time you specify for turning is still in the range where the blood might still be somewhat alive and functioning and thus coagulating. So if the person is killed, turns zombie and then immediately is cut, the blood might still coagulate as normal. After a few hours, it will not anymore and the zombie would bleed out from a cut.

If you specify that zombification also changes the blood itself, the forensics get a lot easier: The presence of any fresh/unaffected blood on the body or crime scene indicates injuries happened before death. That would require a law forbidding you to proactively destroy the brain of a deceased person until they turn, I suppose.


Mandatory life signs monitors + normal police work

I am going to focus on one very specific aspect of the world you propose:

That means if a person dies in any form without destroying their head then the following will happen: Within less than half an hour they will start to turn.

Very few accidental / natural causes of death will destroy the head - the number can be rounded down to zero. This means that from the government's point of view, every person who dies will be a dangerous zombie within 30 minutes. This is a hideous risk that cannot be left untreated.

In such a situation and with the equivalent of today's technology, the only sensible course of action is for everyone to be required by law to wear a heart monitor with a transmitter and strobe light. To keep the civil rights people happy, the only time that the transmitter and strobe are activated is if the heart monitor indicates a flatline - Big Brother gets to know when and where you died but nothing else. (Places where civil rights are disregarded may have additional functions on the monitor, but that is not relevant to this question.) This also makes it hard to argue that you thought someone was dead - if the strobe on a persons' monitor is not going off then the person is not dead. A result of this is that any death will be investigated very quickly - murderers cannot hope that evidence will degrade with time.

While it is not specified in the question, if "zombies" do not have circulating blood then forensics can easily determine whether a person was alive or dead/zombie. So standard police work already has a means of telling whether the person you shot / stabbed / axed was alive when it happened - this can be determined from visual examination of blood spatter patterns alone even without using more sophisticated tests.

Finally, it should be noted that "mysterious" murders are really unlikely unless you live in a town called Cabot Cove or that starts with the name "Midsomer". People are even more likely to work together and have a sense of community when they are confronted by an external threat, which zombies would definitely be.

  • $\begingroup$ I love that answer. Of course post-zombie-apocalypse world's survival would be based on the ability of the security forces to almost-immediately appear wherever someone has died $\endgroup$
    – user2061
    Jun 5, 2021 at 16:38

Cause of Death?

It should still be possible in at least some cases to determine the original cause of death. I mean, you have the extra step of killing (ending? re-killing? whatever new hip word the kids come up with for it?) the zombie. But after that, you can still look at the wounds and make a determination of whether the wound happened pre or post death.

So if there's a mortal knife wound and the medical examiner determines it happened pre-zombie based on typical forensic evidence, then you've got a murderer on your hands. If the wound happened post-zombie, then it was clearly a non-murderous self-defense.

Same with poisons: IF they are detected in the zombie goo (blood? Is it still blood?), then it was clearly murder. But you can't really poison something post-zombie, so...

But not always

I would argue that just like some murders today go unsolved or get chalked up as accidental deaths or suicides, the same would be true here, only more so. It wouldn't be impossible to tell that a murder took place. But it would be harder.

Some wounds would be obscured by the transformation or may be harder to determine the timelines for, since the transformation would change the zombie.

And it may take a few years for medical / forensic science to catch up with the new rules. There'd need to be new studies done. The "Body Farm" at University of Tennessee, Knoxville would have all kinds of new and terrifying studies to perform -- while being one of the scariest places in the country to work.

End result

So yes. Eventually, the scientists would catch up and there'd be ways to determine the timelines and figure out if a death was murder or not. BUT there would also be all new ways for creative murderers to hide their tracks. So sort of a mixed bag. In the end, determined murderers would be wise to kill them in a way that CAN be disguised as a non-murder, but to also quickly kill the zombie. Because no one wants more zombies. Well, mostly no one. Luckily for the police, most murders are crimes of passion and not planned out carefully ahead of time.


Forensics would be the real deterrent here. The "original" cause of death should not be so difficult to figure out.

Apart from forensics, two measures should really set the things straight: First is the requirement to report any death immediately. People in this post-apocalypse would typically live in close quarters, so just yelling "Dead!" should be enough. Second is requiring all people to wear muzzle when sleeping.


If you have current forensics, you should be able to reconstruct the events from forensic evidence alone.

So many years ago, I did some work on a 3D blood spatter analysis tool for crime scene reconstruction. Our goal was the cops go into a crime scene with a laser scanner with integrated high res camera, record the entire scene in a few hours, and then clear out, and do the proper analysis later in a 3D CAD software environment over the following days. Each spot on the wall tells its own story - the spot encodes its angle of incidence, the impact speed, the victim body orientation and momentum, etc. Layers of blood spatter on spatter tell ordering of events.

If foul play happened, there will be forensic information left from the first killing. Plus assuming there is a difference between zombie blood and human blood if you find a corpse with pools of both blood types then you know there was foul play - as the dying human made one bloodstain, and the dying zombie made the other.

If your police find a zombie with a spike in its brain it may look like an open-and-shut zombie killing, but the tiny drops of high velocity impact spatter of blood on the ceiling imply that the human was shot while still alive. The areas with no blood staining indicate where perp and victim were standing. The whole scene is reconstructable.

If a scene is cleaned, even with bleach, the blood spatter marks will survive and can be bought to the surface with Luminol or similar tools.

My advice - binge watch "Forensic Files" on Netflix, there are hundreds of stories about dead bodies found in particular situations, but analysis discovers additional information including that the body was moved between first impact and death, or a person was injured and got up and struck a second time, etc.

This is not even mentioning trace evidence - eg transfer of microscopic fibres, etc.

A trained forensic expert could determine what happened from the evidence alone - just like they do in our current world.


Perform a forensic autopsy

Since the question does not indicate anyway of reversing the process of 'zombification' all victims are technically 'dead' anyway. So capture, kill or otherwise contain the zombie. (Capture is of course preferable in the first instance but may not be possible in all circumstances.)

Then have a pathology team examine the corpse. Conduct hi res CT scans of the body - looking for broken bones internal damage etc, do tox screens on blood and organ samples. If the zombie has been shot do ballistic comparisons to identify any rounds not fired by Police. Examine the skin for signs of ligature marks on the neck or limbs. Take forensic swabs to locate any foreign substances or DNA on the skin.

And have normal evidence collection procedures going on at the same time.'Crime' scene photographs, witness statements, alabis and background checks on the victim etc etc

In short nothing changes just because the person 'turns' after death. It's the stuff that happens to him/her BEFORE they died that's important. So do all the stuff that is normally done with any suspicious death and see what comes out in the wash.


You can't kill dead person. Neither you can kill a zombie. You can "deactivate" it.

To save dead person from turning you need to decapicate them. This is EXACTLY the moment "police work" comes into play. You don't have to tie dead body down to cut it's head (and even if the marks look different).

Also excuse of "I removed the head because they died" still don't answer the question "how they died?". But it asnwer some type of them. If the person died of natural case there is no need for it to have a 47 stabbing wounds. If the person fall from window the place where the body lies is kinda secondary to "how and why they were near the window".

But again people can work around it. Like you wake up to your partner shaking violently in the bed. Naturally you picked your pistol and killed them before they can kill you or the kids.

Again - how they died? They need to die somehow. Doing something with the body with the excuse of "unzombiefying" it still leave you with very narrow options to do so. You would claim they had some type of brain cancer that you removed with the bullet so there is no trace of that cancer? That's easy to prove as typical cance markers in blood.

There is also thing in "police work" that is called "people have hard time believing their loved ones died". Which we knows because people held vigils next to bodies until they started to smell to be sure they are really dead. So "they were electrocuted when changing light bulb and first thing you've done was to guillotine them?" question would be asked with handcuffs on your hands.


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