Forensic Anthropologist: Called in when homicide detectives get stuck. Eilin Jopp-van Well is the bone reader

When you dig up a corpse, what is the most important bone? Which one are you dying to find? the skull.

Forensic Anthropologist: Called in when homicide detectives get stuck. Eilin Jopp-van Well is the bone reader

When you dig up a corpse, what is the most important bone? Which one are you dying to find? the skull.

Why? Simply because he's beautiful. i like skulls No, seriously: It is important for identification and for determining possible causes of death.

How can a person be identified by the skull? Preferably based on the teeth. In it I usually find a complete DNA profile and I also have the status of the teeth – both of which I can compare with the profiles of missing persons. That assumes, of course, that the person is missing at all.

"Frauke Liebs - the search for the murderer" is the new series podcast from the star. Reporter Dominik Stawski tells the story of this crime in detail and follows up on open tracks and new clues.

All 13 episodes of the podcast are already available for free on RTL Musik.

You can also get the episodes here at and the podcast platforms Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music. Another episode appears every Tuesday.

And what is the second most important bone? The pelvic bones.

Why the pool? I can reliably identify the sex from the pelvis.

What else can you read from the bones? The approximate age for example. I can tell if the growth plates are already closed, then I know it's an adult.

Can the age be determined more precisely? This is difficult. A 30-year-old can have worn-out bones like many people in their mid-40s. So when it comes to age, I only limit myself to one range, a 15-year period, for example.

How is a person's lifestyle reflected in their bones? Well, if I have a person who has worked as a craftsman all his life on his knees and has always put weight on his right arm, then it leaves its mark. With today's office workers, who are always staring at the screen, this is particularly noticeable in the cervical vertebrae.

Do the bones reveal more about the way of life? In particularly important cases, we arrange for an isotope test that can tell us where a person comes from geographically.

How does this work? We eat things all the time, drink water, eat food, breathe sea air when we live on the coast. All of this leaves traces that we also deposit in our bones over the course of our lives. And with the help of an isotope test, you can then draw conclusions about the origin of a person, i.e. whether they come from Asia or Northern Europe. There's just one problem: today people are very mobile, sometimes they live here and sometimes there, which makes it harder.

Can I tell from the bones how long a person has been dead? There is also an investigation for this. The radiocarbon dating. When we die, little by little the carbon in our bones dissolves. The more carbon that decays, the longer the person is dead. But it's a very crude method.

How coarse? I can tell if someone died 100 years ago or 500 years ago. But unfortunately not whether it was buried two years ago or ten years ago.

Can I use the bones to determine the cause of death? It depends. With massive violence I see broken bones. But if someone was stabbed or shot in the stomach without breaking any bones, I can't tell from the skeleton. There are no bones in the stomach, so the stab or the shot must have hit the spine. That's why it's so important that the site where a body was found is examined very thoroughly and that no projectiles or weapons are overlooked. It's a shame when the police call me and say a bag of bones is on its way to me.

What do you mean? Then I unpack the bag here and have the bones on the table. But I don't have any information about where it was found. Have all the bones that were there or nearby really been found? For example, when we talk about a corpse in the woods, I always say to people: a site is three-dimensional, you should not only look down, but also up. Maybe there's still a bit of a rope hanging on the tree. The best thing is that I've been there from the start. That's why I always have my tools in the car.

Which tool? A bucket and a couple of ladles. I dig with them. You have to know how to dig. I work in forensic science, but I'm also an archaeologist. I know how to carefully uncover a person without destroying any traces.

Do you enjoy digging? I'd rather be outside than at my desk. It's like a puzzle game. You work your way from bone to bone, inch by inch, and slowly a picture comes together. And if you're lucky, you end up really knowing who exactly is lying there and how that person died.

What fascinates you so much about bones? They tell us so much about the individual human being, the bones tell us their story.

Isn't it difficult for you to work on corpses? It's easier when there are only bones. But of course it's not for everyone. At the beginning of my apprenticeship, my old boss took me to an autopsy on a corpse. I was good at that. After that he said, 'It's dead body. We can use that.'

How would you like to be buried yourself? I'll be cremated for sure. I don't want anyone digging me up. No, seriously, I find the idea charming that maybe one day my family will be allowed to take my ashes home in a container. And when your loved one dies, put both in an urn and mix them up. And at some point then perhaps on the coast scatters in the wind.

The trace work of forensic medicine is also the subject of the new series podcast "Frauke Liebs - the search for the murderer". Frauke Liebs disappeared in 2006 after visiting a pub in Paderborn. She continued to call and text family and friends on her cell phone for several days after her disappearance. Months later, a hunter found her body in a remote forest.