Decapitation by hanging?

Obviously this thread is inspired by recent events in Iraq. But I chose GQ because I wanted to know if this is a common occurence.

Please don’t get this thread bumped to The Pit, or even worse to GD. No need to remind us of your opinions about GWB or the war. Just wondering if this is a mistake that just happens once in a while, or if not, what would the executioners have had to do to make this happen.

Speculation, and that only. Earlier understanding was that the specific number of rings/knots in a noose had some potential to cause such an effect. Understanding #2, an older candidate was more likely to result in just such a horiffic culmination, given the extrordinary forces and weakened musculature.

The executioners must have, intentionally or no, screwed up the drop. Wikipedia covers drop lengths pretty thoroughly in its article on hanging. It even supplies a drop table giving the proper (British) distance for prisoners of various weights.

With al the practice that the Iraqis have had with executions, you’d think they could get just ONE right.

It happens from time to time, if the drop is too long.

Was somebody decapitated by hanging in Iraq?


Yep, Saddam’s Half Brother.

Took his head Riiiiiiight off.

Saddam’s half brother. Now I guess he’s a quarter brother.

Okay, but I’m trying to do a physics analysis here. What does it take to sever a head from a body? Just falling down with a noose? It seems kinda weird to me.

I don’t know why it seems so odd. The neck really isn’t all that strong and can be easily broken. I’m not sure just how big of a fellow Barzan Hassan was but picture this:

A 200 pound man (hypothetical) drops 8 feet or so straight down and comes to an abrupt stop by means of a rope around his neck.

This has got to generate a tremendous amount of force. Physics majors - a little help here?

In fact, decapitation seems a very likely occurance, especially if an overly long drop is used for a person’s weight, or if the incorrect rope or knot were used.

Also happened to American outlaw Black Jack Ketchum back in 1901.

If you don’t drop them far enough, the victim dies a slow, painful death. Drop them too far, and the head pops off. Do it just right, and the neck breaks and the victim pretty much dies instantly (or at least that’s the theory). There’s a lot more precision involved than most people think.

So why weren’t the British tables being used? Political reasons, or out of spite?

I think I’d prefer that the rope length was set for decapitation if it were me.

They did mention that the guy in question was suffering from cancer - would that cause weakened muscles, tissues etc…?

I cant find it, but we had a thread on hanging. It was generated by some kind of article or interview given by England’s long time chief hangman or some such. Naturally enough, the thread generated a lot of humor.

More of a rope than a thread in fact.

Black Jack Ketchum’s story is a little more in depth than that though. One of the factors that led to that was the fact that he had only one arm. The other was that they took his weight as he entered jail, not realizing that the few months it took to build the gallows and test them and such would give him lots of time to pack on some more weight. I watched a show about it on the History channel I think. Was actually quite facinating. It went over a lot of different types of executions. It was Wild West Tech I think.

What exactly is the mechanism for decapitation during a botched hanging? Does the rope actually cut through the neck, or does the neck simply snap under tension? Enquiring minds want to know!

Does the choice of hanging as the means of capital punishment in Iraq have anything to do with Islam? I mentioned something about how they seem to be botching it and wonder why they choose hanging rather than firing squad or lethal injection, when it occurred to me that those forms of execution might be forbidden under Islam. I am pretty ignorant of the religion, however.