Pringle, JK, Stimpson, IG, Wisniewski, K, Heaton, V, Davenward, B, Mirosch, N, Spencer, F and Jervis, J (2020) Geophysical monitoring of simulated homicide burials for forensic investigations. Scientific Reports, 10 (1). ISSN 2045-2322

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Finding hidden bodies, believed to have been murdered and buried, is problematic, expensive in terms of human resource and currently has low success rates for law enforcement agencies. Here we present, for the first time, ten years of multidisciplinary geophysical monitoring of simulated clandestine graves using animal analogues. Results will provide forensic search teams with crucial information on optimal detection techniques, equipment configuration and datasets for comparison to active and unsolved cold case searches. Electrical Resistivity (ER) surveys showed a naked burial produced large, low resistivity anomalies for up to four years, but then the body became difficult to image. A wrapped burial had consistent small, high-resistivity anomalies for four years, then large high-resistivity anomalies until the survey period end. Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) 110–900 MHz surveys showed the wrapped burial could be detected throughout. 225 MHz GPR data was optimal, but the naked burial was poorly imaged after six years. Results suggested conducting both ER and GPR surveys if the burial style was unknown when searching for interred remains. Surveys in winter and spring produced the best datasets, and, as post-burial time increases, surveying in these seasons became increasingly important. This multidisciplinary study provides critical new insights for law enforcement and families of the disappeared worldwide.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Datasets associated with this paper can be accessed from the Keele Data Repository at Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit
Uncontrolled Keywords: forensic science, geophysics, clandestine graves, hidden burial, electrical resistivity, GPR
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General)
Q Science > QD Chemistry
Q Science > QM Human anatomy
Q Science > QR Microbiology
Divisions: Faculty of Natural Sciences > School of Chemical and Physical Sciences
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Symplectic
Date Deposited: 27 Apr 2020 08:50
Last Modified: 18 Aug 2020 10:48

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