Analysis of soil following a police-led open area search and the recovery of a cold-case homicide grave

Laurence Donnelly, John Cassella, Duncan Pirrie, Lorna Dawson, Giorgio Blom, Alison Davidson, P. Arnold, Mark Harrison, C. Hope

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    Police in the UK received information that a person had been reported as missing. Despite a diligent search and investigation, the person was not found. Several years later police received intelligence giving the location of a grave believed to contain the remains of the person previously reported as missing and now believed to be a victim of homicide. This new information suggested the missing person had been murdered and their remains were buried in a shallow, unmarked grave. Following a systematic search, the murder victim’s body was found at a shallow depth, less than 1 m. Following the forensic recovery of the body, soil samples were collected at, beneath the floor of the grave, along the strike of the grave, downslope and upslope. Analysis of the soil samples showed elevated levels of putrescine, at nearly 150 ppb in the soils beneath, downslope and for several metres upslope from the body at localities where detector dogs had showed an ‘interest’ before the grave was discovered. The mineralogical analysis, using integrated automated mineralogy and petrology detected the presence of diagenetic calcite in the soil profile beneath the grave. Additionally, the organic analysis detected the presence of elevated stanols at the grave and down slope.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationForensic Soil Science and Geology
    EditorsR. W. Fitzpatrick, L. J. Donnelly
    Place of PublicationLondon
    PublisherGeological Society, London
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Oct 2019

    Publication series

    NameGeological Society Special Publications
    PublisherGeological Society of London
    ISSN (Print)0305-8719
    ISSN (Electronic)2041-4927


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