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Time-Lapse Geophysical Investigations over a Simulated Urban Clandestine Grave

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A simulated clandestine shallow grave was created within a heterogeneous, made-ground, urban environment where a clothed, plastic resin, human skeleton, animal products, and physiological saline were placed in anatomically correct positions and re-covered to ground level. A series of repeat (time-lapse), near-surface geophysical surveys were undertaken: (1) prior to burial (to act as control), (2) 1 month, and (3) 3 months post-burial. A range of different geophysical techniques was employed including: bulk ground resistivity and conductivity, fluxgate gradiometry and high-frequency ground penetrating radar (GPR), soil magnetic susceptibility, electrical resistivity tomography (ERT), and self potential (SP). Bulk ground resistivity and SP proved optimal for initial grave location whilst ERT profiles and GPR horizontal “time-slices” showed the best spatial resolutions. Research suggests that in complex urban made-ground environments, initial resistivity surveys be collected before GPR and ERT follow-up surveys are collected over the identified geophysical anomalies.

Keywords: clandestine grave; forensic geophysics; forensic science

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: School of Physical and Geographical Sciences, Keele University, Keele, Staffordshire ST5 5BG, U.K. 2: Faculty of Health & Sciences, Staffordshire University, College Road, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire ST4 2DE, U.K.

Publication date: 2008-11-01

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