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Search protocols for hidden forensic objects beneath floors and within walls

Ruffell, Alastair; Pringle, Jamie K.; Forbes, Shari

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Alastair Ruffell

Shari Forbes


The burial of objects (human remains, explosives, weapons) below or behind concrete, brick, plaster or tiling may be associated with serious crime and are difficult locations to search. These are quite common forensic search scenarios but little has been published on them to-date. Most documented discoveries are accidental or from suspect/witness testimony. The problem in locating such hidden objects means a random or chance-based approach is not advisable. A preliminary strategy is presented here, based on previous studies, augmented by primary research where new technology or applications are required. This blend allows a rudimentary search workflow, from remote desktop study, to non-destructive investigation through to recommendations as to how the above may inform excavation, demonstrated here with a case study from a homicide investigation. Published case studies on the search for human remains demonstrate the problems encountered when trying to find and recover sealed-in and sealed-over locations. Established methods include desktop study, photography, geophysics and search dogs: these are integrated with new technology (LiDAR and laser scanning; photographic rectification; close-quarter aerial imagery; ground-penetrating radar on walls and gamma-ray/neutron activation radiography) to propose this possible search strategy.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 30, 2013
Online Publication Date Jan 11, 2014
Publication Date 2014-04
Journal Forensic Science International
Print ISSN 0379-0738
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 237
Pages 137 -145
Keywords human remains, search
Publisher URL


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