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The Search for “Fred”: An Unusual Vertical Burial Case

D. Wisniewski, Kristopher; Cooper, Nicholas; Heaton, Vivienne; Hope, Colin; Pirrie, Duncan; J. Mitten, Andrew; Pringle, Jamie K.


Kristopher D. Wisniewski

Nicholas Cooper

Colin Hope

Duncan Pirrie

Andrew J. Mitten


This case reports details of a multi-phased, geophysical survey to assist in a cold case search. The Police Service received witness intelligence that had stated an adult male “Fred” had been lured to an isolated area, killed and then buried vertically in wooded hilly terrain 30 years ago in the Midlands, UK. Once the search area was determined, conventional search methods proved unsuccessful; therefore, the Police wished for a non-invasive geophysical investigation to be undertaken to determine if “Fred” could be detected. A multi-phased geophysical approach was conducted, initially using bulk ground conductivity and metal detectors, then follow-up magnetics and GPR survey profiles on EM anomalous areas. A tight grid pattern was used to enhance survey resolution over the reduced target size. Relatively high resolution EM and GPR techniques were determined to be optimal in this rugged wooded terrain and sandy soil site. Resulting geophysical anomalies were identified and the most promising area intrusively investigated, the anomaly was found to be due to a large boulder and tree roots. Study implications suggest careful multi-phase geophysical surveys are best practice and can give confidence in a cold case search. This study yielded a no-body result, thus effectively saving Police time and costs from further investigations.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 31, 2019
Online Publication Date Feb 25, 2019
Publication Date 2019-09
Publicly Available Date May 26, 2023
Journal Journal of Forensic Sciences
Print ISSN 0022-1198
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 64
Issue 5
Pages 1530-1539
Keywords forensic science, geoscience, cold case, EM, GPR, Excavation
Publisher URL