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Forensic geoscience non-invasive detection and characterisation of underground clandestine complexes, bunkers, tunnels and firing ranges

Pringle, Jamie K.; Ruffell, Alastair; Styles, Peter; Stringfellow, Matt; Stimpson, Ian G.; Banham, Steven G.; Wisniewski, Kristopher D.; Owen, Stephen; Hobson, Luke; Thompson, James


Alastair Ruffell

Peter Styles

Matt Stringfellow

Steven G. Banham

Kristopher D. Wisniewski

Stephen Owen

Luke Hobson

James Thompson


Recent events in conflict zones have emphasized that the successful detection and characterisation of buried clandestine complexes, bunkers and tunnels is vitally important for forensic investigators globally, to reduce or solve criminal activities, address national security threats and avoid potential terrorist attacks. However, this can often prove very difficult, particularly in urban areas, with potentially both below-ground non target items and above-ground infrastructures present, that can interfere with detecting target(s).

Here we provide selected successful case studies where forensic geoscience techniques were used to detect and characterise buried clandestine complexes, bunkers and tunnels using different geophysical techniques. Generally, desktop studies assessing pre-existing information, including local geology, soils, historical/modern remote sensing, maps and photographs inform appropriate geophysical survey technique(s) selection. Subsequent near-surface geophysical techniques are then employed to produce accurate plans of sub-surface targets, with numerical modelling and correction for the interfering effects of above ground infrastructure, enabling the calibration of geophysical datasets to provide confidence in their respective interpretations.

All forensic investigations are, of course, unique to every site, and thus require an individual approach to their respective ground conditions. Investigations should be both phased and iterative, with techniques tailored to local conditions: the selection of geophysical method(s) is crucial to improve successful detection rates of such important buried targets.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 19, 2024
Online Publication Date Apr 25, 2024
Publication Date 2024-06
Deposit Date May 9, 2024
Publicly Available Date May 9, 2024
Journal Forensic Science International
Print ISSN 0379-0738
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 359
Article Number 112033
Keywords forensic science, geoscience, tunnel, bunker, EM, micro-gravity, resistivity, EM, magnetics, GPR
Public URL
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Additional Information This article is maintained by: Elsevier; Article Title: Forensic geoscience non-invasive detection and characterisation of underground clandestine complexes, bunkers, tunnels and firing ranges; Journal Title: Forensic Science International; CrossRef DOI link to publisher maintained version:; Content Type: article; Copyright: © 2024 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B.V.