Applied Research

Geoforensics and Information Management for crime Investigation (GIMI)

Non-Invasive Methods

Traditionally police searches for murder victims' graves or buried artefacts rely on recognising obvious visual signs of ground disturbance and discarded items or artefacts. These searches, which are undertaken by large-scale ground investigations, are often accompanied by trial and error excavations. However, these search operations are very costly in terms of manpower and time, and are often unproductive and can destroy vital criminal evidence.

On the other hand, carefully designed and implemented geophysical surveys can provide alternative cost-effective methods for ground searching, particularly when coupled with other scene of crime and forensic investigations. Geophysics has a major role to play in forensic searching- either to locate a grave, eliminate areas from the search or for use in a non-invasive analysis of buried anomalies.

Up to now, little has been done with the application of field geophysics in forensics, with few exceptions.  Some laboratory research has been conducted to establish a baseline for geophysical survey over burials to help understand the response of decaying bodies to a range of geophysical methods.

Ground based radar (GBR) can be employed to assist police and law enforcement investigation teams in forensic searches. GBR detects objects buried in the ground and reveals ground structure. Large areas can be searched quickly and non-destructively, greatly improving search efficiency and reducing unnecessary excavation operations. 

Forensic applications of GBR include: detection of buried bodies, graves, hides and caches, and the detection of cavities both in the ground and in structures. In order to best develop a suitable range of geophysical tools for forensic application, more research is necessary in both field use and software development.