Applied Research

Geoforensics and Information Management for crime Investigation (GIMI)

Project Staff - Alastair Ruffell

Alastair RuffellDr. Alastair Ruffell BSc PhD.
School of Geography,
Archaeology & Palaeoecology,
Queen’s University,
Belfast, BT7 1NN, N.Ireland

Tel: +44 (0)2890 973407
Fax: +44 (0)2890 321280

Current research activities

  • X-ray mineralogy for quantitative, palaeoclimate, reservoir and forensic studies with Doug McCarty (ChevronTexaco, Houston), Grant Wach (Dalhousie , Canada), Johann Schnyder, Francois Baudin & Jean-Francois Deconinck (Paris & Dijon)
  • Forensic science with Patricia Wiltshire (UCL), Duncan Pirrie (Camborne School of Mines) and recently Rick Giardino (Florida), Peter Bull (Oxford), Lorna Dawson (Macaulay Land Use Research Institute), Jennifer McKinley (Queen’s)
  • Geophysics – especially ground-penetrating radar for geomorphological, geotechnical and forensic studies with Julian Orford, John Meneely, and Bernd Kulessa (Queen’s)
  • Spatial analysis, especially of rock reservoir and weathering properties with Jennifer McKinley, Patricia Warke, Chris Lloyd (Queens), Richard Worden (Liverpool), Mick O’Hare & Pete Dzurrman (Encana)
  • Providing the main evidence for the successful prosecution of three murder enquiries in N.Ireland including the prediction of a body deposition site and successful discovery and recovery of victim and evidence. PSNI support in eliminating a west Belfast graveyard as the body deposition site of one of the I.R.A ‘disappeared’. Recent cases have included recovery of evidence from two body deposition sites, analysis of matches involved in arson following a murder, GPR (ground-penetrating radar) search for the location of a buried infant, devising spatial sampling strategies for scene mapping.
  • Development of improved strategies of the discovery and mapping of illegal waste tips and for sampling sequences of trace evidence.
  • Two international conferences: May 2004, “Recent Developments in the Application of Science to Criminal Investigations”. (Queen’s, Belfast, with the Bloody Sunday and Omagh Bomb Review Team – Prof Doug Lucas (former Head, Toronto Forensic Lab); Prof Peter deforest (John Jones University, author of “Forensic Criminalistics); Prof Pierre Margot – Head of the Laussane Forensic Lab and Chief Editor of “Forensic Science International” and Dave Barclay, former head of the National Crime Faculty. December 2004, “Forensic Remote Sensing & Geophysics” at the Geological Society, London. ( to find link to conference
  • To pursue international research interests through collaboration sponsored by EPSRC, EHS, Northern Ireland Office, Police Service of N.Ireland, National Crime Faculty, Forensic Science (N.Ireland), Forensic Science Service, Department of Education, Royal Society, British Council and Industry. Input to SIO and CSI (SOCO) training, for instance “Partners in Crime” conference (March 2005). Support of research staff and post-graduates.
  • Combined spatial sampling strategy and geophysics for detection and volumetrics of illegal waste sites (collaborative with School of Engineering at Queen’s and the Environment & Heritage Service). Applications to mass graves (collaborative with OSCE) and radioactive sites (collaborative with Andrew Tyler, University of Stirling). Use of the same technology in visualisation of crime scenes.
  • Predictive capacity of combined spatial ground-penetrating radar and electrical tomography profiling for ground and subsurface chemistry by truthing using x-ray diffraction of clays and water chemistry.
  • Combined chemical, image an mineralogical investigations of trace evidence using QemScan and x-ray diffraction. Collaborative with Cambone School of Mines (Duncan Pirrie).
  • In-situ measurement of crystalline materials (especially soil on fabrics) for non-destructive testing of materials in criminal investigations (ESF funded PhD student).
  • Assessment of geostatistical quality of combined mineralogical and microbiological (testate amoebae) analysis of soil for informing search strategy and improved suspect to scene comparisons of trace evidence.
  • Quantitative x-ray diffraction analysis (including for forensic investigations). Collaborative with ChevronTexaco; Rouen/Lille universities and the Police Service of N.Ireland/Centrex.


Ruffell, A. 2005. Searching for the I.R.A. Disappeared: ground-penetrating radar investigation of a churchyard burial site, Northern Ireland. Journal of Forensic Sciences. 50, in press

Ruffell, A, McKinley, JM, Lloyd, CD & Graham, C. submitted. Th/K and Th/U ratio mapping of spectral gamma ray data improves spatial resolution of shoreline structures. Journal of Environmental Geophysics, under review.

Ruffell, A. 2005. Burial Location Using Cheap and Reliable Quantitative Probe Measurements. Diversity in Forensic Anthropology, Special Publication of Forensic Science International. Forensic Science International, 151, 207-211

Ruffell, A. & McKinley, J.  2005. Forensic Geology & Geoscience. Earth Science Reviews. 69, 235-247.

Ruffell, A., Geraghty, L., Brown, C. & Barton, K. 2004. Ground-penetrating radar facies as an aid to sequence stratigraphic analysis: application to the Archaeology of Clonmacnoise Castle, Ireland.  Archaeological Prospection, 11, 1-16

Ruffell, A & Wiltshire, P. 2004. Conjunctive use of quantitative and qualitative X-ray diffraction analysis of soils and rocks for forensic analysis. Forensic Science International, 145, 13-23.