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Episodes 2017; 40(2): 106-117

Published online June 1, 2017


Copyright © International Union of Geological Sciences.

Ground searches for graves and buried targets related to homicide, terrorism and organised crime

Dr. Laurance J. Donnelly1*, Commander Mark Harrison M.B.E.2,3

1Arup, 6thFloor, 3 Piccadilly Place, Manchester, M1 3BN, UK; Chair, International Union of Geological Sciences, Initiative on Forensic Geology (IUGS-IFG); *Corresponding author, E-mail: Laurance.Donnelly@arup.com; geologist@hotmail.co.uk
2Australian Federal Police; Geoforensic Law Enforcement Adviser, International Union of Geological Sciences, Initiative on Forensic Geology (IUGS-IFG)
2University of Canberra, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia

Correspondence to:*E-mail: Laurance.Donnelly@arup.com; geologist@hotmail.co.uk

Received: October 28, 2016; Revised: March 5, 2017; Accepted: March 5, 2017

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Geologists explore the ground to locate mineral resources, investigate and characterise the properties and behaviour the soils and rocks as part of a geotechnical ground investigation and for geohazard assessments. Similarly, the police may search the ground to locate homicide graves, weapons, firearms, drugs or items of value that have been buried beneath the ground surface as part of a criminal or terrorist act. Historically, the methods and techniques used by geologists and law enforcement evolved separately. Conventionally, geologists and law enforcement officers worked in isolation to explore and investigate or search the ground. Over the past decade the authors, with different and complimentary capabilities, began working in collaboration during the search for a grave. This provided the opportunity and incentive for geological and law enforcement investigative strategies to be brought together. This has enabled the development of a high assurance ground search strategy. This paper provides an overview of ground searches how these have advanced and developed.