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Episodes 2017; 40(2): 148-156

Published online June 1, 2017


Copyright © International Union of Geological Sciences.

The role of pedology and mineralogy in providing evidence for 5 crime investigations involving a wide range of earth materials

Rob Fitzpatrick1,2*, Mark Raven1,2, Peter Self1,2

1Centre for Australian Forensic Soil Science (CAFSS); Vice chair, International Union of Geological Sciences, Initiative on Forensic Geology (IUGS-IFG); *Corresponding author, E-mail: rob.fitzpatrick@csiro.au
2CSIRO Land and Water, Waite Campus Locked Bag 2, Urrbrae, South Australia, 5064

Correspondence to:*E-mail: rob.fitzpatrick@csiro.au

Received: February 27, 2017; Revised: March 16, 2017; Accepted: March 16, 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.


Through five diverse cases involving an attempt of murder, cold murder in 1988, two contemporary murder investigations in the past 10 years and sexual assault, this paper will demonstrate how combined pedological, mineralogical and chemical investigations, have been critical in developing reliable soil information, from landscape to microscopic scales, to help in forensic investigations, which were used as evidence in Australian State Supreme courts. A wide range of natural soil types (sandy coastal beaches, grey clayey wetlands, black muddy alluvium in river-beds, brown clayey and loamy soils in wooded areas) and humanmade soil types (comprising brick and road gravel fragments) across Australia were used in these forensic investigations to associate materials taken from questioned items, such as shoes, clothing, shovels or vehicles, with a specific control location or the crime scene. To illustrate the power of soil analysis in criminal investigations it is beneficial to share successful case examples to demonstrate the potential value of this somewhat under-utilized forensic tool. Here we will discuss how pedological and soil mineralogy expertise, especially in using soil maps and X-ray diffraction (XRD), has been used as a contributory part of each overall historical (cold) and recent criminal investigation.