The Use of Forensic Soil Evidence to Determine Grave Location

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A plethora of methods exist to analyse soil in order to determine grave location varying from geophysical techniques to lab analysis. These tests rely on testing soil samples to determine their origins, samples can be compared with others to see how closely they match. Each method has advantages and disadvantages, in forensic contexts results need to be accurate so evidence can hold up in court therefore certain tests will be better suited for the task. The main types of soil are clay, silt, and sand the soils formation and properties are determined by the parent material, climate where it originated, topography, the organisms that inhabit it, and time. The type of soil and particle size determines which techniques are appropriate (Pye & Blott, 2004). The value of soil in relation to determining grave location is essential in preventing a lengthy excavation process, statistical testing is conducted to determine if the samples are a match and if they are how significant.
The primary methods when comparing forensic soil samples employ the use of microscopes and manually examining the colour, texture, density gradient and mineralogical content. After a primary manual examination has been conducted x-ray diffraction along with another method such as x-ray fluorescence are used to discover the chemical composition of the sample. These methods are considered to be useful for discriminating between samples which have inorganic minerals, however Bommarito et al (2006) believe a different method is needed to discriminate between organic compounds, high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) satisfies these requirements Ion chromatography is also investigated in their study as it has not been applied to forensic soil comparisons before. ...

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