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The development and application of forensic geoscience techniques by researchers at Keele University have directly informed ‘active’ and ‘cold case’ missing persons police investigations in the UK and beyond.



In 2016-17, England and Wales police forces recorded 102,404 missing people, a small proportion of whom will have been murdered. Informed decisions about the appropriateness of geophysical techniques/equipment for searches are essential for key decision making and operational success.



The Keele Applied and Environmental Geophysics (KAEG) research group established a test site on the Keele University campus with simulated clandestine graves and experimental studies to test the effectiveness of different geophysical techniques over time when searching.

This provided new insights into the importance of soil water conductivity in generating reliable burial date estimates.



Since October 2014, KAEG has directly contributed to 16 UK missing persons cases undertaken by the NCA and Police Forces, providing operational advice and conducting geophysical surveys. This has saved UK Forces £141,291.31 of police time. KAEG also supported policing of environmental crimes by conducting geophysical investigations to garner prosecution evidence.

Internationally, KAEG has given expert advice on 12 cases, conducting geophysical searches for missing persons in Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Pakistan, Romania, USA, UAE and Vietnam. Search strategies have located victims killed in natural disasters, genocides and murders.


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Institution: Keele University 

Researchers: Dr Jamie Pringle, Dr Ian Stimpson, Dr Nigel Cassidy, Dr Vivienne Heaton, Dr Daniel Allen, Dr Kristopher Wisniewski, Dr Glenda Jones

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Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (2023) Forensic geoscience to aid the police and community . Available at  Last accessed on: <date>