The desktop study – an essential element of geoforensic search: homicide and environmental cases (west Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK)

Alastair Ruffell, Lorraine Barry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The desktop study of geology, past land use and recent surveys is essential in planning the search for buried items, as it provides information on ground conditions and may explain anomalies. In the first case study, a geophysical search of waste ground in west Belfast (Northern Ireland) identified two anomalies that on excavation were recovered as human skeletal remains. A desktop study, which included Ordnance Survey maps and memoirs, showed the location to have been next to a Jewish cemetery (1901–20), providing a reason for the human remains to be present. In the second case study, legal action was undertaken because a football ground suffered continual flooding. A desktop study preceded a geophysical survey that showed how the area was a former industrial works, infilled with sand but poorly drained, creating a ‘bowl’ into which urban drainage flowed, causing the flooding. The context of land-use change is an example of how useful such combined geological and historical studies can be (using spatial digital data in a GIS), regardless of the age of an object/area of potential forensic interest. A full desktop study should be carried out prior to any field survey to limit the chances of deploying incorrect search assets and misinterpreting discoveries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-53
Number of pages15
JournalGeological Society Special Publications
Volume492
Issue number1
Early online date06 Jun 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jul 2019

Keywords

  • Geology
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology

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