The forensic geophysical controlled research site of the University of Brasilia, Brazil: Results from methods GPR and electrical resistivity tomography

Forensic Sci Int. 2018 Dec;293:101.e1-101.e21. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2018.09.033. Epub 2018 Oct 9.


In forensic geophysical research, using controlled experiments assists forensic search practitioners in identifying optimal technique(s) and equipment configuration(s) in different burial scenarios. The objective of the research is to observe the geophysical response to different types of buried wrappings, taking into consideration the influence that the presence or absence of a decomposing body (pig carcass) in a lateritic soil in central-western Brazil can have. In this article, the GPR results are presented after a 15day burial period during the rainy season, and the results of Electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) after a burial period of 6 months during the dry season. The controlled site was built in the research area of the University of Brasília, in a region with soil, typical of the Brazilian savannah. 14 simulated clandestine graves of murder victims were constructed, in which seven pig carcasses were wrapped or covered by: soil (backfill), a plastic bag, a bed sheet, cement block, construction debris, a wooden coffin and hydrated lime, respectively a further seven burials, presenting only the wrappings acted as comparison (control burial). During the GPR survey a 400MHz frequency antenna was used. The resistivity surveys were carried out before and after the burial of the targets with dipole-dipole and Wenner-Schlumberger array configurations, with different spacing of electrodes (1.00 and 0.50m). The comparison between the various scenarios with and without pig carcasses revealed that good reflection events occurred mainly due to the wrappings and that pig carcasses attenuated the GPR signal. Electrical resistivity results showed that the Wenner-Schlumberger array presents a better resolution of the lateral boundaries of the burials, and the dipole-dipole array presents a better sensitivity to heterogeneity of the buried materials. The burials with the pig carcasses wrapped in the various materials presented better resistivity contrasts as opposed to the control burials.

Keywords: Burials; Electrical resistivity; Forensic geophysics; GPR.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Remains*
  • Brazil
  • Burial*
  • Electric Impedance*
  • Forensic Sciences
  • Geological Phenomena*
  • Models, Animal
  • Postmortem Changes
  • Radar*
  • Swine