The Search for “Fred”: An Unusual Vertical Burial Case

Kristopher D. Wisniewski, Nicholas Cooper, Vivienne Heaton, Colin Hope, Duncan Pirrie, Andrew J. Mitten, Jamie K. Pringle

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Police witness intelligence stated a murdered adult male “Fred” had been vertically buried in wooded hilly terrain 30 years ago in the Midlands, U.K. Conventional search methods were unsuccessful; therefore, the police requested a geophysical investigation to be undertaken to determine whether “Fred” could be detected. A multiphased geophysical approach was conducted, using bulk ground conductivity and metal detectors, then follow-up magnetics and ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey profiles on electromagnetic (EM) anomalous areas. A tight grid pattern was used to account for the reduced target size. Relatively high-resolution EM and GPR techniques were determined
optimal for this terrain and sandy soil. Geophysical anomalies were identified and the most promising intrusively investigated, and this was found to be a large boulder and tree roots. Study implications suggest careful multiphase geophysical surveys are best practice and give confidencein cold case searches. This study yielded a no-body result, effectively saving police time and costs from further investigations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1530-1539
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number5
Early online date25 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019


  • forensic science
  • geoscience
  • cold case
  • ground penetrating radar
  • EM
  • excavation


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