Soil Evidence

By Muriel Primo

Case #1 (Australia)

Two women were reported missing in Australia in Adelaide in September 2000. Along with other evidence, police found the family cars was gone. They found the empty vehicle 100 miles from the women’s home, the next day. In the trunk police discovered a bloody knife and a shovel caked with dirt. They then arrested a 22-year-old driver who was related to the missing women, but he refused to give them any information to help find them. Detectives contacted a team of soil scientists from CSIRO to aid in the investigation. Robert Fitzpatrick, one of the scientist, said the shovel was very helpful. They said it was smeared and compacted in a way that suggested that it had been used to both excavate and tamp down soil in a wet location. The pH value showed it was more acidic than the soil of where the car was found. Under the microscope, it showed to contain particles with an angular shape which are like typical of materials created by a human activity like mining. And a mineralogical analysis revealed the there was talc, which is a mineral that is only found in the area’s mountains and foothills. Based on those clues that the soil gave them it helped solve the case by giving them a place to look for the bodies. The team searched in the industrial gravel quarries of the Adelaide Hills. The correct place was identified, and the bodies were found. Matthew Holding, the suspect, ended up pleading guilty and was given a sentence of 18 years in prison.

Case #2 (Berlin)

In Berlin at Prussian railroad in April 1856, a barrel that had silver coins was emptied out and filled with sand during a transit. A scientist from Berlin collected samples of the sandy soil from all the stations along the railway line. Using a light microscope he examined the color and shape of the sandy soil particles and compared them with the soil from the barrel. He was trying to determine the station from which the sand has come from. The soil was used to trace back to where the soil was on one if the stations on a railway.