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Title: Chemical detection of non-volatile and semi-volatile decomposition markers from clandestine gravesites
Author: Blom, Giorgio
ISNI:       0000 0004 7967 1746
Awarding Body: Staffordshire University
Current Institution: Staffordshire University
Date of Award: 2018
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Over 134,000 individuals went missing last year of which 1,340 were not found at all, the number of people who disappear due to a homicide is indeterminate as a victim's body is required to prove a homicide unequivocally. A variety of search methodologies are applied to locate clandestine graves ranging from victim recovery dogs to geophysics. It has been highlighted that the current search methodologies to locate clandestine gravesites are not always successful and require a significant amount of time and public funding. This study sought therefore to detect the non-volatile and semi-volatile decomposition products from soil and water samples which could aid the detection of clandestine gravesites and lead to the development of field based chemical tests to speed up the search process. Three novel alternative analytical methodologies have been developed in order to allow for the detection of non-volatile and semi-volatile decomposition products in in soil and water samples from a simulated grave environment and actual casework samples. The first methodology utilised high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), which indicated that over 100 decomposition specific chemicals were detected in the leachate samples. This highlighted the potential for using HPLC as an alternative method for the detection of non-volatile and semi-volatile decomposition products from soil-water samples. The second methodology developed utilised ion chromatography (IC) and has proven its capabilities for the analysis of forensic samples by differentiating between the soil samples provided and highlighting areas of interest. The third and final methodology developed utilised derivatisation gas chromatography (GC) for the targeted analysis of biogenic amines putrescine, cadaverine and methylamine. A highly specific methodology was developed for the analysis of primary amines in soil-water samples following simultaneous derivatisation of these amines using pentafluorobenazaldehyde. These amines were detected in the leachate samples from 28 to 669 days post burial, which far exceeded other longevity studies conducted within the discipline of forensic taphonomy. Putrescine was detected in the casework samples where the individual went missing more than 15 years ago and therefore highlights the suitability of the established methodology to aid in the search and recovery process of clandestine gravesites. Utilisation of these methodologies will lead to further identification of the key decomposition products produced during the human decomposition process and allows for the development of field-based chemical tests. These field-based test would allow for easier and more rapid search procedures, to aid in the detection of clandestine graves and eliminate some of the disadvantages of the current search methods.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available