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Is High Performance Liquid Chromatography Analysis a Useful Addition to Current Geo-Forensic Analytical Techniques?

22 March 2013


Georgia McCulloch

Geo-forensic evidence is a potentially useful source of information for crime reconstruction due to its near ubiquitous presence, high transferability, persistence and diversity. Soil samples can be analysed in order to establish their geographical origin or to compare and exclude items of forensic interest as having a common source, however previous studies lack forensic relevance through the use of large sample amounts and comparison of samples taken from geologically different locations over large spatial scales. Furthermore, current geo-forensic analyses are based on established geological techniques and are, therefore, hindered by the philosophical differences between the disciplines of earth sciences and forensic sciences, particularly with regard to sample preparation and data interpretation. This study addresses the lack of research into the organic components of geo-forensic samples by improving upon previous research into the analysis of soil samples by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). A sample preparation method and set of instrument parameters are developed such that the cost of the analysis is reduced, efficiency is increased and the sample amount required for analysis is reduced four-fold. The re-developed method allows samples collected from different locations within the same site to be correctly discriminated with 100% accuracy by both visual examination of the chromatography and the use of multivariate statistics. The results of this study suggest that HPLC offers an accurate and practical method ofcomparing soil samples based on characteristics that are independent of, and therefore complementary to, traditional geo-forensic analyses.