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Soil bulb mites as trace evidence for the location of buried money

Hani, M., Thieven, U. and Perotti, M. A. ORCID: (2018) Soil bulb mites as trace evidence for the location of buried money. Forensic Science International, 292. e25-e30. ISSN 0379-0738

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2018.09.016


This study reports for the first time the use of soil micro-invertebrates, mites, as trace evidence to localise buried objects such as money. The case relates to a crime in Germany, where a large sum of banknotes had been hidden in an unknown location, likely abroad. In 2016, part of the money (approx. €500,000 in €500 value notes) was confiscated by the police and once analysed in the forensic lab, it was discovered that the notes were covered with small particles of a sort of debris, later identified as specimens of Rhizoglyphus howensis Manson, a non-European, nor Mediterranean species of root or bulb mites (Acaridae: Rhizoglyphinae). The restricted biogeographic distribution of R. howensis, in unspoiled forest soil in the Australasian region limited the search for the money to the areas visited by the perpetrators during their trips into the region. R. howensis biology can provide even with more clues on the whereabouts of the banknotes, as they are specialist plant feeders, exclusively feeding on seeds of palm trees and on roots of Quercus patula in the Australian region. This report aims to highlight the importance of the correct identification of the microscopic organisms associated with a crime scene and the immediate retrieval of micro-invertebrate trace evidence. This is the first record of R. howensis from Europe, and from banknotes.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences > Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
ID Code:79254


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