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Whiffs of stiffs

A new way to find where the bodies are buried

9:59am, August 6, 2010

Researchers have unearthed a new way to find a buried body. The sensitive method, published online June 23 in Forensic Science International, detected trace compounds emanating from decomposing rats months after death.

If the technique also works for human remains, it may help law enforcement personnel find hidden graves of victims months after a murder, researchers say. Because the method relies on a superthin, flexible tube to catch faint chemical signatures in air pockets near the corpse, it may be used to detect bodies buried in hard-to-reach areas, such as under concrete slabs.

“There are about 18,000 homicides annually in the United States and 100,000 missing persons, so stuff like this is needed,” says forensic scientist Arpad Vass of Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

Currently, people use corpse-sniffing dogs, ground-penetrating radar, and chemical analyses of air and soil to pinpoint buried bodies. But study coauthor Th

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