The woman who digs the dirt to catch serial killers

Forensic soil scientist Prof Lorna Dawson is helping detectives solve decades-old murder cases.

As she stepped in to witness box at the trial Christopher Halliwell she knew the evidence she gave could help convict a man who police believed could be a serial killer.

Halliwell was accused of the rape and murder of 20-year-old Becky Godden in Swindon more than a decade ago.

Prof Dawson's job was to try to explain to the jury in a simple and unbiased way the evidence she was giving.

For instance, could soil found on a spade in Halliwell's home be the same earth found at the place where the body was buried?

It is delicate, intricate work. So where does she start?

When it came to Christopher Halliwell's trial, Prof Dawson, who works at the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen, got soil samples from tools and other items taken from Halliwell's house.

She compared them with soil taken by the forensic archaeologists who worked at the site of the grave to see if they were similar.

"There was a piece of silver tape that was found in the gravesite beside Becky's remains - there was the soil on that," she says.

"There was black tape that was found with one of the spades in the garden shed of Mr Halliwell and there were various other items - a fork and a pick axe in the shed at the home of Mr Halliwell.

"There could be little bits of fibre, little bits of DNA, skin, so we look at it very carefully under a macro lens."

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