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How Soil Science Solved The Mathew Holding Case

For people who study soils, tracking down human remains isn’t usually part of their repertoire, but for one Adelaide professor, dirt led investigators straight to the scene of the crime.

In 2000, Mathew Holding disappeared. His father came home to an empty house, and Mathew’s mother, grandmother and the family car were missing as well.

Investigators soon found the missing vehicle broken down 150km away, on the Yorke Peninsula of South Australia. A shovel, bracelets and some glass were in the boot.

Hear the full story on Crime Insiders:

Mathew was found near the vehicle, and when police asked where his mother and grandmother were, he said they’d never find them.

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Police spent several days searching the coastline with no signs, and that’s where Professor Rob Fitzpatrick came in.

Fitzpatrick looked at the shovel in the car and analysed a small sample of soil that was smeared on it.

“Very quickly I could see that, in fact, the soil, just based on looking and very simple testing, certainly did not come from the Yorke Peninsula,” he told Crime Insiders.

He said that based on the colour of the soil, it evidently came from a higher rainfall area, maybe even a quarry or mine.

Fitzpatrick explains what they found next in this episode of Crime Insiders: Forensics