Apparently, the country of New Zealand leads the world in the use of forensic palynology, and the acceptance of this type of evidence in courts of law.
So how can pollen and dirt solve crimes?
The following are excerpts I’ve edited/summarized from the article:
Let’s say a suspect was hiding out in the bushes before assaulting a victim. Forensic pollen evidence from flowers or leaves in the bushes may have been attached to the suspect’s clothing. If the clothing that the suspect wore on the night of the crime were examined, it might have contained certain types of pollen that the prosecution could have used to link the suspect to the scene of the crime. If the examination revealed no pollen, that evidence could have been used by the defense to argue that the defendant was not at the scene of the crime.
In the article, it gives the example of a case in Austria where the discovery of the murdered victim’s body, and the conviction of the criminal were based primarily on the evidence recovered from a pollen sample associated with the crime. During a vacation along the Danube River, a man disappeared near Vienna, but his body could not be found. The police soon found a suspect with a motive for killing the missing person, but had no evidence to link the person with the possible crime. Without a confession or a body, the prosecutor’s case seemed hopeless.
As the investigation proceeded, a search of the suspect’s room revealed a pair of boots with mud still attached to the soles. These were taken as evidence and given to a geologist for analysis. The mud was examined and found that it contained modern spruce, willow, and alder pollen. In addition, there was a special type of 20 million-year-old, Miocene-age fossil hickory pollen grain present in the mud.
Based on the pollen evidence, the geologist was able to pinpoint where the defendant must have walked while getting mud on his boots. Only one location, a small area 20 kms north of Vienna along the Danube Valley, had soils that contained the precise mixture of pollen found in the boots’ mud. When confronted with the identity of this location, the shocked defendant confessed his crime and showed the authorities where he had killed the victim and then buried the body, both of which occurred in the precise region pinpointed by the geologist.
For more on this fascinating branch of forensic science, visit: www.crimeandclues.com/pollen.htm