Body Recovery from Water Study – Predictions of human body movement in inland waterways

Research Institution / Organisation

University of Dundee

In Collaboration With

Sussex Police

Principal Researcher

Lorna Dennison-Wilkins

Level of Research


Project Start Date

July 2009

Research Context

The aim of the study is to collect data and share analysis of the data with the search community, investigative teams and other relevant parties regarding body recoveries in inland water to make us more effective in both the searching for and the recovery of bodies. Enhancing our knowledge and skills will ensure that we save time and money in searching for missing people, minimise the risk to all of those involved and may be able to give an earlier resolution to the families of missing people.

There are certain factors that can affect the movement and subsequent location of the human body in water and these variables could effectively determine the search parameters and the subsequent success of the operation.


What are the aims of the study?

  • To collect and share data with the international search community, investigative teams and other relevant parties regarding the movement of bodies in inland water;
  • To enhance learning to make us more effective in the searching for and recovery of bodies in water;
  • To minimise the risk to search team operatives;
  • To enable us to try and reduce search time to gain an earlier resolution in missing person cases;
  • To provide sanitised data to public bodies so measures can be made to prevent drowning incidents;

This research is supported by the College of Policing Bursary Scheme

Research Methodology

Currently the Body Recovery from Water study database has 289 cases. This database has been collated over the course of seven years using a questionnaire with open-ended questions, which is filled out by the recovery operative, coroner officer or equivalent. The cases are added chronologically to the database and additional fields categorise the data for analysis.

The questionnaire covers:

  • Details relating to the circumstances of how the body came to be in the water;
  • Variables relating to the body and the water.  

This method of data collection was selected because of the wide variance in the types and geographical locations of respondents that would be completing it. The collection of data as described above is ongoing.

The researcher proposes to undertake an in depth statistical analysis of the results of the questionnaires and consider hypotheses with multiple variables. The aim is to examine specific case studies and undertake experimentation to enhance the understanding of the effect of identified variables on the movement of bodies in water.  A further intention is to create a model of prediction based on this research to assist with search planning and investigations.

Interim reports and publications

​Not available

Date due for completion

December 2020
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