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Chemical analyses of the Isdal woman point to Germany and France

Based on chemical traces found in the teeth of the Isdal woman, Norway’s National Criminal Investigation Service, KRIPOS, have in cooperation with experts managed to narrow down where she may have grown up. The leads from these very particular examinations are pointing to some quite specific areas.

Sjåstad og Angel foran Skype-skjerm og kart

Knut-Endre Sjåstad and Per Angel at Kripos (NCIS) got the latest results during a Skype session with a professor from Australia.

Foto: Øyvind Bye Skille / NRK

– It’s actually quite a narrowed-down area that she most probably originated from, said associate professor Jurian Hoogewerff at the University of Canberra via a Skype link from Australia.

Throughout his career the professor has specialized in using chemical analyses to be able to pinpoint the geographical origin of samples from food, humans or other matter.

Previously, DNA analyses have shown that the Isdal woman has genetic material that is of European heritage, and examinations of her handwriting suggests that she may have learnt to write in France.

The new chemical analyses are nevertheless a big step further, because the so-called probability maps made by the Australian expert narrow down the relevant parts of Europe much more.

– When I superimpose the maps, we can exclude several areas. The red sections show the highest probability of her whereabouts during the time when her teeth where formed, Hoogewerff explained.

The maps show that areas in France and Germany stand out in particular.

Kart over isotop-analyse for Isdalskvinnens tenner

CHILD TEETH: This map shows the most likely areas where the unknown woman might have lived during childhood uears (age ca 4).

Foto: Kart fra Prof. Jurian Hoogewerff/National Centre Forensic Studies/University of Canberra

The results stem from the analyses of three teeth, and in conjunction with other information in the investigation they can help considerably.

– This is much more specific than I could have dreamed of. I’m impressed that it’s possible to get results like these and actually make these probability maps, said chemist Knut-Endre Sjåstad at KRIPOS after the professor went through the material with him.

May have moved during her childhood

The analyses that the teeth of the Isdal woman underwent have never before been used in criminal investigations in Norway.

Professor Jurian Hoogewerff på Skype-skjerm

Professor Jurian Hoogewerff at the University of Canberra, Australia, has long experience within the field of geochemistry.

Foto: Øyvind Bye Skille / NRK

The isotope analyses determine the chemical compounds of some very specific elements – strontium and oxygen. These two elements are absorbed by the enamel in the teeth from what the person was eating or drinking during the time when the teeth were formed.

Because the teeth that were analysed were formed in both her early childhood and her teenage years, the expert can actually tell that the Isdal woman relocated at some point during this period.

– We can see a possible relocation from Eastern or Middle Europe to more western parts of Europe, Hoogewerff said.

Even though the exact age of the woman at the time of her death is unknown, there are certain indications of a probable relocation immediately before or during the second World War.

Kart med isotop-resultater

TEEANGE YEARS: This map shows the most likely areas where the unknown woman might have lived in her teens (age ca. 14). Other investigative examinations, such as handwriting analysis and dental exams, make areas as the UK less likely than France and Germany.

Foto: Kart fra Prof. Jurian Hoogewerff/National Centre Forensic Studies/University of Canberra

On the map showing the most likely areas where the unknown woman might have lived during her teens, there are still few and limited areas. Some of the areas are also seen by Kripos as less likely then others – as the UK and Spain – due to other investigative leads in the case.

Again France and Germany stand out.

Hoping to find next-of-kin

KRIPOS experts were delighted to receive the information from the professor.

Neither the chemist nor the head of the forensic identification team had believed that the outcome of the analyses would be quite so specific.

Now they envisage the possibility of making further progress in the most relevant areas by gathering more information through police cooperation across borders.

– This is a good reason to go into these specific areas with more focus. We should approach our European colleagues with this new specific information, said the head of the forensic identification team, Per Angel.

– Which countries are we talking about?

– Germany and France. In the case of France, we are talking about some quite specific regions of the country, said Angel.

There is always the hope that they can find someone who knows something or may have reported her missing. And if they get a DNA profile from her family or relatives, they will probably be able to identify her.

– This may now come to the attention of some next-of-kin who reported someone missing at the time in question, Angel said.

Normal procedure if anyone think they might be related to the unknown woman are to contact local police – refering to the existing Interpol notice. Local police will then be able to collect necessary info and biological samples in order to do lookups in the police databases.

Skype-samtale mellom Kripos og australsk professor om isotop-analyser
Foto: Øyvind Bye Skille / NRK