Aldo Moro case, this is how the analysis of the sand in the trousers gave a turning point to the investigations

The May 9, 1978 the. was found in a red Renault 4 parked in Rome lifeless body of Aldo Moropresident of the Christian Democrats kidnapped by Red Brigades 55 days earlier. What perhaps not everyone knows is that during his autopsy traces of sand were found in his trouser cuffs and on his shoes: It was thanks to the results of these geological analyzes that the kidnappers were unmasked and identified.

The report of the autopsy on Aldo Moro

After the discovery of the body, the autopsy was not very precise, and was delivered a year after the discovery of the body for unknown reasons “political reasons“, as stated in the declassified documents. In the expertise but that was already present sand which would become the focus of the investigation. It was about trousers of the Honorable and under the soles of shoes, and it had also been found under the wheels of the Renault and on the tarpaulin that enclosed the body. The police realized that they needed to summon an expert, he would have been the first geologist ever consulted for an investigation in Italy – even if the FBI had been doing this since '39.

Gianni Lombardi he was at the time a professor of petrography at La Sapienza University of Rome. It fell to him to study the rounded grains of sand found on Moro's pants and under his shoes, as well as under his tires. She soon discovered that she had been stuck with bitumen. But not only that: Lombardi also analyzed “plant remains” found on the MP's clothes, including a thorny bud of Centaurea Aspera, small parts of materials used to build boats, volcanic soil and microfossils. All the material was recent.

Explosive pants

The experts had already identified the possible origin of the sand a coastal area north of Rome between Focene and Marina di Palidoro: well, Lombardi analyzed 150 kilometers of the Lazio coast, identifying well 92 samples a band of suns 11 kilometers like the right one.

How the sands found on Moro's trousers were analyzed

When we talk about sand we must keep in mind that there is not just one type, because its composition is linked to the disintegration of different types of rocks. As the rock changes, the sand changes: for this reason, if we analyze the one from Hawaii it will be completely different from the one collected in Riccione. The analyzes were done with two different microscopes: the one stereoscopic and that petrographic.

The stereographic microscope

With the stereographic microscope the professor observed the same object from two different angles obtaining an effect similar to 3D, observing that the grains were rounded and well classed, that is, all of the same shape and size. Sands with these characteristics are typical of coastal environments in which the grains move quickly driven by the waves.

The petrographic microscope

The petrographic microscope it is instead a tool that projects light from the bottom, crossing the sample and reaching the scientist's eye via a system of lenses that allows an enlarged image to be seen. Inside there is also a so-called “polarization” plate which, if inserted, alters the light beam that we observe, modifying the color of the minerals and helping us in their identification.

The mineralogical analyzes carried out with this microscope allowed Professor Lombardi to observe that the samples on Moro's body contained, among other things, quartz, feldspars and amphiboles, as well as fragments of metamorphic rocks, volcanic rocks and limestones with fossil remains: in this way he identified 150 kilometers of coastline between Tarquinia and Terracina from which he would then select the 11 definitive.

The final selection was made possible by the discovery among the grains of sand of shell fragments, pollen, plant parts, and crude oil. All these elements allowed us to deduce that the samples most likely came from the sea coast near a plant where fiberglass boats were built.

The classified result of the sand investigations

Once questioned, the Red Brigades members said that the sand came from Host, and had been collected as misdirection. They declared that they had placed it themselves to mislead the investigations and that Moro never left the Red Brigades' accommodation in Via Montalcini. Today we know that it can not be true: those eleven kilometers are about 20 km further north than Ostia. Those sands are near Fregene. In short, their version was confused and discordant, and was forcefully denied by the expert report: there were too many traces that were too precise, not to mention the fact that, once found, Moro was tanned. It was impossible that he had remained locked in an apartment for a month, as declared by the kidnappers!

The result of Lombardi's research it was not disclosed publiclybut only appeared in 1999 on the prestigious Journal of Forensic Sciences, a publication of the US Academy of Forensic Sciences. Lombardi reported all the elements of his research, complaining that the evidence had been placed in the background despite indicating a clear flaw in the confession, and therefore in the investigation. His discontent is tangible in the article, but the conclusion is positive:

I hope that the petrographic techniques and knowledge necessary to carry out this type of investigation help to understand the importance of geosciences and their fundamental contribution.

And so it was.