KN, p. 216 “Crime Scene at the Beach”



A recent vacation week took us to the beach and we were lucky enough to rent a cottage right on the ocean. What a pleasure to wake up to seagulls calling to each other as they found breakfast on the incoming surf at the edge of the broad expanse of sand. Morning coffee was extra special as we breathed in the sea air and planned the day ahead.


Aside from all the great sunsets, fabulous seafood restaurants, and much-needed relaxation, we found time to chat about fictional bodies and where to find them.


TV shows and movies feature their share of corpses that have washed up on the rocks lining the shores of lakes, bays, or oceans. Any crime scene at water’s edge has its own challenges for the CSI techs processing the area for evidence, and our vacation spot highlighted a few.


Consider footprints on the sand:





This print had been fully visible until a wave washed it partially into oblivion.



Sneaker treads next to the barefoot print, showed the traffic on the dry part of the beach just a few feet closer to the dune.






There was more than one kind of sneaker tread to be seen.



The sneaker and shoe companies have data bases going back several years indicating the treads and styles of the various shoes they have manufactured. A search warrant or a friendly conversation with the people at the companies will reveal specialty editions of their footwear and the year they were produced. Matching the footwear to the prints on the beach can narrow the suspect list – helpful if the culprit remained in the area and the sneaker was an unusual brand.


Consider the tire tracks:



A windy afternoon caused this tire tread to lose its definition.









This new tire tread was just ten feet away from the footprints.














Beach bikes were in use as well. I didn’t have a ruler with me, so Sheila donated her sandal. This gives you some perspective of the width of the tread, essential in determining the type of vehicles near the ‘scene of the crime.’




Tire companies have data bases as well, and make their information available to law enforcement officers when needed. CSI techs take photos of the various treads for later ID and if needed, make casts of the footwear prints. Read “Is that your footprint?” here.


All three vehicle treads were within 20 feet of each other, along with all the footwear prints seen here – and it wasn’t high season yet, when a greater variety of cars, dune buggies, bikes, and shoes would be around.


Any crime scene in such a well-traveled place means it will be tough to find the killer. Nature washes or blows away the evidence and the crime scene is compromised by all the foot and vehicle traffic.  


Law enforcement officers have to hope for witnesses to the dastardly deed.


We turned our attention to the places to hide the body:




This lovely walkway leading from the cottage to the dunes gave access to an area that looked suitable for body stashing. Except that it wasn’t really all that great for anything covert. Three houses near ours had direct line of sight to that walkway, and all had overhead lights strung along their own paths to the beach.


Each of the other houses had three floors – ours was the smallest of the group.  That meant that anyone looking out at the ocean could also see anyone dragging a body out to the beach grass next to/under the boards.








But, let’s say that nobody is looking out the window. While it is illegal to dig up the beach grass in the dunes because of erosion programs in most oceanside communities, a killer would have no such concerns. BUT, that Beach Grass (actual name is American Beach Grass) is tough. It’s meant to be, so that it holds the sand in place during stormy weather. It would not be practical or at all speedy to dig a hole in a grass-covered dune in order to hide the body.


Maybe that’s why so many bodies in the TV movies are dumped elsewhere and merely wash up on the beach. Then the writers don’t have to worry about how to hide the body at the scene of the crime.



Photo credits: Patti Phillips at the North Carolina OBX.





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6 thoughts on “KN, p. 216 “Crime Scene at the Beach””

  1. Wonderful, thanks. It is amazing then, that the dinosaur footprints which have become visible on the shores of some coastal areas of the UK are still there. Apparently after their feet made the marks – the tide was out – the sun was hot enough to bake them in situ and there they remain. Imagine if you’d committed a murder and you were relying upon the tide to take them away, but the sun got so hot as to bake them, and when the tide went out again, there they were for CSI to see! To be able to dig a hole deep enough to hide a body, they’d need at least a 6 feet deep hole and a digger would be needed or the killer might get caught. It would take too long with a spade. So interesting to read, many thanks.

  2. I think at the Jersey shore you can easily kill and hide the body right under the board walk. There is plenty of space, like in the song Under the Board Walk. It is not well lit in Ventor and down to other towns to A.C.. Although beautiful houses line the board walk there but no one knows what’s going on under the board walk or the beaches not to lit down there. We have high dunes now cause of the storms and have to like walk down a slight incline to get to the waters edge. If the killer is from that area I’m sure he will know what spot or spots are available to him. Just curious to know if only men would hide a body. I have not heard that a woman has killed and hid the body, except in the movies and then it’s only they would put the body in their garden.

    1. In that area, I think only a local would know of any spots. With several towns giving up their boardwalks since the hurricanes battered the Jersey coast, and the coastal commission working to bolster the barrier dunes with special grasses, those ‘under-the-boardwalk’ areas have been reduced in number. I have an upcoming short story dealing with women hiding the bodies at the beach. Fictionally, of course. 😉

  3. Ooh, I love this! Am writing a new series set on Cape Cod and I haven’t had a crime scene on the beach … yet. Thanks so much, Patti.

    1. Happy to help, Edith! lolol
      I have an upcoming short story on the same topic, developed at the OBX retreat. What a fabulous place for fun ideas. Fictional, of course. 😉

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