Explained: Importance of Forensic Facial Reconstruction in crime investigation

Mohamed Thaver
A forensic facial reconstruct of a man found dead in April last year by the Ambernath police.

Over the years, the police have been using a variety of tools to aid their investigations from using technology like Call Data Records to DNA tests. Since the past year, the Mumbai police has started using Forensic Facial Reconstruction (FFR) in cases where the face of the body found has been disfigured and there is no other way to identify the person.

What is Forensic Facial Reconstruction?

Forensic facial reconstruction began as an art form until people began to understand its use as a science form. Mikhail Gerasimov, a Russian archaeologist and anthropologist, of the 20th century, was known to have studied skulls and meticulously recreated the faces of excavated homo sapiens to middle-aged monarchs, to the likes of the Mongol conqueror Timur.

How did it come to be used in crime investigation?

Dr Harish Pathak, head of forensics at KEM hospital in Mumbai said that it was eventually realized that facial reconstruction could be of much use to recreate faces that he been badly damaged. Over the past few years, it has been of much help in criminal cases where there are no clues to track a person whose face has been damaged or bodies that have been decomposed.

How is the process carried out?

Based on the analysis of the body, a face model using Plaster Of Paris (POP) is created. Scientific data will tell you about the thickness of the tissue that you stick on the POP. For eyes, nose, ear, earlobes hair one has to rely on the local culture where the body was found in addition to a bit of imagination.

The thickness of the lips depends on the tooth structure. Once these factors are decided, soft tissues like the skin are added onto the POP. Depending on the age, wrinkles are added on the skin and several hairstyles are generated on the computer. This image is then sent to the police. The entire process can take around 3 – 4 weeks