Cold case review of unidentified fatalities

In the first exercise of its kind, the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) and British Transport Police have launched a review into a series of unidentified fatalities dating back 35 years.

Twenty artist’s drawings of dead people found on or near Britain’s rail and Tube network since the mid-70s, but who remain unidentified, have been released as part of the review. There were no suspicious circumstances surrounding any of the deaths, two of whom were women.

Detective Chief Superintendent Miles Flood from BTP said: “All these fatalities were fully investigated at the time and all clues followed up to try to establish an identity, but without success. We are now taking another look to see if there is any more we can do, in some cases to see if advances in forensic techniques can help, and to appeal to the public to see if anyone recognizes them.

“Most of these cases are from the greater London area, where people can often be quite isolated and transient, but one is from Coventry and another a quite recent death in Cornwall. “Some of these people may have had an itinerant lifestyle, but it is likely that there are still relatives or friends who may recognize them and thought they had simply moved away.”

The BTP review is the first in a line of similar reviews the NPIA is conducting with other forces across the country. Its UK Missing Persons’ Bureau maintains an unidentified body database for the police service. Under operational name Kharon, the Bureau is now providing funding and dedicated operational support so forces can conduct cold case reviews to help identify those on the database.

NPIA Chief Executive Chief Constable Peter Neyroud said: “The NPIA is the centre of expertise for the police service in cases of missing people. “Through the database we maintain and because of the breadth of forensic capabilities the NPIA provides the police service, the UK’s Missing Persons’ Bureau is best placed to support the service when it comes to cold case reviews of this kind.

“There are around 1,000 cases of unidentified bodies across the country, dating back more than 50 years. Behind every case will be a family or friend who perhaps wants to know what happened to their loved one or bring closure to a mystery.”

Through the UK’s Missing Persons’ Bureau, the police service is able to draw on expertise from across other NPIA expert services, such as the National Injuries Database, DNA databases, fingerprint database and age progression and forensic artists.

The BTP drawings have been made by Leeds-based police facial imaging specialist Sharon McDonagh. She is one of only a handful of accredited police artists on the NPIA’s specialist database.

She said: “What I try to do is to recreate what the person would have looked like alive, to breathe life back into them if you like. The source material is a mortuary photograph, but the drawing is not just a reproduction. Rather these are interpretations that highlight certain characteristics, which people who knew the person will hopefully instantly recognize.

“Although I only have a picture of a face to work from, I use all the information about that person. If you know they are of slim build for instance that will affect the way you draw their face; if you know something about their background, you can get a feel for the person.”
Anyone with any information about any of the people pictured is asked to call BTP on 0121 634 5613 quoting the drawing reference number.

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