14 February 2012
A new corpse-analysis technique could help forensic scientists identify bodies more reliably and cheaply than with current methods.
Researchers from the University of Granada in Spain developed a method of comparing a set of reference points on a skull and those on a picture of the subject while they were alive to see if they match.
Lead researcher on the project Fernando Merino said this craniofacial superimposition technique was faster and more reliable than other forensic identification methods.
‘As this technique is much less expensive, forensic scientists might use it firstly and, only when necessary, resort then to other techniques.
‘This technique can be complementary to other techniques, as it can serve to discard potential identities before using more expensive or slower identification techniques, such as DNA analysis.’
In particular, the researchers think the new technique could be useful for identifying a corpse from among multiple bodies, for example following a mass disaster, by significantly reducing possible candidates.
To carry out the study, the researchers used a sample of CAT scan images from 500 people and determined the spatial relationship between each point on both the skull and the photo of the face to obtain a vector between them that could be applied to any sample.
The researchers then applied this technique to real cases where only a skull was available in order to verify their results using a 3D virtual model of the skull.