Hew Morrison is a forensic artist who painstakingly creates facial reconstructions in an attempt to solve cold cases which can date back decades. He says the work can be tough and the information he has to work with often includes graphic pictures of their bodies after they were discovered.
Hew’s work has given hope to the authorities like police and the missing person charity Locate International, that a lifelike image can help them identify these unknown victims long after all other efforts have drawn a blank.
Talking about his work, Hew said that he is dealing with sensitive images of dead people, out of which some died under quite unpleasant circumstances.
Hew uses computer software to create his images for facial reconstruction.
While for reconstructions from a skull, he gradually adds virtual tissue, muscle and skin in what he describes as “digital sculpting”. DNA data helps determine hair and eye colours.
He describes that while working with facial reconstruction it is the anatomy of a skull that does the talking and the skull is the scaffolding of a face.
With some of the active missing person cases, Hew is able to draw on information about a person’s lifestyle to help create an image showing how they may have aged since the time they disappeared.
He explains, “I take into consideration a person’s lifestyle history as that will affect a person’s appearance. How our health is will predominantly show in our faces.”
The most famous and recent Hew’s reconstruction include- The Wembley Point Woman, The Lady in the Thames and The Gentleman.
The unknown woman regarded as the Wembley Point Woman was found dead in a river at the foot of the London building – now called the WEM Tower London- on 29 October 2004.
Witness told Locate International that they saw the woman looking “distressed” in a lift of the building shortly before her death. She was buried in Carpenders Park Lawn Cemetery, near Watford, in a common grave with no name.
Another case is also of a woman regarded as the Lady in the Thames, whose body was pulled off from the River Thames in London 45 years ago. She is estimated to have been aged between 30 and 35 when she died. Hew reconstructed her face with the help of images taken at the scene in 1977.
In the case of The Gentleman, a well dressed body was recovered by a border guard patrol boat from the North Sea near Germany’s Heligoland archipelago in 1994. His body had also been weighed down using two cast-iron shoe lasts, foot-shaped tools used by shoemakers to make or repair footwear.
He had injuries on his head and body that suggested he had been the victim of a violent assault. University researchers, German Police Academy of Lower Saxony and Locate International have been collaborating in an effort to find out who he was. The concerned authorities are applying continuous efforts to identify all the three victims.
The chief executive officer of the Charity Locate International, Dave Grimstead, said that an image which the public could relate to was “a key element” in its appeals, and one of Hew’s reconstructions had helped to solve a recent private case.
He appreciated Hew’s work as it has made a significant difference in advancing the work on cold cases. He said that they are an entirely volunteer-led charity and Hew provides his services at no cost as he shares the same desire to find justice.
He further added that Hew provides a post-mortem depiction that creates a sensitive image that can be used when trying to confirm an identity with families.
He gave an example of a case, where the friends of the deceased were able to make an identification that had remained unsolved for decades as a result of the image Hew produced.
Talking about Hew, he was a fine arts student at Edinburgh School of Art, who wanted to make his career in abstract paintings and sculptures. But his deep interests in police detective work led him to follow the field of forensic art and become a successful facial reconstruction artist .