Could recreating skull’s face solve Swedish mystery death?

Could recreating skull's face solve Swedish mystery death?
Archive picture of another skeleton. Photo: AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis
Police are hoping to solve the suspected murder of a man, whose remains were found by mushroom foragers in western Sweden two years ago, with the help of British facial reconstruction experts.

“We're at least going to look at the possibilities,” chief inspector Sten-Rune Timmersjö, who is leading the investigation, told the regional Bohusläningen newspaper on Tuesday.

The skeleton grabbed headlines in Sweden when it was found in a field at the village Näsinge at the end of August 2014 and police have since been trying to identify the man, who was discovered without clothes or belongings.

They believe he was in his forties when he died and from Eastern Europe. But despite establishing a DNA profile they have so far drawn a blank.

“We thought we got a hit a few weeks ago but it turned out not to be correct,” said Timmersjö.

Police now hope to reconstruct his face using the same technique used by museums and archaeologists to illustrate what historical skeletons could have looked like back when they were alive.

After initially asking Swedish expert Oscar Nilsson, who has reconstruced faces for history museums for more than a decade but was unavailable, for help they are now investigating the possibilities of approaching a facial reconstruction leader in the UK.

“It depends on how much it costs. If it gets too expensive we will maybe wait until Oscar Nilsson becomes available again,” said Timmersjö.

Using radiocarbon dating technology officers have been able to establish that the man was born in August 1972. However, they do not know when he died.

The case is being treated as a murder investigation, but the skeleton has no sign of being exposed to violence.

“The location and that it's a naked person makes the whole thing very peculiar. The circumstances indicate that there's a crime behind it,” said Timmersjö.

Sculptures created by Oscar Nilsson using facial reconstruction techniques for Stockholm's Vasa Museum. Photo: Jurek Holzer/SvD/SCANPIX

Reconstruction techniques can help scientists recreate a facial image of the skull that bears a 65-75 percent resemblance to the original, but a completely identical image is impossible.

“Eyes and hair colour are bits where you have to guess. It's not about making a portrait, it's more like facial composite graphics,” Nilsson told Bohusläningen.