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Forensic artist solving cold cases describes what it’s like to do his job

"Silent Witness and CSI are not really true to life."

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Face recreated by forensic artist Hew Morrison: Two children from the Khmer Empire, Cambodia. (Hew Morrison via SWNS)

By Sarah Ward via SWNS

A forensic artist who helps solve cold case mysteries by recreating faces said Buddhism helps him cope with the horrors of his job.

Hew Morrison, 43, began his unusual career path in 2014.

He works with private detectives and was inspired to take an interest in forensics by the TV show Taggart and the crime author Ian Rankin.

Hew is a practising Buddhist which helps him cope with the horrors he sees in his job, and he spends most of the year in Thailand.

Forensic artist Hew Morrison. (Courtesy Hew Morrison via SWNS)

He studied Fine Art at Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland before doing a Master's course in Forensic Art at The University of Dundee.

Cases he has worked on included a man found by border guards in the North Sea near Germany in 1994, who was weighed down with shoemaking metal tools.

John Bellingham who is known for assassinating British Prime Minister Spencer Perceval in 1812. (Hew Morrison via SWNS)

Another was 'the Wembley Point Woman' who was discovered near a London tower block in 2004. She was buried in a common grave because her identity was not known.

Hew, originally from Inverness, Scotland, said: "I love what I do, I'm quite obsessed with it.

"Silent Witness and CSI are not really true to life. It's a lot more in-depth."

"It's not all working with the deceased, it could be identifying people from CCTV videos.

"I find it rewarding and I get a lot out of it.

"Background info on lifestyle like drugs and smoking helps with aging.

Early Christian Viking from Sweden. (Hew Morrison via SWNS)

"It's important to shut off and not let emotion get in the way.

"I have always had an interest in how Forensic Science is used to identify the dead and also living, in particular how crimes are solved.

"I became fascinated with forensic facial reconstruction after reading in the newspaper about how an unidentified victim of the King's Cross fire was identified years later, thanks to a facial reconstruction of the person being recognized by a family member."

Hew works with a forensic anthropologist or an osteoarchaeologist if the case is historic, to establish age, sex and ancestry.

Other factors that are to be considered are how long teeth were lost before death, as well as any facial asymmetry, injuries or diseases that would have affected the person's facial appearance in life.

Facial reconstruction by forensic artist Hew Morrison (Hew Morrison via SWNS)
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Templates of eyeballs are added to the orbit of the skull, then facial muscles and flesh are also digitally added to the surface of the skull.

Facial features can then be added when the face has been built up from the skull, either by drawing the features digitally or by manipulating photographs of human facial features to fit around the sculpted face.

Details such as eye color, skin tone, hair color and style as well as moles, freckles and scars cannot be determined from the skull, so images are released to the public in black and white.

Hair will be added to reconstructions, but loosely suggested and blurred out.

Sometimes the images are shown to families when the person's body would be too upsetting to see.

He added: "It takes at least a week.

"It's a bit like sculpting, only digitally.

"I am a Buddhist, keeping a clear mind through regular meditation definitely helps me focus.

"It is very important to shut off emotions, even if crime scene and mortuary photographs are unpleasant."

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