Their identities are unknown—some, for several decades. Today, the RCMP, along with the British Columbia Coroners Service and the Nova Scotia Medical Examiner, is unveiling the reconstructed faces of 15 unidentified human remains and are hoping that, with the public's help, they will soon learn their names.
During the week of January 6, students at the New York Academy of Art reconstructed the faces of 15 Canadian unidentified remains discovered in British Columbia (14) and Nova Scotia (1) between 1972 and 2019. However, these victims could be from anywhere. The RCMP is asking the public to look at the profiles on Canada's Missing, share the photos, and spread the word. The RCMP encourages anyone who thinks they might recognize a face to submit tips on the Canada's Missing website.
Traditionally, when human remains are found, investigators use a variety of methods to identify the person. They may compare the remains to descriptions of reported missing persons. They can send samples for DNA testing, or search dental records. Often, these methods yield results, but when they are unsuccessful, police, coroners and medical examiners might turn to more creative methods.
The Academy's forensic sculpture workshop was led by Joe Mullins, a senior forensic artist with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the US. The British Columbia Coroners Service and the Nova Scotia Medical Examiner provided information such as sex, ethnicity, and height. Armed with that knowledge, as well as their anatomical expertise and artistic skills, the students spent the week reconstructing the faces by applying clay to 3D-printed versions of actual skulls.
The reconstructed faces will go on display in New York in April 2020, as part of the New York Academy of Art's Open Studios event.
Follow us on social media as we profile each of the faces. You can also view the skulls' journey from Canada to New York on our website.
"Every face tells a story and these are 15 individuals who deserve to have their stories told. We started with unidentified remains, then a face, and we are hoping to end each of their stories with a name. We are asking the public to take a close look at the faces and the descriptions and submit a tip if they have any information about any of the individuals. Any detail, no matter how small it may seem, could be the missing piece of the puzzle."
"The 14 skulls provided by the BC Coroners Service as reference material are part of the BC inventory of cold cases. Specifically, these are investigations where we have reached an impasse in terms of identifying the deceased individuals. The partnership between the Coroners Service, RCMP and New York Academy of Art is a unique opportunity to try to draw new breath into otherwise stalled investigations. The role of the BC Coroners Service is to identify those who have died, as well as the circumstances of their death. Our hope is that these reconstructions will trigger a memory that results in someone connecting with us or the RCMP which will lead us to identifying these individuals. This collaborative project builds on other identification tools, including our unidentified human remains viewer, to help us close cold cases in our province."
"This partnership offers a unique opportunity for Canadians to take part in helping give these individuals a name. I encourage Nova Scotians to view the photos, and where appropriate, submit a tip. Your contribution could help solve a mystery and help provide closure for families."
- The New York Academy of Art has been hosting its forensic sculpture workshop annually since 2015.
- Since 2015, four visual identifications have been directly attributed to facial reconstructions performed during the workshop.
- It took students approximately 40 hours to complete each facial reconstruction.
- There are currently over 700 unidentified human remains in the RCMP's national database of missing persons and unidentified remains.
- Canada's Missing
- Facial reconstruction of Canadian unidentified human remains
- RCMP partners with New York Academy of Art to identify the lost
- New York Academy of Art
- British Columbia Coroners Service Unidentified Human Remains Viewer
- Nova Scotia Medical Examiner Service
- National Center for Missing and Exploited Children