Blue Line

Unidentified and Unclaimed but never Forgotten

January 27, 2014  By Diana Trepkov

by Diana Trepkov

Human remains were found in a densely wooded area of north Oshawa, Ontario in March 2012. Durham Regional Police weren’t able to identify them and a detective asked me to create a drawing.

A postmortem facial drawing is a forensic art technique done when the deceased person is still in good enough condition for the artist to develop a facial likeness from morgue/autopsy and crime scene photographs or by actually viewing the body. The ultimate goal is for someone to recognize the unidentified person and connect a name to him.



My first step was to research the case and examine and measure all facial features. The man was decomposed but the body still had flesh, which gives more information to work with then a skeleton.

I removed the swelling and looked past the decomposition when studying his facial bones. People are identified at a distance through proportion. I followed the contour of his eyebrows and nasal bone, then proceeded to illustrate the eyes, drawing them at the aperture of orbit.

Each person’s facial proportions are very distinct. Photographs do not lie and indicate the right proportions. Males have a stronger mandible than females and I illustrate this in his drawing (Figure 2). You can see a slight bump on his nose/side profile. It also shows on the frontal view on the top of the bony nasal aperture, which shows he has a long thin nose. The bump (Figure 1) is important because it can help with identification.

The hair has some wave to it and it is layered and cut nicely – a professional job. Eyebrows are thick in some spots and he has a high forehead and cheekbones. Removing the swelling brought out the bone structure and cheekbones. His ear shape, antihelix, concha and lobule shapes are created from my measurements according to his autopsy photographs.

In the finished drawings (Figures 1 and 2) the man looks very different from the morgue photographs. Sometimes it is hard to see the deceased person with so much decomposition, but I change my state of mind and think of it as a science to reproduce the likeness in a postmortem drawing. It is all about the victim or missing person.


In the frontal view drawing (Figures 1 & 3) I have showed his full set of near perfect teeth with no dental restorations. They are adult dentition, with 32 permanent adult teeth and no evidence of fracture. Many people are identified through their smiles, making teeth a crucial element in any forensic art reconstruction or illustration.

The description of the deceased noted that he was a good looking man around 20 to 40 years old, 5′ 9″ tall and 224 pounds, with extra weight around his belly. He had a scar on his front left leg or knee, possibly 8 centimetres long and running vertically. His hair is as shown in my drawing and he had scruffy facial hair and side burns. He was wearing a red misty Mountain waterproof men’s jacket (sold at Canadian Tire) with a folded hood under his collar, size XL Green Pathfinder pants by Kodiak and a black hooded sweatshirt.

{Reconstructions are crucial}

The use of postmortem facial reconstructions are underused in forensic identification. Any effort to identify the missing and murdered is very important. This man was found almost two years ago. My burning desire to help identify the missing and murdered has only grown stronger over my 10 years as a forensic artist.

There’s rejoicing when we come into this world and everyone should also be honoured when they leave, not left lying unclaimed in a coroner’s office or buried without a name. Everyone deserves to be identified.

The Durham Regional Police Service takes cold cases very seriously and are always looking for new avenues to help put a name to the missing and unidentified. With the help of missing person web sites and the media, we can identify this John Doe and return his remains to loved ones. It is just a matter of time!


Diana Trepkov is an IAI Certified forensic artist, author, lecturer and member of the Toronto Police Victim Witness Advisory Committee. Contact her at, visit or call 647 522-9660 for more information.

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