Forensic facial reconstruction of unknown victims #Vancouver #graphicnovel


He brushed the leaves aside and uncovered the most baffling double murder Vancouver has ever had.

– The Vancouver Province April 15, 1953

The story in my graphic novel is inspired by an actual unsolved cold case.  The victims were children who at one time breathed, ate, laughed, cried and who were- hopefully- loved by someone.  But who were they?  What may they have looked like?   Can the bones tell us?

Facial reconstruction is often used in forensic anthropology to aid in identification of human remains.  Two excellent texts in this field are: Karen T. Taylor’s Forensic Art and Illustration [1] and John Prag and Richard Neave’s Making Faces.[2]

I use artistic license and this is only an exercise to consider the possible appearance of one of the children.  Racial identity has not been confirmed in this case, but I have illustrated a Caucasian child for the purposes of my story line. Using Taylor’s text as a guide, I scanned the photo that appeared in the Vancouver Sun January 14, 1984 article on the Babes in the Woods case.  I focused on the clearest photo of the skull of the older sibling.  From there, I outlined the skull and built up a child’s face loosely using tissue depths guides as they appeared in the Taylor text.

Sketch outline and facial features over detail of victim’s skull as it appeared in photo in The Vancouver Sun January 14, 1984 (Katarina Thorsen, 2005)

Following this primitive reconstruction, I sketched a child in a leather aviator helmet (an important accessory in the storyline).  This illustration was created using the evidence at hand as inspiration.

Child in leather aviator helmet, illustrated by Katarina Thorsen, 2005

[1] Taylor K. (2001) Forensic Art and Illustration, Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press LLC

[2] Prag, J., Neave, R. (1997) Making Faces- using archeological and forensic evidence, London, England: British Museum Press

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