Campbelltown police use facial reconstruction to try and solve 'cold case'

Campbelltown police are one step closer to identifying a man whose remains were found in a St Helens Park reserve almost 20 years ago.

Detectives have released a digital forensic facial reconstruction of the man - whose skull was found in Meredith Crescent in May, 2001 - in an attempt to identity him.

A young boy found the skull partially buried in the ground in 2001, and took it home to show his mother, who then contacted police.

Local police and forensic offers then searched and excavated the reserve and found almost the entire skeleton.

They also found a gold bracelet, wrist watch, cigar tin, lighter, belt buckle, belt, men's clothing, shoes, spent .22 calibre castings, food tins and glass bottles.

The bones went through anthropological analysis and various forensic examinations. Despite exhaustive inquiries and comparisons to missing persons cases from across the state, detectives were not able to identify the man at the time.

New technologies and renewed investigative efforts have allowed a facial reconstruction to be created and released.

Campbelltown Police Area Command crime manager Detective Chief Inspector Greg Inger has asked the community to look at the images and see if they recognise the man from their past.

Facial reconstruction without beard

Facial reconstruction without beard

"The artist impressions give us a scientific estimation of what the man may have looked like and we believe this is our best chance to identify him and find his loved ones," he said.

"We have made significant inquiries already and while we've yet to find a match in our missing persons database, we know someone, somewhere, is waiting for answers.

"It's also likely he may remind someone of a man they knew way back when - and if they'd lost contact in the early 1980s - that's important information to us."

A 2004 coronial inquiry found that while the man could not be identified - and the date, place, manner and cause of his death were undetermined - it was believed he was aged between 35 and 45, and likely buried between 1989 and 1993.

Detectives continued to work the case in the years following the discovery.

A review of unsolved cases in 2017, and the emergence of new technologies, encouraged Campbelltown police to renew Strike Force Tavoy to continue investigations.

Bone samples were sent to the University of Waikato's Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory in New Zealand, where it was determined the man died between 1980 and 1985.

Police also worked closely with forensic experts to conduct a range of DNA tests including phenotyping, which involves using genetic sequencing to predict a person's physical characteristics.

Results of the advanced DNA tests suggested the man most likely had dark brown or black hair, brown eyes, and mixed South Asian and Middle Eastern ancestry. However, experts advised ancestry may not have been reflected in his physical appearance.

Investigators late last year contacted the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification at the University of Dundee in Scotland to construct a digital forensic facial reconstruction.

They have today released the artist's impression developed through the reconstruction, which depicts what the man may have looked like.

Police are appealing to the public for assistance in identifying the man.

At the time of the man's death (the early 1980s), he was believed to be aged 35-45, 166-174 centimetres tall, of muscular build, with dark brown/black hair and brown eyes.

Detective Chief Inspector Inger said Strike Force Tavoy was a multi-layered investigation and determining the man's identity would likely provide additional lines of inquiry into the circumstances surrounding his death.

"The remains were examined by a forensic pathologist, anthropologist and archaeologist, who were unable to find any markings or injuries which could suggest or indicate a potential cause of death," he said.

"Unfortunately, the examination of the area where his remains were found didn't provide evidence that would definitively conclude whether or not he died in suspicious circumstances.

"Once we know who he is, we can start to establish more about his life, which opens up the investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death."

Strike Force Tavoy detectives urge anyone who has information about the identity of the man to come forward.

Anyone with information that may assist Strike Force Tavoy investigators is urged to contact to Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report crime via NSW Police social media pages.