3D scans help the RCMP preserve and enhance facial reconstructions of unidentified remains

General Intrests

**** RCMP Media Release

3D scans help the RCMP preserve and enhance facial reconstructions of unidentified remains

Last year, the RCMP joined forces on an initiative to reconstruct the faces of 15 unidentified Canadian human remains. Once this was completed, returning these clay reconstructions to Canada proved to be next to impossible given how delicate they are. Then came the added challenge of pandemic restrictions. Thanks to an innovative international collaboration with a US company, FARO, and 3D scanning technology, the reconstructions were preserved. In fact, the enhancements to the images might even further help identify the victims.

The RCMP’s National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains worked closely with FARO who scanned each reconstructed skull using advanced 3D technology. They were then digitally painted to bring out individual facial characteristics such as hair, irises, and some textures to make them look like a black and white photo of how these individuals may have appeared in real life.

The collaboration between law enforcement, science, and forensic art will have long lasting effects for those who investigate missing persons cases. The strides made during this initiative means that years from now, police can continue their search with technologically advanced imagery of the missing person.

A full history of the project is available on our website. We invite the public to take another look at these faces in hopes that someone might recognize these individuals.


We are grateful for all the work that has gone into this project to carefully create and preserve these facial reconstructions. We are hopeful that we can find out who they are and that this will help to bring some closure to the families.

 Dr. Roberta Sinclair, Acting Director General, Sensitive and Specialized Investigative Services, RCMP

3D laser scanning is a powerful investigation tool. It provides the ability to document scenes, or in this case, skeletal remains, in a much less invasive way than traditional methods. The resulting scan data can be archived and shared, to be re-visited and analyzed in a virtual environment or for accurate replication. By way of 3D printing the captured data, investigators and scientists can continue their work while avoiding potential alteration or destruction of the original evidence. I look forward to seeing more of the forensic field adopting the available technology to further the efforts in naming the unidentified.

 Noreen Charlton – Field Applications Engineer, FARO, 3D measurement, imaging and realization solutions

This project is a true testament to what can be accomplished when art, science and technology unite to give the identity back these nameless victims. My sincere hope is for this to serve as the example of how future facial approximations should be released to aid identification.

 Joe Mullins, Forensic Artist

Quick facts

  • The National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains (NCMPUR) database currently has over 720 unidentified remains cases older than 6 months.
  • Of the open cases in the NCMPUR database, 79% are male, 17% are female and others are undetermined.
  • The majority of bodies or remains discovered are identified relatively quickly and do not get recorded as unidentified remains at the national level.

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